Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Potential Candidates for Malibu City Council Seats Begin Pulling Papers

• Five Hopefuls Pick Up Nomination Materials So Far

BY BILL KOENEKER

The upcoming Malibu City Council election set for April 10, 2012 got off to an official start last week and was interrupted by a Christmas holiday.
City Hall was closed by Friday afternoon and also on Monday.
No candidates pulled nominating papers this Tuesday, according to the City Clerk’s office, as the Malibu Surfside News went to press.
By the end of last week, Joan House, Andy Lyon, Hamish Patterson, John Sibert and Jefferson Wagner had gone to the city clerk’s office to obtain the documents.
Hamish Patterson is a skateboard park activist who is a newcomer to local politics. He is also known as Malibu Hamish Illusion, whose series of videos are posted on YouTube.
Patterson says he grew up in Malibu and, like many of his local friends, didn’t really pay much attention to Malibu politics.
The 42-year-old council hopeful said it was not until he got involved in the skate park issue several months ago did he notice how the policies and complexity of not just the skate park issue but other municipal issues shapes how something happens and how it gets done.
“That is not getting out to the public. There is a disconnect between the city council and the rest of us,” he said.
Patterson said he also noticed there are a lot of different agendas held by many different people as the issues unfold.
He said on the skate park issue he hoped to raise it to a new level and also to inform the city it is not just youngsters who skateboard or who have a need for a good skate park.
“I never used Papa Jack’s. It really was not adequate. All right, let’s do a real skate park,” he said. “I’m talking about also for those of us over 40.”
With his eyes wide open, he said, he started getting involved in other local issues such as the planned restoration of the Malibu Lagoon.
“Why dig it up? It is not a big lagoon. It is basically just an outflow of a creek. It seems like there is this back door dealing or some kind of inside deals going on,” he said. “It is the same thing with Legacy Park. All of that expense, just for water storage?”
He said the Malibu of his youth is changing and right before his eyes. “We’ve got Pepperdine coming on with their giant arena and more beds for the dorms. All of these things are going on. For me it has become more about how and what is going on behind the scenes,” he said.
“Everything needs to be public. I don’t see anybody on the council holding to that,” he insisted. “Things should not be behind closed doors. There are five members telling people too ignorant or disenfranchised to do anything. Or they let you know after-the-fact.”
Patterson said he works in the construction trades as a carpenter and has done work in the “sober living community” in Malibu.
“There is a disconnect with the city council and the drug rehabilitation facilities [workers and clients]”
The potential candidate ticked off a list of agenda items he would like to see accomplished. “I cannot fathom why the city council has not gotten together with Caltrans to alter the timing of the traffic light at Cross Creek and PCH. The traffic patterns have changed and the city council should be addressing that,” he added.
He noted these are “quality of life” issues especially everyone’s favorite—traffic and more traffic. “Some of the other lights on PCH, the timing is not adequate. There is a traffic issue at Heathercliff and PCH that needs to be addressed. That is one of the many basics. Traffic issues lend themselves to a lot of problems. The city seems to be willing to spend a lot of money for bikes passing through Malibu, but not paying attention to the locals, the rest of us.”
Councilmember John Sibert had already filled out a notice of intent to collect campaign contributions, according to the City Clerk’s office, but kept telling the local media last week he was not sure if he was running for reelection, but he did pull papers by the end of the week.
The nominating procedure is a formal process whereupon candidates must obtain the signatures of not less than 20 Malibu registered voters “nominating” the candidate for a position on the ballot. No more than 30 signatures may be obtained.
Next April, there will be three seats open. Councilmember John Sibert is running to keep his seat, as is Councilmember Jefferson Wagner. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich is termed out of office. Her seat will be up for grabs.
The last date to file nomination papers for incumbents is Jan. 13, the last date for all others is Jan. 18. The filing period for write-in candidates is Feb. 13 through March 27.
Voters may request vote-by -mail ballots from March 12 to April 3. The last day to register to vote is March 26.

Council to Revisit Motto

• E Pluribus Unum Has Inside Track

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu City Council members are going to make another attempt at adopting a motto for public display at City Hall on Jan. 9 when they consider “E Pluribus Unum,” which is Latin for “Out of Many, One.”
The impetus for the motto adoption came about after the last council session when it was split on allowing the display of the motto, “In God We Trust” at City Hall.
Councilmembers Lou La Monte and Pamela Conley Ulich favored it and Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmembers John Sibert and Jefferson Wagner were opposed.
Instead, the council decided they would discuss placing another motto in City Hall.
Conley Ulich and La Monte had wanted their colleagues to consider the matter of placing what is our country’s national motto in City Hall.
“I’m really against bringing this up,” said Mayor Laura Rosenthal. “I agree with John and Jay, patriotism does not have anything to do with it. I feel strongly about the separation of church and state.”
The mayor suggested E Pluribus Unum. “That is a great motto,” she added. Other council members concurred.
However, a shout from the public about acting on an item that was not on the agenda, caused City Attorney Christi Hogin to advise the matter should be brought back at the next council hearing.
Various sources describe E Pluribus Unum, which is on coins and currency, as the federal government’s unofficial first motto until it was officially replaced with “In God We Trust” by the U.S. Congress in 1957.
The phrase is included in the seal of the United States and that of the President and Congress.
Some historians maintain the phrase originally suggested that out of many colonies or states emerged a single nation. In recent years, it has come to suggest that out of many diverse people, races, religions and ancestries has emerged a nation.
According to the city manager, on July 30, 1957, the U.S. code section 302 established the saying “In God We Trust” found on U.S. dollar bills and coins as the country’s national motto.
On Nov. 13, 2002, the 107th Congress “reaffirmed the exact language that has appeared in the Motto for decades,” according to City Manager Jim Thorsen’s research.
In God We Trust—America, Inc. was put together to promote the display of the national motto in city halls and county headquarters across the country during the last couple of years.
According to the campaign’s website, 364 cities or counties across the country, including 89 in California, have approved the displays.
However, the motto is not without controversy. For a long time, critics have contended the words are indeed a matter of “law respecting an establishment of religion,” by the government and violates the establishment clause of the first amendment and the separation of church and state.
Critics went to court in 1970, but the appellate court ruled otherwise, saying “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
The U. S. Supreme Court, in settling the matter, also held that the nation’s “institutions presuppose a Supreme Being and that government recognition of God does not constitute the establishment of such a state church as the Constitution’s authors intended to prohibit.”

