Malibu Surfside News

Malibu Surfside News - MALIBU'S COMMUNITY FORUM INTERNET EDITION - Malibu local news and Malibu Feature Stories

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

City Council United in Effort to Explore Secession Feasibility

• Process Should Gain Access to Financial and Other Data Previously Unavailable to the Public

BY BILL KOENEKER

Except for one dissenter, all of the public speakers in Malibu City Council chambers Monday night, including the council members, agreed to proceed with the process to pursue a petition with the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization aka County Committee for the purpose of forming a unified school district from territory currently within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
The council’s school subcommittee consisting of Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmember Lou La Monte has been researching the concept of Malibu forming its own school district and separating from the SMMUSD.
Rosenthal and La Monte, at this week’s council meeting, successfully sought the support and consensus of their colleagues to initiate a “formal, multi-entity process to pursue a unification petition.”
The mayor said she wanted to clarify some points at the outset. She said there is no effort underway to ask for city funds for polling or consultants. “We are not looking for municipal funds,” she said.
What remained unspoken was that city money had already been used, since City Manager Jim Thorsen wrote the staff report and presumably was not working pro bono for the time he spent on the matter.
Rosenthal was also adamant that the separate district was not in response to the current school district effort to require all fundraising to be collected for district-wide purposes rather than earmarked for certain schools at the request of the donors.
“This process began a year ago and it has nothing to do with district-wide funding,” the mayor said.
Both Rosenthal and La Monte quickly pointed out that the money issues are unknown and share a major role in the viability of a separate district.
“We don’t know what the money issues are,” said Rosenthal. “The city has a joint use agreement, so we have a stake in that.”
“The concept is to find out if we can financially do this,” said La Monte. “We have never gotten that information. This is information gathering. Nothing will be decided by the two of us. It will come back to the council and the people.”
Rosenthal emphasized how important it is to arrive at a consensus with all of the agencies involved including district officials and the school board.
The goal is to build a consensus within a joint petition group. It would involve meetings with the district, the City of Santa Monica and the City of Malibu to work toward submitting a joint petition to the County Committee.
The joint petition would present an agreement in principle among the entities in regard to distribution of resources, taxes, facilities, joint use agreements and other relevant issues. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who said she supported the effort, talked about some of the potentially difficult issues.
“It will be about the money. It has to be approved by the voters. I see this costing a lot of money. My question is, what is within the jurisdiction of the city?” she said.
City Attorney Christi Hogin responded, “It might sound like hair-splitting. From a legal point of view, public education is not a municipal matter. No city money can be spent on a school district. It is a misuse of public funds.”
She said the California Constitution is clear on that, although over the years the courts have allowed cities to take increasing roles in public education.
Councilmember John Sibert said the problem has always been that there has been no information available. “The members of the city council are pursuing that information. We can do that?” he asked.
Hogin said, “Absolutely.”
“I see this as essentially what we are doing. I support it,” Sibert said.
Malibu city officials are apparently taking their cue from public statements and previous private conversations with district officials that the school district might cooperate with Malibu creating its own school district.
The lone dissenting voice was former council candidate Mike Sidley, who said it is an “ill conceived idea,” and urged the city council to reject it.
Other public speakers encouraged the council to move forward.
Paul Grisanti said, “Absolutely the right thing to be doing. We are willing to help.”
Craig Foster, PTA president for Webster School, urged the council to move forward. “Malibu has flirted with this. But never before has the board supported it. We are a super–minority. The district is not dedicated to the excellence of our [Malibu] schools,” he said.
Ryan Embee said the potential success of any new district would depend upon what kind of “deal” Malibu could get. “I am reminded of the ‘deal’ the city got from the county—the miniscule amount of property taxes. Whatever the ‘deal’ it better be good,” he said. “It is fraught with unintended consequences. It will be in the details.”
Other interested parties need to be consulted including the California Teachers Association, Service Employees International Union, Community for Excellent Public Schools and Parent Teacher Associations.
Once a valid petition is submitted, the County Committee will study the feasibility of the petition.
“A united front among all the entities will be a key factor in the success of this petition,” wrote Thorsen in his staff report.
The County Committee consists of 11 members—two from each of the five county supervisory districts and one member serving at-large.
Members are elected annually by a voting representative of each of the 94 school and community college district governing boards in Los Angeles County. The term of office is four years. The committee meets one time per month.
Any proposal to reorganize a school district must be considered by the County Committee requiring a public hearing, decision and recommendation, according to state law.
Several years ago, Rosenthal lead a failed attempt to initiate the process by getting 25 percent of the registered Malibu voters to petition the County Committee and found it to be rough sledding.
That is one of two ways the process can be initiated. This time Malibu has chosen the other effort by filing what is called a joint attempt, meaning having the approval of the board and filing the petition with the County Committee.
In 2004 Malibu parents organized another movement to separate local schools from Santa Monica.
A feasibility study was undertaken, according to published reports, by the Malibu Unified School Team, LLC, which concluded the split was feasible. At the time, split leaders said the separation would allow Malibu schools to more effectively raise money from voluntary contributions and develop programs they did not have and wanted.
That effort also failed.