Planning Commission Starts Off the New Year with Numerous Agenda Items

• Church Construction and Wine Tasting Room Need Permits

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission has a number of notable items to consider on its agenda next week at its Tuesday, Jan. 3, meeting.
The commission is being asked to grant a conditional use permit to allow a retail beer and wine store with onsite wine tasting. A California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control license is required to issue the CUP. No new square footage is proposed, according to planners.
The staff is recommending the planning panel approve the request.
The location is in the building owned by Councilmember Jefferson Wagner
The tasting bar, according to a staff report, occupies about 50 square feet of the 1,124-square-foot tenant space and does not include any seating.
“The tasting bar is only associated with the retail sale of beer and wine and will not serve as a location for wine tasting classes or special events unless permitted under a separate CUP or Temporary Use Permit. For tasting, full glasses are not poured and bottles are not left open with the customers,” the staff report written by Associate Planner Ha Ly states.
Malibu Beach Wines, the applicant, proposes to provide local vineyards a place to sell their wines as smaller local vineyards may not produce enough to sell to corporate businesses such as grocery stores, convenience stores and service stations. The proposed project also includes the sale of “specialty boutique handcrafted artisan style beer and in limited production.”
The applicant has recently submitted an application, according to city officials, for a Type 42 license to the ABC. The Department of ABC will not issue the license until the CUP is approved.
The staff report indicates the staff compiled a list of ABC licenses issued for the City of Malibu.
“There are currently a total of 15 off-sale licenses issued by the ABC within the city. There are no off-site licenses issued to any retailers within 1000 foot radius of the project site, the nearest off-site license is issued to PC Greens located 1,400 feet to the east,” the staff report goes on to state.
The commission last month turned down a second request by Circle K that wanted to sell beer and wine. There were loud protests from neighbors and others at that hearing. But as of yet, there seems to be no opposition to this proposal located next to Zuma Jay’s surf shop.
Also on tap, commissioners are expected to take a look-see at an application to reconstruct the Malibu Presbyterian Church, which was destroyed in the 2007 Canyon wildfire.
On Oct. 21 2007, the church’s sanctuary, fellowship hall and preschool were destroyed by a wildfire. The detached ministry building was not damaged.
On March 18, 2008, an application for a coastal permit and Conditional Use Permit, which allowed for the temporary placement of two trailers that would serve as a temporary preschool were approved by the planning commission.
Later, the city allowed for the placement of two Sprung structures and office trailers on the site of the previous church. These temporary structures allow for the operation of the church until the replacement church is completed, according to planners.
Building plans call for two structures that total 17,132 square feet. The sanctuary building is 7,964 square feet including a mezzanine level. The fellowship hall and administration building is 9,168 square feet. There will be elevated walkways and plazas to connect the two structures.
“The rebuilt church will have a footprint that is approximately 18 percent less than the previous church since the previous church was primarily a single-story structure with vaulted ceilings. The overall design of the replacement structure will result in a structure that appears to be smaller than the previous structure,” wrote Associate Planner Richard Mollica, in a staff report.
Larry Ellison has so many workers involved on his construction projects—at the former sites of Pierview and Windsail Restaurants where two new eateries are being constructed and the residential project in Serra Retreat area—that his company Wave Property Inc. is seeking a permit to create a temporary parking lot for 152 vehicles for workers who will be shuttled to the building sites.
Ellison apparently has plans for upcoming development projects in the Carbon Beach area and at the Malibu Racquet Club and wanted more time for the parking lot for those workers too, but was turned down by the planning staff since no coastal permits had been pulled for those two proposed projects.
The temporary parking lot will be located at the former Allied Nursery site that has a 3542 Coast View Drive address.
The remnant nursery plants will remain to provide visual shielding.
Former Malibu Planning Director Drew Purvis, who is now on the other side of the counter, is handling the request for Ellison and also sought a permit for four years.
The planning panel is also expected to tackle a controversial request to demolish a Point Dume house designed by architect Bart Prince in 2004 and replace it with another home.
The existing Prince-designed home consists of a series of six two-story diamond-shaped segments that cascade toward the canyon and a terraced garden.
Preservationists have cried foul and believe the city should reconsider, given the example.
However, the planning staff indicates the residence “does not qualify as a ‘historical resource’ under any of the criteria [it cited].”
“First, the existing residence is not listed in the California Register of Historical Resources and has not been determined to be eligible for listing by the State Historical Resources Commission. Second, the city does not maintain a local register of historical resources. Third, the city has not determined that the existing residence is historically or architecturally significant. Generally properties eligible for listing must be at least 50 years old. The California Register only considers a resource ‘less than fifty years old’…if it can be demonstrated that sufficient time has passed to understand its historical importance. The existing residence was built in 2004, making it approximately seven years old. While it was designed by a respected architect, it does not appear to have sufficient significance to override the 50-year age criterion of the California Resister. Accordingly, the existing residence is not an historical resource for the purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act.”
Attorney Frank Angel, who represents a next door neighbor said that is exactly why he is calling for the city to require a Conditional Use Permit for the single-family home—a somewhat unusual determination.
Angel says instead of exempting it from CEQA, “CEQA offers a pause to think. By avoiding CEQA, city planners aren’t given time to think, to make an informed decision about what is being torn down.”

Broad Beach GHAD Has Extensive Support from Involved Parcel Owners

• Vote on Assessment Is Set for Feb. 5

BY BILL KOENEKER

A Broad Beach Geological Hazard Abatement District board member said it was inaccurate to describe the entire Malibu West neighborhood as worried or concerned about the costs of the GHAD.
Malibu West is involved in the GHAD project as a property owner on the beach. The goal of the GHAD is an attempt to restore Broad Beach by not only a revetment, but a planned series of sand replenishments.
“The Malibu West Board of Directors requested to be included in the Broad Beach GHAD. The dissenters among Malibu West’s membership are an internal matter for Malibu West,” wrote GHAD board member Zan Marquis, in an email commenting on last week’s GHAD story.
Cindy Vandor and her husband had written a letter extensively quoted in last week’s story about their fiscal concerns to neighboring Malibu West property owners.
Also responding to the story, the Malibu West Board sent the Malibu Surfside News a press release.
“The Malibu West Board of Directors wants to express their continuing support and approval for the Broad Beach Replenishment Project and the Geologic Hazard Abatement District formed to fund and manage this effort. The board is confident that this is the best solution to protect and enhance this valuable asset so important to the residents of Malibu West and our neighbors on Broad Beach,” the press release states.
Marquis noted the GHAD enjoys “overwhelming support among the 100-plus property owners along Broad Beach.”
He indicated restoring the dry sandy beach and dunes of Broad Beach is in everyone’s interest.
“The rebuilt sand dunes will cover the rock revetment and the widened sandy beach will provide extensive public access along the entire beach,” he added.
The MW board also issued an update and FAQ’S sheet to Malibu West homeowners informing them of the current status of the GHAD, its mission and the upcoming vote on Feb. 5, 2012 asking property owners to consider a proposed assessment cap of $400 per linear foot. As noted by the board, the vote is not asking property owners whether they want to be included in the GHAD.
The question of how much Malibu West will be charged annually was answered.
If the vote passes, the parcel upon which the Malibu West Swimming Club site will be levied is a maximum of $400 per linear foot, including interest currently predicted at five percent.
“At 100 feet of beachfront, the MW annual levy would be a maximum of $40,000 per year, plus consumer price index increases. Special assessments are possible, but would require a separate vote of members of the GHAD district,” the FAQ’S sheet states.
The assessment will be billed to the MWSC and will be paid through and included as part of the HOA budget. “It is not anticipated this assessment will require an increase in homeowner’s dues, which are currently $1,500 per year,” the fact sheet goes on to state.
The update continues to talk about the benefits of the project and what kind of oversight there will be on the GHAD.
“The GHAD board voted to hire an independent certified public accountant who will audit all GHAD board expenditures and review moneys spent on TPOA prior to the GHAD formation.”
The fact sheet also made clear that the $83,000 spent by the HOA was in fact the cost during the past 25 months for the maintenance of the HOA’s beach.
“If the project does not proceed, it is anticipated that these maintenance expenses will continue to be incurred,” the update reports.
The HOA, like other beach property owners is being asked to contribute $55,000 to voluntarily pay for its proportional fair share of expenses which have been incurred to date and will be incurred up to the point where the GHAD is capitalized
GHAD Broad Beach property owners Steven Levitan, Zan Marquis, Norton Karno, Marshall Grossman and Jeff Lotman were tapped as the initial board of directors for terms not to exceed four years.
The MWHOA owns a lot and would be one of the property owners in the assessment district.
There are 237 homeowners as part of the MWHOA, which owns 105 feet of beach frontage and a building used for commercial use.
The proposed action stems from the overall plans proposed for Broad Beach where experts have determined there has been a significant change in the width of the beach since 1946.
Broad Beach has experienced variable, but declining beach width at a rate of about two feet per year, according to experts.
The proposed Broad Beach GHAD would span the entirety of Broad Beach and a portion of Victoria Point concluding with 6525 Point Lechuza.
GHADs, according to the planning staff, are a political subdivision of the state and are formed in specific geographic areas to address potential geological hazards. The purpose of a GHAD is to prevent, mitigate, control or abate defined geologic hazards through maintenance improvements or other means.
Financing of a GHAD is accomplished through an assessment of only those property owners who own real estate within the boundaries of the designated district, issuing and serving of bonds, notes or other debentures is also authorized under a GHAD.