School District Moves Ahead with Its Phased Joint Funding Pool Proposal

• Corporate Grants Over $2500 Are Covered Immediately

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Malibu parents opposed to a Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District plan that will centralize fundraising and prohibit individual school PTAs from directly funding programs or personnel campaigned up to the eleventh hour ahead of the special board of education meeting on the issue in Santa Monica on Tuesday, despite the consensus that the board of education would unanimously support the fundraising changes.
A petition launched on Nov. 17 pledging the support of “Malibu parents, students, community members and businesses to encourage the development of a reasonable alternative SMMUSD Districtwide Fundraising Plan,” received more than 400 signatures.
Phone calls, emails and formal information sessions at school auditoriums have encouraged action on the measure that many Malibu parents say they see as a district grab for Malibu funding. Websites and organizations opposing the proposal have appeared, but many plan critics have stated that their only recourse is to seek a separate school district.
“The board of education meeting was still underway at Lincoln idle School in Santa Monica when the Malibu Surfside News went to press on Tuesday night, but the fundraising reform is expected to pass with a unanimous vote.
The revised text of the proposal states:
“To ensure program parity and equity across all schools and students in the district, the board is establishing a centralized and collaborative fundraising model that will enable the District to provide equity in program and personnel in all district schools while preserving flexibility at each school. This model will be implemented in phases. The board designates the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation as the central fundraising entity for the School District. Once this centralized model is implemented, the Education Foundation will be the only fundraising entity to raise funds for the district to use to pay for personnel and professional development.”
The policy will be implemented in all district elementary schools beginning July 1, 2013.
Effective July 1, 2012, all corporate gifts to district elementary schools in an amount over $2500 and smaller gifts the cumulatively total $2,500 or more in a year will be directed through the Education Foundation. Current corporate gifts are exempt.

Trancas Highlands Water System Back on Planning Panel’s Agenda Again

• Closed Service Station to Be Demo’d

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hear a number of applications at its meeting on Tuesday Dec. 6 including construction of a Trancas Highlands water system, demolition of a Civic Center gas station and a permit for the operation of an environmental learning center.
The hearing for a request to operate a retail wine store and wine tasting room has been continued to Jan. 3 at the request of the applicant.
Plans call for opening the wine outlet in the building owned by Councilmember Jefferson Wagner.
The on-again off-again planning commission hearing on a request for a public water system and dry utility infrastructure improvements in the Trancas Highlands is back on again, according to a public notice.
The Trancas Highlands Homeowners Association is seeking a permit for current plans, which call for a 500,000-gallon water storage tank constructed on a vacant lot at 31537 Anacapa View Drive, which is located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood, according to planning department documents.
At the same time, at a separate hearing, the council is expected to consider an application on the same property at 31537 Anacapa View Drive for the construction of a new, 11,165-square-foot house reduced from the original 12,731-square-foot, two-story single-family home with a basement and attached 640-square foot garage, a detached 447-square foot guest house, a motor court with fire department turn around, swimming pool and a new 1,950-foot access road, according to a public notice.
The HOA proposes forming a special assessment district to fund the extension of a public water line from Trancas Canyon Park north along Trancas Canyon Road and within the gated private streets of Anacapa View Drive, Beach View Estates Drive and Foxview Drive. The assessment district would encompass about 66 parcels and 209 acres, according to municipal planners.
Water would be obtained from a booster pump station constructed at Trancas Canyon Park, near an existing Los Angeles County Water District No. 29 storage tank that would pump water up to the new tank.
Fire hydrants, two pressure reducing stations, valves and other appurtenances would be constructed along the public and private streets.
An additional “dry” trench is also proposed for undergrounding existing overhead electric lines and extension of utilities such as natural gas and cable.
Once underground utilities are installed, overhead lines and poles would be removed.
Access to the tank would be a new 2,250-foot access road up to the building sites for the new water tank and the two new homes.
Planners indicate the rest of the process should unfold like this: A coastal permit must be approved. Then the HOA forms the assessment district to fund preparation of final-engineering and construction plans.
The water system and utility plans would be designed in compliance with Water District 29, Los Angeles County Fire Department, City of Malibu and utility provider requirements.
Many of the homes in the highlands do not have potable water and must have water trucked to them and stored in tanks.
Most of the homes were developed with wells, which seem to have dried out for the most part in the hilly area above Broad Beach.
It has been a long-held dream of many of the residents for nearly 20 years to have piped water connected to their homes.
Also on tap, Cornucopia Foundation is seeking a CUP for its environmental learning center described as an educational, non-profit agricultural use benefiting the students of Juan Cabrillo Elementary and Malibu Middle schools and the high school.
Cornucopia Foundation is the operator of the Malibu Farmers Market and is headed up by Debra Bianco and Remy O’Neil, who have often explained that the operations of the market are designed to be a money maker for the learning center.
Planners were told the Foundation is about to sign a five year lease with the school district for use of the land where the learning center is located.
The environmental center is tucked back behind the school campus away from the concrete and pavement on an acre of land.
According to its website, the degraded piece of land was overgrown with fennel and weeds and was hand-cleared using no herbicides or pesticides. Native plants and a drought tolerant garden were planted.
The center has a shaded natural amphitheater, planted wind screens and a garden currently planted with pumpkins.
It has been used by teachers and children for an after school enrichment program and summer program.
Another ongoing project is described as a riparian restoration project on a disturbed stream that runs along the side of the property and down to the ocean, the web site explains.
Plans include a secret garden, a yurt, more picnic tables, a pond, a greenhouse and tool shed.
A longtime Civic Center gasoline service station, currently no longer in business, is about to disappear if the Chevron Company has its way.
The firm is seeking approval for a permit from the planning commission next week for the “full demolition” of the existing gas and service station at 23614 Pacific Coast Highway.
Plans call for the removal of all structures, piping, pumps, hydraulic lifts, hardscape and signage and the removal of four 10,000 gallon underground gasoline and diesel storage tanks.
The 23,409 square foot property, which forms the tip of a triangle at the intersection of PCH and Malibu Road, has been on the real estate market for several years at an asking price of $3 million, according to Tony Dorn, who is a commercial real estate broker.
“Chevron has kept that property and is selling it themselves,” he said.
Planners have determined the service station began operation in 1956 based on review of historic aerial photos. The outlet ceased operations in 2008.
Planners indicate the fourth generation of underground storage tanks will have to be removed and there is some suspicion there might still be leakage. There is a requirement that the tanks be pumped before they are removed.
The cancelled commission hearing involved a request to obtain a CUP by Malibu Beach Wines to allow a retail wine store and onsite wine tasting with a California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control license.
The project includes the installation of a three compartment sinks and a mop sink as part of the tenant improvement. No new square footage is proposed, according to city planners.
The location is in the building owned by Wagner, whose building was also the site chosen by a large-scale corporation that wanted to establish a building full of offices all related to the sale of medical marijuana.
That request was turned down by the planning commission, which instead approved a permit for a much smaller low key operation at another location.