Malibu Marine Protected Area Takes Effect First Day of New Year

• Proponents Expect to See All Forms of Sea Life Off Point Dume Benefit

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

On Jan. 1, the California Department of Fish and Game will officially implement Southern California’s new network of Marine Protected Areas, including a State Marine Reserve and State Marine Conservation Area off Point Dume in Malibu. The new Southern California underwater parks will be part of a statewide system of MPAs that were created through the Marine Life Protection Act.
“Jan. 1 is a real turning point for Southern California’s ocean,” said Greg Helms of Ocean Conservancy. “By protecting hot spots like South La Jolla, Point Dume and Laguna, we are charting a course towards greater sustainability, and that means better fishing, diving, kayaking, tidepooling and birding for our children.” 
“Like parks on land, these new marine protected areas are a huge opportunity to connect with nature,” said Malibu resident Sarah Sikich of Heal the Bay. “From Heal the Bay’s own MPA Watch program to Underwater Parks Day events at local aquaria, there are lots of opportunities for people to get involved and learn.”
Not everyone is happy about the implementation of the program. A coalition of fishing interests continues to attempt to block the MPAs, arguing that the MLPA processes environmental review, overseen by the state Department of Fish and Game, has violated the California Environmental Quality Act in the commission’s environmental review of the regulations.
In Malibu, the Point Dume SMR incorporates an area of reefs and kelp forest popular with kayak fishers and the diving community. The area, and a marine canyon located directly off the Point Dume Headlands, are described as “rare and vitally important habitat” that was one of the MLPA Science Advisory Teams top preservation priorities.
MLPA proponents counter that the marine protected areas going into effect were designed with the input of the local fishing community, conservationists and other stakeholders.
“The new MPAs protect the most productive ocean areas while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing,” an Ocean Conservancy press release states. “Most of the new protected areas are adjacent to public beaches and state parks, creating great opportunities for education, research, and recreation. A couple of areas—Kashtayit west of Santa Barbara and Matlahuayl near San Diego—were designed to protect and showcase tribal cultural history in the south coast region.”
Chumash activist Mati Waiya, founder of the Wishtoyo Foundation in Malibu, has stated that he hopes that there will be an opportunity to incorporate Chumash culture and seafaring traditions in the new Point Dume MPA areas.
“The ocean is more than just a source of fish, it’s a vital piece of our shared natural and cultural heritage,” said Diane Castaneda of the organization WiLDCOAST. “Our community has been overwhelmingly supportive of marine protected areas, and is excited to help spread the word and study their results.”
According to MPA advocates, Southern California already has one marine protected area success story. The Channel Islands marine reserve network, created in 2002, appears to be successfully helping to rebuild depleted fish populations and restore kelp forest habitat. According to the Ocean Conservancy, a five-year review has found that rockfish numbers at the MPA were up by 50 percent, and that the size of the fish studied had increased by 80 percent. The report concludes that the Department of Fish and Game found no evidence the marine reserves impacted fisheries value.
According to the DFG, the Point Dume State Marine Reserve, which extends from the west end of Paradise Cove to the outflow of Zuma Creek, is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed: 34° 00.76’ N. lat. 118° 49.20’ W. long.;?33° 56.96’ N. lat. 118° 49.20’ W. long.; thence eastward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to?33° 57.06’ N. lat. 118° 47.26’ W. long.; and?34° 01.20’ N. lat. 118° 47.26’ W. long. Take of all living marine resources in the SMR is prohibited.”
The State Marine Conservation Area extends from Zuma Creek to El Matador State Beach, defined as “from the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed: 34° 02.28’ N. lat. 118° 53.00’ W. long; 33° 59.14’ N. lat. 118° 53.00’ W. long.; thence southeastward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to 33° 56.96’ N. lat. 118° 49.20’ W. long; and 34° 00.76’ N. lat. 118° 49.20’ W. long. Take of all living marine resources is prohibited except: The recreational take of pelagic finfish, including Pacific bonito, and white sea bass by spearfishing is allowed, and the commercial take of coastal pelagic species by round haul net and swordfish by harpoon is allowed.
“Take pursuant to beach nourishment and other sediment management activities is allowed inside the conservation area pursuant to any required federal, state and local permits, or as otherwise authorized by the department.”
More information is available at websites: www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa or www.caloceans.org

Report on Trancas Canyon Park Addresses Its Operation

• Some Thorny Dog-Related Issues Continue to Surface

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu’s Parks and Recreation Department wants the city council on Jan. 9 to get into the discussion about modifying the hours of operation for Trancas Canyon Park allowing the park to close at sunset.
Currently, the park is open for public use every day of the year opening at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The park closes at 7 p.m. or dusk, whichever is earlier. The park also closes on days when red flag warnings are issued, according to park officials.
Park users would like to see the hours extended in the summer time when sunset is later than 7 p.m.
A report issued by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department offers a profile of the canyon park during its first 12 months.
“The park is typically frequented by local residents, creating a neighborhood park environment. Concerns that the park would be heavily used on a regional basis have gone largely unfounded based on the general observed use of the park,” wrote Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings.
The dog park has been well received by the residents and is used more consistently by park goers than any of the other park amenities. Occasionally, dog owners can be seen waiting in line for the park gates to be opened in order to use the dog park, according to Stallings.
Peak use of the picnic areas occurs on weekends during children’s birthday events and other family gatherings. Parents have told staff that the centralized location of the picnic areas allows convenient supervision of children. The picnic areas are available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
The playground is used on a daily basis by children primarily five-to-12 years of age.
The sports field may be used as an overflow area for practices when all other athletic fields in the city are being used.
In the fall of 2010, Malibu AYSO used the field throughout its season for practices about three days per week, according to Stallings, who noted during the spring of 2011 Malibu Little League did not assign teams to the park.
The call for the longer hours came about in the summer time when sunset was as late as 8:10 p.m.
The issue of extending park hours was brought before the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration.
Stallings characterized the commission’s response that there was merit in extending the park hours with little effect on the surrounding residents.
The commission recommended the city council approve an extension of the daily park hours to sunset.
When speaking of park rules, Stallings is quick to point out that of the many comments received by the park staff one of “the greatest concerns pertained to the unwillingness or inability of dog owners to comply with park rules.”
Park rules require that dog owners maintain control of their dogs at all times, and that their dogs belong on a leash when not in the dog park.
“Staff received complaints about dogs being off leash and disrupting the use of the multi-purpose sports field and the children’s playground. The concerns of the park goers ranged from dogs attacking other dogs to frightening the children and adults in the park,” the report states.
Stallings said his staff has made a concerted effort to address the issues in several ways. Staff has met with dog owners, contacted animal control, conducted routine patrols and placed large signs throughout the park.
“To further educate dog owners, a workshop, lead by one of the preeminent dog trainers was held at the dog park. Through these efforts, the situation has improved significantly, but not resolved entirely,” Stallings wrote in this report.
What might be an eye-opener to some folks is the total annual cost of maintenance and operation of the park during the fiscal year, which was $104,060. In the first year of operation, it is estimated that a total of 20,850 visitors came to the park.