Majority of Council Sends Housing Element to State for Its Assessment

• Rezoning of Parcels Raises Concerns for Some Critics

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council this week discussed the completed draft of the Housing Element update at its meeting Monday night when more options were made available for review.
The council, on a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich dissenting, agreed to authorize the staff to submit the draft 2008-2014 Housing Element to the state of California Department of Housing and Community Development or HCD, for review and comment.
Council members also directed staff and consultants to study in detail selected sites for the Environmental Impact Report.
Conley Ulich said she had a problem with the sites chosen for analysis. “Why are we not looking at other areas?” she asked. “This is a big red flag: putting housing units where we are considering sewage treatment.”
John Douglas, the consultant hired by the city to draft the document, told the council the plan currently takes a two-prong strategy in meeting affordable housing needs.
“We are taking credit for second units and have concluded 53 of those to satisfy the requirements. The remainder of the 135 would come from new multi-family lots not developed and the subdivision of selected parcels,” he said.
The two key elements, according to the consultant, is that second unit credits can be preapproved as prototypes and new affordable housing would be developed from a selected number of sites, which would be rezoned for affordable housing. The additional units would be restricted to affordable housing.
Douglas said he and the staff were seeking what approach to take with the Environmental Impact Report, whether to go forward with a study of all potential sites or a study of selected sites in detail for analysis. “There are different costs,” he said.
The council ultimately agreed upon a detailed analysis of selected sites, La Paz considered city-owned and existing multi-family lots on the landside of Pacific Coast Highway.
Councilmember Lou La Monte wanted to know, if the document was submitted to HCD, how long it could take. He was told they have 60 days. “Is there any acknowledgment about the bad numbers [of affordable housing units required, 188] submitted by [Southern California Association of Governments]?” La Monte asked.
During public comments, attorney Fred Gaines, who said he was representing Trancas PCH LLC, asked the council to not move forward with submitting the document to HCD.
“It utterly fails to meet the standards. The upzoning cannot possibly get you to the goals. There are a large amount of guesthouses that will be turned into affordable housing? That is not a believable statement. You can’t get there from the numbers you have. It’s backwards. You should identify all the possibilities then make a decision about what you want to eliminate,” he said.
Gaines was referring to the council’s previous action when it agreed to take the Trancas parcels including Trancas PCH LLC’s vacant lots out of any consideration for upzoning or analysis in the Environmental Impact Report.
Activist Lynn Norton praised the plan and said she believed there is no problem for the city to reach the affordable housing goals.
Representing the Malibu Township Council, Lucile Keller said MTC opposes the rezoning. She said it was not done the last time and even when the city was sued to the appellate level, the courts sided with the city. “Review the court documents,” she said.
Planning Commissioner John Mazza said the draft is a good job. “They [consultants] listened [to the public]. Nobody believes you are going to build a lot of affordable housing.”
The council had heard the matter previously and at that time, urged on by activists and the public, agreed to the further study of guesthouses and other secondary residential units to be counted as low cost housing, but nixed further consideration of allowing existing commercial properties to have residential use on the second story and development of mixed use commercial and residential.
Upon the recommendation of Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, the council agreed to include the possible donation of two acres in the La Paz project as a study site.
At that meeting, Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski noted the city is three years late in submitting an update, should send a draft of the update to the state housing department later this year, and would offer public hearings on the Environmental Impact Report in the summer of 2012.
“By Oct. 2013, the document should be adopted and that is when we need the next update,” she said.
The planning director had said the most important issue is the number generated by the SCAG concerning the assignment of 188 low income housing units.
“That should be our most intense focus. Malibu needs to demonstrate a capacity for 188 units. If you cannot show you can accommodate the number, you have to have high density [up zoning],” she said.
Earlier, Parker-Bozylinksi explained the public sees the counting of second units as the preferred method, a strategy for providing adequate sites to accommodate regional housing needs assessment [or RHNA] requirements.
She explained staff believes that land use changes would be necessary in order to obtain certification to accommodate the city’s assigned share of new housing under the current RHNA .
Planners acknowledge that some residents had recommended that the Environmental Impact Report process be put on hold until options other than rezoning are fully investigated and it is determined whether any rezoning is necessary.
“Staff agrees that all viable alternatives to rezoning should be fully considered in order to minimize impacts on the community. However, the purpose of the EIR is to provide an objective evaluation of feasible housing element options to support sound decision-making. Staff is also concerned that a delay in the EIR process could jeopardize the city’s ability to complete the housing element update within the state mandated timeframe. It is staff’s intent to run the timeline for completing the EIR concurrently with the housing element update,” the planning head added. The council agreed.
Planners had also acknowledged that some residents had recommended that the city seek a revision to the RHNA allocation for the current planning period (2006-2014) prior to moving forward with the housing element. Residents had complained about an apparent discrepancy between the RHNA allocation of 14 units in the previous planning period (1998-2005) and the allocation of 441 units in the current period.
According to the planning staff, they contacted SCAG about the reason for the large differences between the RHNA allocation of the last two planning periods.
“As explained by SCAG, the discrepancy between the two RHNA cycles is apparently based on the small number of housing units built in Malibu during the 1990s compared to the early 2000s. SCAG’s forecast methodology relies heavily on historical growth trends to project future development. According to building records, during the period after city incorporation in 1991 to 1997, the number of housing units declined. This decline appears to explain why the 1998-2005 RHNA allocation was only 14 units. However, during the period 2000-2006, housing units increased by 258. This change in historical growth pattern appears to explain the large increase in the RHNA allocation for the current period.
The staff has in recent months been focusing on ensuring that the RHNA for the next planning period, which is currently being prepared, should “fairly and accurately reflect the significant constraints to development in Malibu.”
The SCAG director agreed that would happen.
The EIR would support the effort by providing factual information regarding the various environmental constraints that limit the city’s potential for future development, according to planners.
“This is another reason why staff believes the preparation of the EIR should not be delayed,” the staff report states.
The most common method of addressing an RHNA shortfall for low-income housing is through rezoning to allow multi-family residential development, according to planners. However, other options have been identified that may satisfy some portion of the RHNA requirements.
Such as determining the amount of credit of second units, which state law allows cities to satisfy as portion of their RHNA requirements.
City planners describe the update as a state mandate to establish new policies, goals and programs relative to the provision of housing in the city.
State law mandates that local governments plan for their share of the region’s housing needs for all income categories.

City Revises the Municipal Policy on General Fund Undesignated Reserve

• Council Members Keep Language Loose for ‘Emergencies’

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council took action this week to establish a revised council policy on the general fund undesignated reserve.
In 1997, council policy was adopted to establish a reserve equal to the annual discretionary general fund revenue, according to city officials.
“In 2000, the city established an informal policy to maintain a general fund undesignated reserve in the amount of $8 million,” wrote
Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman in a memo to council members.
“The $8 million was established in fiscal year 2000-2001 as a city council goal, at which time the city’s general fund operating budget was $11 million.”
Feldman indicated the city achieved the $8 million reserve in fiscal year 2004-2005. At that time the city’s general fund operating budget was $16 million.
By way of comparison, the city’s general fund operating budget for this fiscal year is $22.2 million.
The council’s administration and finance subcommittee discussed the policy in March and recommended the council establish a formal reserve policy at no less than 50 percent of the municipality’s general fund operating budget.
In April, the council discussed the matter and agreed to a policy of 50 percent and directed the staff to come back with such a policy.
This week, the council approved such a policy, but only after council members agreed with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and removed language from the policy stipulating that the city “shall” maintain a minimum amount.
Conley Ulich said the mandate implied by the word “shall” could force the hands of councils in the future, especially if there was some kind of emergency, and it should be deleted. The council agreed.

Malibu Couple Adds $2000 to Cougar Poacher Reward Fund

• $18,700 for Info Leading to Takedown of Culprit(s)

The Malibu City Council this week was putting the finishing touches to add $5000 to the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains when a Malibu couple announced they are contributing $2000 of their own money.
Denise and Daniel Villefort made the announcement in front of the council saying they would use their own personal funds to up the ante for reward money.
“We hope to send a message: it will not be tolerated,” said Denise Villefort.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said it was the kind of action he hoped to see others emulate.
On Sept. 11, a 7-year-old cougar, known to the National Park Service researchers as P-15, was found dead in a canyon near Newbury Park in Ventura County, according to federal officials.
The puma was one of several mountain lions in the region equipped with a GPS device that allowed NPS biologists to track their moves.
While the specific cause of death is still under investigation, Park Service officials state that the injuries to the lion were human caused, leading them to believe that poachers killed the animal.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich had introduced the original measure for council consideration.
Malibu and the Villeforts joined the City of Calabasas, which recently approved a $5000 reward to match earlier rewards offered by the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust. Other organizations are also offering rewards bringing the total reward amount to $18,700.