Questions Raised about Permits for Controversial Lagoon Project

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Opponents of the Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project say that they cannot appeal a ruling made by a San Francisco Superior Court judge until the ruling is formally issued in writing, but lawyers for the project opponents have submitted a letter to the California Department of Fish and Game, raising questions about permits for the project.
“On behalf of Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All and the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network, we write to request that the Department of Fish and Game fulfill its permitting responsibilities for the Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project,” the letter from the Law Offices of James Birkelund states. “As the California state agency tasked with protecting our wildlife habitats, your agency’s examination of project impacts to the rare and especially sensitive habitat in Malibu Lagoon is essential.”
The letter states that the department “has the duty to consider: 1. Requirements for a streambed alteration agreement, 2. requirements for incidental take permits under the California Endangered Species Act, and 3. other state laws, such as Fish and Game code sections [pertaining to water pollution, fish passage ] and the need for the project to undergo additional environmental review with a subsequent or supplemental environmental impact report, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act.”
The letter states that the DFG has “previously raised serious concerns with the project.”
It points out that a streambed alteration waiver issued in 2007 required that “the project must be the same one and conducted in the same manner…including completing the project within the proposed term and same seasonal work period,” and that the work is now scheduled to take place in the summer, rather than in the winter, concluding that “the 2007 waiver is therefore by its own express terms no longer of any force or effect.”
The letter proposes that a new supplemental or subsequent EIR is needed for the project, based on “new information, which was not known and could not have been known at the time the EIR was certified complete.”
The letter cites a recent U.S. Geological Survey report, currently undergoing peer review, which “determined that bacteria pollution in Malibu Lagoon and offshore waters is likely from natural sources,” and the fact that the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility is no longer permitted to discharge waste during the period from April 15-Nov. 15.
“Discharges at the time the project was initially designed occurred year-round,” the letter states. “Now, since there is no excess water coming downstream from Tapia to Malibu Lagoon during the late spring, summer and early autumn, the project need to enhance water flushing is also no longer evident. These changed circumstances must be analyzed under CEQA.”
The tiny endangered tidewater goby fish is also discussed in the letter, which states “…since the department issued the now-expired waiver for a streambed alteration permit, additional information indicates that the planned reconstruction would be unlikely to support a thriving population of tidewater goby and would further alter the ecology as compared to historic conditions existing before human disturbances.
“According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service critical habitat designations, tidewater goby require ‘persistent, shallow, still-to-slow-moving aquatic habitat;’ yet the plan for the project is designed to provide deep, faster moving water.”
The letter concludes “Because the department is a responsible agency with discretionary approvals pending, it must consider whether the project warrants further environmental review with a subsequent or supplemental EIR.”
The State Parks plan to drain, dredge and re-contour the western portion of the Malibu Lagoon has attracted substantial opposition in the Malibu community.
Observers say the project appears set to become a major issue in the April 2012 Malibu City Council election.

Decker School Was an Important Part of Malibu’s History

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

While the City of Malibu considers whether it can successfully separate from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, many longtime Malibuites are reminded that Malibu’s first school managed on its own for more than 40 years and the relationship between the two communities has never been entirely comfortable, despite the word “United.”
In 1980, Los Angeles County rejected a bid made by Malibu residents concerned and angered by the closure of Point Dume Elementary School, among other issues, for a separate school district. Subsequent secession attempts made in the 1990s and in 2004 were also unsuccessful.
Malibu joined the Santa Monica School District in 1953. The decision was controversial with some residents, even then, suggesting that a separate district would be preferable.
Before 1953, Malibu students K-8 shared a traditional one-room schoolhouse in Decker Canyon.
Then under the aegis of the Los Angeles County School System, students had access to Los Angeles County library materials and, according to an article in the now-defunct Santa Monica Evening Outlook, dated 1955, “help from the Los Angeles County office was given in art, music, physical education, child guidance, speech correction, health problems, and audio visual education.”
The article chronicles the history of the Malibu school, which opened in 1911 in a temporary building described as hardly more than a barn. The schoolhouse was completed the following year, on property contributed by the Decker family, who owned most of the canyon that still bears their name.
According to the Outlook, enrollment varied from just seven to just over two-dozen.
Helena Weaver began teaching at Decker in 1926 with 15 pupils.
“Over the years since I first began teaching there has been a decided change in teaching practices.” Weaver is quoted in the Outlook. “In the past it seems to me that more attention was given to teaching the fundamentals and not so much to social activities and physical education. There were not so many subjects to be taught and the program was not as flexible as at the present time. Of course in this type of school, with only one teacher and eight grades, it has been necessary to stick to a pretty rigid schedule.”
Until 1939 there was no bus service for Decker students. Children walked to school or rode horseback.
Fires threatened the Decker Schoolhouse in 1930, ’35 and ’55.
Weaver recalled her experiences with all three wildfires at the school.
“The most exciting events that happened in this area since I’ve been here were the fires of 1930 and 1935. When the first fire came there was much concern and excitement but the experience was not as terrifying as that caused by the fire in 1955,” she said.
“The first fire was not accompanied by wind so it approached more slowly and was stopped before reaching the school. The most exciting thing during that ordeal was the encampment of the Los Angeles Forestry Department. in the school yard. During their stay there was more attention given to what was going on in the school yard than what was going on in the school room.
“The night before the [1935] fire started a terrific wind started blowing and continued during the next day. On the day of the fire during the recess period at 11 a.m. we spotted a puff of smoke in the northeast. The puff began expanding rapidly until a huge, black cloud spread over the sky and began to approach very fast.
“Some of the parents began arriving at school because of concern over the advancing fire. Men who had been working on the road came to the school to see if we needed help.
“Later we were very glad for their assistance. They climbed on the school roof and kept it wet so the sparks from the oncoming fire would not ignite it. The mothers and I got wet towels ready in case we might need them when the fire came through.”
Two homes near the school were destroyed by the ’35 fire. The families were evacuated to the schoolhouse until accommodations could be found for them.
Popular Malibu legend involves a resident ghosts at the old school following the’35 fire.
By 1948, the post-WW II building boom was in full-swing on Point Dume and in Malibu Park. Malibu's population, which was in stasis during the war years, grew exponentially.
The increased demand for schools resulted in the construction of Juan Cabrillo—originally Zuma Mesa—Elementary School in 1955, followed by Malibu Park Junior High, Point Dume Elementary and Webster Elementary schools in the 1960s.
There were 26 pupils when the school—the last one-room schoolhouse in the area—closed its doors in June of 1955.
“They will continue their elementary schooling next September at the new Zuma Mesa School, now under construction,” the Outlook article concludes. “A modern school with modern classroom facilities and most of all a school that has individual classes for individual grades.”
Observers suggest that if Malibu forms its own school district, the self-contained, historic Decker School, which provided a good education to two generations of Malibu residents despite limited resources and an isolated location, could be an inspiration.