Publisher’s Notebook

• It’s Time for Transparency in Malibu Public Education •

ANNE SOBLE

Pursuing a feasibility analysis of what is involved in the secession of Malibu from the SMMUSD school district is a long overdue opportunity to pierce the veil of secrecy that surrounds the district’s bureaucratic processes. Even if it turns out that a separate Malibu school district might not be viable in this era of fiscal uncertainty, governmental obfuscation, and the labyrinth of state and federal regulations that take much education policymaking out of local hands, the information will be invaluable to Malibu, as well as Santa Monica.
Few governing entities appear to be as public phobic and media averse as the SMMUSD. Basic data is virtually impossible to obtain. Need numbers? “How many Malibu students go to Samohi?—Our computer system can’t do that.” “How much Title One and other funding goes to which school?—That’s too difficult to break down.” “Can I get a copy of these statistics?—We’ll try to get it done in a few weeks,” etc.
At the newspaper office, we have a running joke that new SMMUSD superintendents—or at least the last three—were required to solemnly pledge not to discuss anything with the media that is the least bit negative or might reflect adversely on the system. Leave them a message or send an email about a major public concern and no response will be forthcoming. The district thinks that cheerleaders should do education news reporting.
Going the county petition route may finally mean that financial data for the individual schools and the district, as a whole, will become available. It is impossible to understand current district policy without this, let alone consider a major move such as forming a separate Malibu district. Only then can the prevailing mythology—“Malibu doesn’t get its fair share;” “Title One dollars are as much, or more, than private donations;” and “Well-heeled parents don’t mean better students,” etc.—be proved or disproved.
Although there are always misgivings when politicizing the issue of education—and make no mistake, this effort is as much about politics as education—it is already the case in Santa Monica. Politics is a major force in local school board elections, effectively shutting out Malibu candidates who don’t take a blood oath to follow the Santa Monica political machine.
That the current “Malibu” school district’s boundaries and the city’s boundaries are not the same will also have to be adequately addressed. The school district is all of the 90265 addresses, which include unincorporated Malibu (with its surprisingly different voter demographics), part of unincorporated Topanga, and even some addresses in unincorporated Ventura County.
When the numbers for assessing financial viability are finally available for review, hopefully there will be no going back to closed-door fiscal or any other policymaking. What is then done with the information in terms of seceding from the district, or not, will be a separate subject unto itself. If everyone in the district has a transparent picture of what has hitherto been hidden, there is increased potential for intelligent decision-making, whatever structural system is in place.

Adamson House Offers Ambiance

• Special Christmas Holiday Tours Are Still Available

The Adamson House is decorated for the holidays in authentic 1930s style, and reservations are still available for docent-led 2011 Christmas tours.
Open tours include Sunday, Dec. 18, from 2-5 p.m., Christmas Day, 2-5 p.m. and New Year’s Day, 3-4 p.m.
Admission is $15 per person and includes the tour, refreshments and a special, handmade keepsake gift. Prepaid reservations are required.
Participants should make sure that they give themselves enough time to explore the Adamson House gardens.
A tour can be combined with a visit to the Malibu Lagoon and the Malibu Pier for a full day of local history and scenery. All three are owned and operated by California State Parks.
Built in 1930 for Rhoda Rindge Adamson, the daughter of Malibu Ranchero owners Frederick Hastings Rindge and May Knight Rindge, and her husband, Merritt Huntley Adamson, the Adamson House is a showcase for the extensive, custom ceramic art tiles designed by Rufus Bradley Keeler ceramist and manager of the Malibu Potteries, which was owned by the Adamson family.
Other highlights include painted panels and murals created by artists Ejnar Hansen, and Peter Nielsen, decorative ironwork, art glass windows, period furnishings and spectacular views.
The Adamson House Museum gift shop, located in the garden next to the house, and featuring a wide range of gift ideas that include handmade Malibu Potteries-style tiles and facsimile editions of Frederick Hastings Rindge’s 1898 book about life on the Malibu Ranchero, “Happy Days in Southern California,” will be open on weekends throughout the holiday season.
More information on the Adamson House is available at www.adamsonhouse.org. Reservations can be made by calling 310-456-8432.

Westminster Is Next Stop for Malibu Wire Fox Terrier Following National Show Win

TOP DOG— Malibu dog breeder Torie Steele reports that her wire fox terrier Ch. Steele Your Heart, otherwise known as Eira, which means “snow” in Welsh, took top honors at the National Dog Show on Nov. 19. “Outshining the English springer spaniel, the affenpinscher, the Australian shepherd, the Dalmatian, the Bernese mountain dog and the whippet,” Eira was crowned Best in Show. Eira, who is co-owned by Steele and Mary Ann Roma, is headed next to the Westminster Kennel. Steele says Eira, who was born and raised in Malibu, loves to run on the beach. When she is traveling the show circuit, Eira enjoys “sleeping late in the hotel bed.” A show biz pro, this little terrier has won 15 Best in Show awards and numerous “Best in Specialty” shows. “In addition to being the number one wire fox terrier, she is also the number-two-ranked terrier in the United States,” according to Steele.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Water Board Challenger Has Day in Court

• Local Attorney Filed Lawsuit over Civic Center Septic Ban

BY BILL KOENEKER

A Malibu Road attorney, who has filed a lawsuit against the local and state water boards and the California Environmental Protection Agency and the state concerning the Civic Center septic ban, which includes residential areas such as Malibu Road, has walked away from her first courtroom encounter with a mixed bag of results.
Attorney Joan Lavine, who owns a home on Malibu Road, sought to have the ban overturned and set aside and has also made a claim that the septic ban has resulted in an inverse condemnation, “due to the unconstitutional regulatory taking…of all viable economic value and use of her substantial property interests in her Malibu Road property and seeks the award of reasonable monetary damages.”
Most of the state agencies asked the court to dismiss the complaint on technical grounds, what is legally called a demurrer.
For the most part, the court agreed with the state agencies and sustained the demurrers without leave to amend. “I will have to appeal that,” said Lavine, who acknowledged the court stipulating “without leave to amend” left her with few options.
Lavine said not all was lost to her. Here is what the court said: “Petitioner requested that this court stay entry of an order dismissing these causes of action as to these respondents to allow her to seek appellate review. That request is denied. Writ proceedings should proceed promptly. As there remains a viable and underlying Petition that needs to be adjudicated, that proceeding should proceed with all deliberate speed.”
The judge reviewed how the parties had argued. “Respondents State Water Board and Regional Water Board demur to the second cause of action on the grounds that the first amended petition fails to state a cause of action for Writ of Administrative Mandate because petitioner is seeking to over-turn the quasi-legislative action of Respondent Water Boards instead of any quasi-adjudicative action that would properly be the subject of a Writ of Administrative Mandate.”
“Water Boards thus extrapolate that the septic ban resolution being part of a basin plan (a.k.a. ‘regulation’ ) are quasi-legislative action, and therefore not amendable to being judicially reviewed on a petition for writ of administrative mandamus,” Lavine wrote.
However, the judge said, “There is no doubt that respondent demurring water boards engaged in what was processed as a ‘legislative act’ when they amend the Regional Board’s LA Regional Basin Plan.
Lavine countered, “It is these erroneously employed quasi-legislative procedures, required by law to be quasi-adjudicatory, that petitioner challenges in her petition for writ of administrative mandamus, as illegal, void and subject being restrained and prevented.”
The judge disagreed. “The petitioner is incorrect.”
The judge agreed with the state attorney general’s office, which represents state agencies.
“A demurrer is appropriate when the complaint does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against a party,” the legal brief from the AG’s office states. “When the complaint lacks sufficiency, the court must decide whether there is a reasonable possibility that the plaintiff may cure the defect by amendment. The petitioner bears the burden of proving such reasonable possibility. Where the petitioner fails to meet this burden, the court may properly sustain a demurrer without leave to amend. In considering this demurrer, the court may accept all properly pleaded material facts in the first amended petition, but not its contentions, deductions or conclusion of fact of law.”
In agreeing with the state, the judge wrote a brief summary citing case law. “When pleadings are defective a party may raise the defect by way of a demurrer. A demurrer tests the sufficiency of a pleading and the grounds. A demurrer may be sustained without leave to amend when there is no reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment. Indeed, where the facts are not in dispute and the nature of the plaintiff’s claim is clear, but no liability exists under substantive law and no amendment would change the result the sustaining of a demurrer without leave to amend is proper,” the judge wrote.
Lavine asserts in her original complaint that by enacting a septic ban the agencies “illegally engaged in a regulatory taking and confiscation of her substantial real property and related interests.”
The lawsuit calls the prohibition “an invalid underground regulation and is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, overbroad, confiscatory, is an exercise of authority in excess of and without jurisdiction, is a usurpation of power, authority and jurisdiction where respondents have none, is without any factual support, and is invalid as a matter of law and therefore is null and void.”
Lavine said she was not notified that her property impermissibly discharged water, pollution or contaminants, violated any health, safety, environmental or clean water laws or in any way was non-compliant with any law, rule or regulation over which the water boards have jurisdiction.
She indicated in the legal brief she had not been notified that her property in any way created or caused a nuisance. She has never been cited for any said potential hazards described, she wrote in the lawsuit.
She said the water boards’ actions make her property unsaleable and unmarketable and constitutes a per se regulatory taking.

Malibuites Urged to Stay on Wildfire Alert

BY ANNE SOBLE

Local fire department personnel have been kept busy changing the Smokey Bear wildfire condition signs at a dizzying pace last week as conditions changed from low to moderate to high, and back to low and moderate, depending on whether the marine layer or the offshore winds were dominating Malibu weather.
As the Malibu Surfside News went to press, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has received notification from the National Weather Service that predicts weather conditions that called for a “red flag warning.”
Strong northeast winds and very low humidities are expected for the mountains, passes, and canyons of Los Angeles County from Tuesday through Wednesday. This weather, combined with extremely dry brush, creates high fire danger in the Malibu area.
Thursday may continue on red flag alert or begin a transition that by Friday includes the possibility of light precipitation. The need to frequently update the Smokey Bear signs are to be expected when there is a La Niña influence on Southern California weather.
When a red flag alert is called, local residents are reminded to take basic precautions including:
• Report any sign of smoke immediately by dialing 911. If dialing 911 from a cellular phone, be prepared to provide the location.
• Use caution when operating spark- or flame-producing machinery in grass or brush areas. This causes more fires than arson.
• Malibuites are urged to have a wildfire action plan in place, including pre-planning and possible evacuation procedures, a way for family members to coordinate if they are scattered, special plans for disabled individuals, and equipment to safeguard or transport pets and livestock.
• Everyone should remain vigilant and report suspicious persons or vehicles to law enforcement.