WINDOW ON THE PAST—Decker Canyon School opened in 1911. By 1928, when this photograph was taken, the schoolhouse, complete with water tower and bell, had 18 pupils of all ages from kindergarten to eighth grade. In addition to providing a comprehensive education, the school house, like its contemporary counterparts, served as an evacuation center during wildfires. Before Pacific Coast Highway opened, graduates of the one-room schoolhouse usually traveled to Oxnard to attend high school. Santa Monica High School was founded in 1884, and the current school site opened in 1906, but the trip to Santa Monica was an all-day expedition for Malibu residents. Photo courtesy of Emerson MacGregor

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Potential Council Candidates Start to Pull Nomination Papers

• Names that Will Be on the Ballot for April 10 Election Will Not Be Finalized until Jan. 18

BY BILL KOENEKER

The upcoming Malibu City Council election set for April 10 got off to an official start, as some candidates pulled papers, others made official announcements, a debate ensued between a potential candidate and a candidate, and already City Hall observers are speculating about possible slates, potential alignments and how this race could shape up to be like no other.
Activist, surfer and actor Andy Lyon was the first to pull nominating papers on Monday. Other candidates included incumbent Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, who had said he was pulling papers either Tuesday or Wednesday, and did so on Tuesday afternoon.
A dark horse candidate could be Hamish Patterson, also known as Malibu Hamish Illusion, whose series of videos are posted on YouTube.com.
Patterson, a skateboarder, pulled papers on Tuesday morning. says he got involved because of the skate park issue.
Current planning commissioner and former council member Joan House made the media rounds formally announcing her candidacy on Monday morning before arriving at City Hall on Tuesday to obtain her nominating papers.
Councilmember John Sibert has already filled out a notice of intent to collect campaign contributions, according to City Clerk Lisa Pope, but as of Tuesday afternoon had not picked up nomination papers.
Another potential candidate Missy Zeitsoff, who has been absent for years from Malibu but has rejoined the community and is expressing possible political intentions, called into question House’s bid for a council seat.
“Why would House run for a fourth term, thus opposing the spirit, if not the legality, of the voters’ double mandate [on term limits]?,” Zeitsoff wrote in an email.
When asked that question, House said, “I am entitled to run for another term.” She explained term limits were enacted after she had already served two terms in office.
“I completed one term and can run for one more term,” she added.
House said her number one reason for running, “I love Malibu.”
Zeitsoff, who served as a council member, said, “I would certainly be a one term council member, if elected in April 2012, as I would honor the vote in 2000, and in 2006. I already served one partial term, which is considered one of two terms in the Measure A. Maybe House forgot about the two ballot measures? I hope someone reminds her.”
The nominating procedure is a formal process whereupon candidates must obtain the signatures of not less than 20 Malibu registered voters “nominating” the candidate for a position on the ballot. No more than 30 signatures may be obtained.
Next April, there will be three seats open. Councilmember John Sibert is expected to run to try to keep his seat, as is Councilmember Jefferson Wagner. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich is termed out of office. Her seat will be up for grabs.
Lyon would be a newcomer to government office or civic duty. His involvement with local politics stems from his opposition to the Malibu Lagoon restoration plan and he recently announced another issue would be the Civic Center septic prohibition and resultant sewer system.
Lyon, in the past, said he considered his citation for illegally breaching the berm at the lagoon a badge of honor in opposing the status quo.
When asked to comment about Lyon, Wagner, a fellow surfer, declined to speak other than to say he is not familiar with any of Lyon’s platforms or issues nor did he know of any other civic work that Lyon might have done.
Lyon is best known nationally for a Subaru commercial, which his two daughters appear in as he plays the father sending his teenage daughter off on her first solo drive.
Various interviews with those who worked on the commercial say Lyon was asked to simply speak to his daughters first portrayed as a little girl, who emerges into the teenager.
His impromptu earnestness, so the story goes, caused the director to throw away the script
Wagner, however, was effusive in his praise for House, saying he did know about her history and was well aware of her popularity in the past elections in which she was top vote getter. He said he thinks she still has that same level of attractiveness to the voters.
Another surfer, who could possibly join Wagner and Lyon on the dais, is Skylar Peak, who said he is inclined to throw his hat in the ring.
That prompted talk by wags of a “Surfers Take Back Malibu,” political campaign for 2012.
However, keen political observers say that the tense relationship between Wagner and Lyon precludes their working together.
Former council candidate Mike Sidley was asked last week, if he might give it another try. He said he had been thinking about it, but has been more inclined to not run.
Another planning commissioner John Mazza declined to talk about if he will try again for a council seat
The last date to file nomination papers for incumbents is Jan. 13, the last date for all others is Jan. 18. The filing period for write-in candidates is Feb. 13 through March 27. Voters may request vote-by -mail ballots from March 12 to April 3. The last day to register to vote is March 26.