Local Entrepreneur Avoided a Rock and Hard Place with Largess to City Coffers

• Million Dollar Donation May Have Facilitated Planning OK

BY BILL KOENEKER

A one-time highly controversial proposal by the cofounder of the Hard Rock Cafe empire, Peter Morton, the owner of a mansion on Carbon Beach, to create a view corridor by demolishing a house on another beach has wound down after the rules of the game were changed when Morton and the city successfully obtained a Local Coastal Program Amendment from the California Coastal Commission. Morton donated $1 million to Legacy Park and the Malibu City Council last week accepted the CCC’s modifications to the LCPA.
The story began when Morton sought a demolition permit for a single-family house located at 19862 Pacific Coast Highway to create an offsite view corridor.
Morton, through his permit expediters, the law firm of Latham and Watkins, had originally sought the same permit for a beachfront home on La Costa Beach that raised the ire of neighbors there who immediately hired attorneys and began fighting the request.
Morton, at the time, withdrew his application and the matter was seemingly dropped.
However, the application quietly resurfaced with a new Las Tunas Beach location with a new set of neighbors expressing their concerns about such an arrangement.
At the time, the city’s Local Coastal Program did not allow for off-site view corridors, consequently the request required approval by the California Coastal Commission, as well as the city council, for the LCP amendment.
Morton’s attempt to build a beachfront mansion has a long history, even after the CCC issued a permit in 2001.
The mansion kept getting bigger and, by 2004, more numerous special conditions were imposed, including the creation of an on-site public view corridor equal to 20 percent of the width of the property frontage along PCH.
The view corridor requirements imposed by the commission never were acted upon and privacy walls and landscaping exceeded city and commission regulations.
In 2007, the applicant purchased La Costa property and then dropped plans for that after strenuous objections by neighbors.
Subsequently, he purchased the Las Tunas property and again proceeded with attempting to obtain an after-the-fact permit for the landscaping and walls and a request for an LCP amendment to permit off-site view corridors instead of required on-site ones.
Alan Block, who represented one of the property owners originally objecting to the La Costa Beach proposal, said Morton had sweetened the pot for the city.
“[Morton] is now further proposing to contribute $1 million to the Legacy Park project if the amendments are approved,” he wrote in a letter to city officials objecting to his latest proposal.
Susan Shaw Noble, who was handling donations for Legacy Park, said she did not know of any negotiations and was not aware of promises by Morton to contribute money to the park fund.
She acknowledged Morton had previously contributed $25,000 for acquisition of park property.
Block also wrote in his 14-page letter that there is no justification for the proposed amendments.
“Further, the approval of the requested amendments would set an extremely negative precedent, which would allow wealthy individuals to transfer the burdens of their proposed developments to off-site neighborhoods regardless of on-site negative consequences of the same wreaking havoc on public views,” he concluded.
However, when a suitable lot was found next to another view corridor on Big Rock Beach, objections were dropped. City officials confirmed Morton planned to donate $1 million to the city if the deal was approved and Monday night the last major hurdle was approved by the city council.
Besides using the high-priced Latham and Watkins firm to make sure the proposal wended its way through the approval process, it was revealed this week that lobbyist Susan McCabe was hired and attempted to lobby council members on the LCPA.
A developer might have best summed the situation: Engineer Norm Haynie said, “I am disturbed. It only affects one project,” referring to the LCPA and the Coastal Commission’s modifications accepted by the council.

General City Update Is Quarterly Meeting Goal

• Nuts and Bolts of Municipal Operations

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council met last week for the special session called the quarterly meeting when they hear reports from all of the department heads about ongoing projects, the status of newly initiated programs and the completion of programs reflecting the goals and policies of the council.
Not all of the municipal programs generate major headlines, but a random selection below offers another view of what city officials are doing.
City Clerk Lisa Pope reported that this summer’s intern program has concluded and the intern program for the fall recently started. Twenty-one applications were received from college students, but no high school applications were received, despite the city extending the deadline.
Six college student interns began work the week of Oct. 3. Interns are currently working in administrative services, such as human resources, finance, and media information, the planning department, public works, the city clerk’s office and the city manager’s office.
The summer program consisted of five summer interns who provided 414 hours of service to the city during their exposure to the basics of local government.
Public works reported that the city’s annual tree maintenance program is underway with the first phase of work, which is to identify and remove all city-owned trees that are dead, in very poor health, or in danger of falling over.
Once this phase is complete, the consultants hired by the city will begin the systematic trimming of the overgrown trees. The trees that flourish within the city’s right-of-way are viewed, by city officials, as Malibu’s urban forest. Municipal urban forests are considered an important and valued public asset.
An application was received by the planning department for the construction of a new 146-room hotel with free-standing parking structure, swimming pools, spa, fitness center, restaurant and retail on the vacant parcel at the corner of Malibu Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway.
This area has long been considered a potential location for a hotel or resort-type facility that could serve Malibu visitors.
The application was submitted several months ago and planners have been actively working with the project team on necessary plan revisions and entitlement path issues. The staff is awaiting the submittal of a complete set of plans, which demonstrate conformance with the Local Coastal Program and Malibu municipal code.
The administrative services department oversees the city’s film permit office. The city issued 60 still photo permits and 62 motion picture permits during the first quarter of the fiscal year resulting in $96,691 of revenue. Annually, the city collects approximately $300,000 in revenue generated by film permits, according to city officials.
Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman reported to the city council about the efforts of the media information officer, who was hired during this June.
“Since then the following projects have been completed: fifteen press releases have been disseminated. The comprehensive communications policy and social media administrative guidelines were put into place. A ribbon–cutting ceremony to unveil the city’s three new electric vehicle charging stations was held and reported on the event by 32 media outlets,” she said.
Feldman also noted new video equipment has been purchased to begin broadcasting video segments on channel 3. In addition to a video camera, tripod and several other items, a scan converter was also purchased. The scan converter will significantly improve the readability and broadcast quality of computer graphics and slides at city council meetings, according to municipal officials.
The media officer will also provide staff support to the city’s Telecommunications Commission meetings, according to Feldman.
The commission has been working on ways to improve wireless reception within city limits. The media information officer is in the process of inviting representatives from Verizon Wireless, TMobile, AT&T and Sprint to come to City Hall during a Telecommunications Commission meeting to discuss plans to implement future and improved technology, increase capacity and further service offerings in the city, according to Feldman in a memo to the council.
City staff continues to work with the sheriff’s department to launch the new Volunteers on Patrol program.
Nine applicants went through extensive background checks and the official training program, including team training in August and September. The new patrol car was delivered in September and the patrols should begin on Oct. 11.

Judge Rules for Public Agencies But Action Has Not Curbed Zeal of Lagoon Plan Foes

• Critics of Reconstruction Talk about ‘Manning Barricades’

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith has rejected a lawsuit that attempted to block California Coastal Commission approval of State Parks’ Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project.
The controversial project, which involves draining, dredging and re-contouring the western portion of the lagoon and removing the wooden bridges that provide public access through the center of the lagoon, has generated strong opposition in the Malibu community.
The Wetlands Defense Fund, Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network and Access for All filed a petition for writ of mandate against the project, and succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order, which prevented the project from breaking ground in June.
On Thursday, the judge ruled against the arguments presented by the petitioners, finding that the Coastal Commission adequately analyzed all feasible alternatives to the project and selected the least detrimental option.
Goldsmith also found that the project’s mitigation measures were sufficient, and ruled that the removal of the existing wooden bridges would not have a substantial impact on public access.
The ruling clears the way for the project to move forward in June 2012, unless an appeal is filed. Opponents are also discussing civil protest.
An official draft of the final ruling signed by the judge is expected to be released later this week.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Public Condolences •

BY ANNE SOBLE

The News has received several letters to the editor about the recent reported suicides in the surrounding area. Some letters deal with what Malibu students may be experiencing; others conjecture about causality in specific cases; and a few address prevention of suicide in general.
Not everyone will agree with my decision not to print these letters because the writers criticize parents of the suicides, blame academic pressures, or attribute an array of issues from gender identity to personality disorders to these losses, even though not one of the writers says they personally knew the individuals, or know their families.
This does not mean that suicide, particularly teen or youth suicide, is not an important topic for public discussion. But shouldn’t human decency and respect for the grieving families and friends preclude speculation about those they have lost? Social discourse can deal with the relevant issues without pointing fingers.
My own perspective is that no one can really know the final thoughts that result in an individual taking their own life unless they have been clearly stated in a final note, text or video; and even then there may be subconscious elements that remain undisclosed. To conjecture is not only an invasion of privacy, it can be cruel.
The propensity of teen and young adult suicides to have a clustering effect among friends and peer groups mandates that all families be especially alert, whether their children knew those who have taken their lives, or have heard about them. Few are the young people who do not have to face disappointment, rejection, failure, or any of the possible provocations for someone in an already vulnerable state. Most, however, develop coping mechanisms and are able to handle life’s difficult turns.
Postulation about why others cannot or choose not to cope by those who have never met them, however well meaning that might be, or however extensive the proponent’s professional background, may be grounded in personal biases and have the effect of rubbing salt in the already raw and gaping wounds of those left behind.
Perhaps the most fitting response to such tragedies at this point is to offer condolences for the losses. Families and friends should be allowed to go through the grieving process and be given the time and the space to address these losses in their own ways.
When they are ready, some of the family members and friends may wish to participate in the kinds of open discussions that should be ongoing in every community, not only to pinpoint specific concerns, such as school pressures, conformity issues, and personality and mental health factors, but to foster an atmosphere where every young person knows there is someone with whom they can share thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, isolation, fear, anger and despondency.
There are no easy formulae. The issues that foster consideration of self-destruction are as unique as an individual’s DNA. The need for all of us to try to be sensitive to the fact that someone may be floundering, and reach out and try to respond to what are most often silent cries, is one of the most important things one human being can do for another.

Aspects of Investigation of Samohi ‘Racial’ Incident Continue

• School District Officials Absolved But Youths Participation in Possible Hate Crime Is Still an Issue

BY KAYLA BROWN

On May 4, reports surfaced of a male African-American Santa Monica High School student allegedly being attacked, then chained to his locker, and taunted with racial slurs by two male Samohi non African-American students.
These students were also accused of assembling a practice dummy with a noose around its neck. Although the incident was reported to district administration, the parent of the student was never notified.
This racially tinged confrontation triggered the attention of local activist Najee Ali of Project Islamic H.O.P.E. Ali filed a federal civil rights complaint on July 6, against all individuals involved; including the two student wrestlers and their head coach.
Ali also filed an additional complaint against former district Superintendent Tim Cuneo, and previous Samohi principal Hugo Pedroza for the “obstruction of justice.”
The California Penal Code states that any display of a noose “knowing it to be a symbol representing a threat of life, on the property of a high school” is a criminal offense. Ali firmly believes that the students involved “did indeed commit a hate crime,” and the administration should be considered “a party to this incident for covering up the crime and encouraging the destruction of evidence.” (California Penal Code Section 11411)
After heavy media coverage and community input, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department began immediate investigation of the incident.
On Monday, SMMUSD released the results of the LASD investigation, which focused on allegations that SMMUSD employees had “intimidated victims and/or witnesses and destroyed evidence in the racial incident.”
An LASD Internal Investigation unit found “no probable cause that any staff member or employee of SMMUSD acted in such a manner that supports an allegation of criminal misconduct.”
SMMUSD will now initiate a third-party investigation per the Board of Education’s direction; examining whether “existing policies, practices, and procedures were followed immediately following the incident and to make recommendations about changes that should be made.”
Despite ongoing efforts, Ali finds the dismissal of the case by LASD as a “slap in the face.” “The Sheriff’s investigation was of substance, not the school board.” and added, “Law enforcement continues to turn a blind eye to justice especially when it comes to minorities.”
As SMMUSD embarks upon a subsequent investigation, additional legal actions may still take place. Ali and fellow contenders are currently developing response methods, including contacting the victim’s mother.
Meanwhile the federal civil rights complaints against the SMMUSD officials and involved parties still stand.