Enviro Groups Seek Septic MOU Remand to L.A. Water Board

• Allege Document Violates State Law

BY BILL KOENEKER

Santa Monica Baykeeper and Heal the Bay have filed a petition with the State Water Resources Control Board asking it to review the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Malibu regarding the Malibu Civic Center septic prohibition.
The two environmental groups, both cried howls of protest when the MOU was agreed upon by both the city and the water boards without input from the environmental organizations.
The petitioners are asking the state water board to review the actions of the water board in approving the MOU.
They also want the state board to hold a public hearing to consider “the deficiencies of the Malibu MOU and hold the petition in abeyance” to allow further discussion, negotiation, and public proceedings in relation to the MOU.
“The regional board’s action in approving the Malibu MOU…was inappropriate and improper and resulted in violations of state law and regulatory requirements,” the petition states.
The enviro groups contend the MOU deviates “substantively from the directives of the septic prohibition” and constitutes an improper and illegal attempt to amend the Basin Plan.
The two groups assert the MOU, because of inconsistency with the septic prohibition, violates the regional board’s duty pursuant to the water code.
The petitions go on to state the regional board also failed to conduct the mandatory assessment of significant environmental consequences of the MOU and its resolution.
The groups allege that the regional board failed to provide proper notice and a comment period and as a result the July 14 public hearing violated a section of the water code and the regional board failed to provide the requisite justification for its “substantive and significant changes” to the Basin Plan amendment.
“The Malibu MOU purports to merely provide the frame work for implementation of the prohibitions established in the septic prohibition. In reality, it attempts to significantly change the Basin Plan itself. It extends the ultimate compliance deadline and substantively reviews the phasing for achieving compliance with the septic prohibition. The Malibu MOU also fails to hold the City of Malibu accountable for its non-compliance. The language of the MOU essentially excuses anticipated violations of the Basin Plan requirements by the City of Malibu should the city fail to establish assessment districts to fund the proposed sewer connections. Indeed, the MOU fails to adequately describe how the city will comply should the voters reject the assessment district, a result which is highly likely.”
The petitioners also want the state board to overturn the regional board’s approval of the MOU, remand the matter to the regional board with specific directions to the LA water board about complying with the water code and Basin Plan in any future agreements with the city.

Malibu West Homeowners Starting to Worry as GHAD Bills Begin to Mount

• Concern about Representation of All Interests Is Voiced

BY BILL KOENEKER

As the bills start coming in for preliminary work done for the Broad Beach Geological Hazard Abatement District, Malibu West homeowners, who collectively own one lot on Broad Beach, are becoming increasingly concerned about just how much ultimately the GHAD might cost the residents of the more financially modest neighborhood.
Malibu West is involved in the GHAD project, an attempt to restore Broad Beach by not only a revetment, but a planned series of sand replenishments that may cost millions of dollars.
“The GHAD has already spent more than a million dollars on the project with no source of funding except to impose new taxes on all property owners within the GHAD. In order to raise funds, the Trancas Property Owners Association has already sent the Malibu West HOA bills totaling $80,000 without any itemization as to how these monies have been spent,” wrote Ron and Cindy Vandor, in a letter to neighboring Malibu West property owners.
When the matter was discussed by the Malibu City Council, the issue about Malibu West having some representation on the board was discussed, but with little success. What was considered a little wrinkle at the time developed when the city council approved the formation of the GHAD and the Malibu West Homeowners Association, its president and an attorney came asking that the HOA be included on the GHAD board of directors.
The council was also set to approve the plan of control and appoint five property owners to the initial board of directors of the GHAD. The planning staff recommended the council appoint Broad Beach property owners Steven Levitan, Zan Marquis, Norton Karno, Marshall Grossman and Jeff Lotman as the initial board of directors for terms not to exceed four years.
Steve Rucker, Malibu West HOA president, said residents were extremely excited about creating a beautiful new beach with the other property owners at Broad Beach. The HOA owns a lot and would be one of the property owners in the assessment district.
Rucker said with 237 homeowners as part of the HOA, which owns 105 feet of beach frontage and a building used for commercial use, they wanted representation on the board.
The HOAs attorney Ben Benumof said there were many unanswered questions about the plan of control and it would be worthwhile for a Malibu West homeowner to be on the GHAD board.
The council was told there was no opposition to the formation of the GHAD and it appeared—after a show of hands for support—many Broad Beach residents had come to show their overwhelming support for the GHAD.
When it appeared there was council approval for the formation of the GHAD, the wrangling began on how the Malibu West HOA could be represented on the GHAD board.
“How do we accommodate the Malibu West HOA?” asked Councilmember Jefferson Wagner.
“I agree with Jay,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal. “How did you come up with the five owners?”
Council members were told the Broad Beach property owners had already worked years on the project and represented different geographical regions of the beach.
At first when council members asked the attorneys representing the Trancas Property Owners Association about a Malibu West HOA, they were told “No one will step in the way,”
However, after details were explored about how a Malibu West HOA representative could be installed on the board, the wrangling began in earnest.
City Attorney Christi Hogin said, “I’d be reluctant to monkey with the politics of that. The group has been working a long time. Mr. Grossman says he is stepping down in a year and I would take that to the bank.”
Council members intent on having Malibu West represented kept pressing for a way that could happen. There was a discussion about an advisory member. Talk about if the “up to four years” terms could be changed or if more than five members could be appointed to a GHAD board.
Council members also wanted to know why the Malibu West HOA was making the request so late in the game.
“It is a recent thing,” said Rucker. “The notion of the GHAD is becoming apparent. We are the poor kids on the block. Malibu West is a modest neighborhood by Malibu standards.”
“I can understand Malibu West HOA interests. I want them to be represented,” said then Mayor John Sibert.
Hogin replied, “I did not hear any resistance to an appointment.” A motion was suggested for the council to appoint an advisory board member for Malibu West.
But, then the GHAD attorney said firstly that Grossman would step down in one year. Then he suggested the council could leave the matter up to the GHAD board.
Councilmember Lou La Monte had said why not call for an ex-officio board member decided by the GHAD. Sibert and Wagner went along with the motion, but Rosenthal dissented. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich was absent.
The Vandors said the apparent costs could be enormous for Malibu West and unexpected costs could go even higher.
“If a $19 million bond is approved, it is estimated that the Malibu West HOA will be paying at least $400,000 into the GHAD. According to current estimates, this translates to about $170 per home per year. However, built-in cost-of-living increases and unexpected additional costs make it likely that assessments paid by Malibu West will actually be higher in years to come and total more than $400,000,” the Vandors added.
The couple’s letter calls on the Malibu West community to decide whether to vote for or against the assessment. “Time is short, the Malibu West HOA Board must return our one ballot soon. We believe that the MWHOA Board should not vote to take on this new debt without clear direction from the community. We call on the MWHOA Board to make a presentation to the community about the pros and cons of being part of the GHAD,” the letter states.
According to the city’s staff report, there is no immediate fiscal impact to the city. Once the GHAD has been formed, a funding mechanism has been approved by the board and affected property owners, the costs associated with the operation of the GHAD will be offset by assessments paid by the property owners within the district.
The GHAD petition was submitted by attorney Kenneth Ehrlich on behalf of the Trancas Property Owners Association.
The GHAD will provide a means of financing the beach nourishment and associated maintenance, city council members were told.
“The city department of public works has reviewed the proposed plan of control and has determined that public health, safety and welfare require the formation of a GHAD,” a staff report states.
The proposed action stems from the overall plans for Broad Beach, where experts have determined there has been a significant change in the width of the beach since 1946.
Broad Beach has experienced variable, but declining beach width at a rate of about two feet per year, according to experts.
“Between 1974 and 2009 approximately 600,000 cubic yards of sand was lost at Broad Beach, a majority of which has moved east to nourish Zuma Beach. On average, the shoreline moved inland 65 feet,” a report from Moffatt and Nichol in April 2010 concluded.
“The sand rate turned negative in 1974 and the loss rate accelerated to approximately 35,000 cubic yards per year during the last five years. Recent higher erosion rates during the 2009-2010 winter season necessitated that emergency precautions be taken to protect residential structures and onsite wastewater treatment systems located seaward of the residences,” the report went on to state.
Consequently, the TPOA obtained emergency permits for the installation of a rock revetment about five feet high and 25 feet wide, to protect the existing homes along the beach, city officials noted.
The property owners are now working on getting permits to allow a permanent buried rock revetment along with the periodic sand nourishment. The California Coastal Commission is the permitting agency and will oversee the project.
The Broad Beach GHAD would span the entirety of Broad Beach and a portion of Victoria Point concluding with 6525 Point Lechuza.
GHADs, according to the planning staff, are a political subdivision of the state and are formed in specific geographic areas to address potential geological hazards.
The purpose of a GHAD is to prevent, mitigate, control or abate defined geologic hazards through maintenance improvements or other means.
Financing of a GHAD is accomplished through an assessment of only those property owners who own real estate within the boundaries of the designated district, issuing and serving of bonds, notes or other debentures is also authorized under a GHAD. The assessment will be based on an engineer’s report, which is being prepared by ENGEO, Inc, according to city planners.
The assessments and associated financing of the GHAD improvements would be overseen entirely by the GHAD board.
In an email sent to local media after that meeting Rucker, who described it as “a joint statement to the press,” wrote, “Despite the decision at last night’s city council meeting to deny Malibu West’s request to have a designated Malibu West member on the GHAD board, the Malibu West board and the Trancas Property Owners Association want our neighbors to know that we have a strong working relationship and a mutual trust in our ability to work within the GHAD to benefit the beach.
“Subsequent to last night’s meeting the newly appointed GHAD Board communicated to Malibu West the intention of adding a Malibu West designee as an advisory member to work closely with the GHAD Board. Malibu West appreciates the graciousness of this prompt action by the Broad Beach property owners and their representatives.”

Station Owners File Appeal for Reversal of Permit Denial

• Claim Commissioners Acted Politically

BY BILL KOENEKER

The owners of the Circle K convenience store located at 21216 Pacific Coast Highway are appealing the planning commission’s decision to not allow the store to sell beer and wine.
It was rejected by the Malibu Planning Commission for the second time last month on a 3-1 vote with Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings the sole vote in the affirmative.
Commissioners were apparently swayed by public opinion that there were already too many outlets where alcoholic beverages can be obtained along Pacific Coast Highway.
The appellant, who is represented by Schmitz and Associates, contends in an appeal letter that the basis for denial on the grounds that there are a concentration of too many businesses selling alcohol for off-site consumption is not legal and cannot be implemented by the municipality.
“The city may not deny the [Conditional Use Permit] on the basis of ‘undue concentration’ or ‘saturation’ as it is preempted from making such a finding,” wrote Schmitz and Associates representative Chris Deleau.
The argument was also made that the planning commission has unanimously approved three CUPs in four locations for the off-site sale of alcohol since the General Plan was adopted
In one instance, according to Deleau, the city “expressly found that General Plan Land Use Policy 4.1.5 could not be utilized as a means to properly regulate the number of off sale alcohol establishments, the planning commission subsequently approved the other listed CUP applications for similarly situated properties/applicants without applying LUP Policy 4.1.5.”
The appeal letter contends that very policy was used to deny a permit for Circle K
That violates the state Constitution, according to Deleau, who added it also violates the applicant’s equal protection and due process afforded it.
There is another basis for the appeal, Deleau added.
“The record reflects a clear and direct bias against the applicant and its application based upon the fact that the sales location is a service station. The applicant contends that the denial of its CUP was discriminatory and in violation of this provision of law [and] that the commission’s decisions were politically motivated and not factually supported,” the appeal letter goes on to state.
The commission hearing was for an application for a conditional use permit to allow the off-site sale of alcoholic beverages as an accessory use to the existing uses of the convenience store.
In May 2007, an application was received by the planning department for a CUP for store use, which included a proposal to sell beer and wine as well as the interior remodel of the existing service station.
At that meeting, commissioners heard from homeowners, attorneys and others who protested the opening of another location for the sale of alcoholic beverages given the proximity of so many other outlets in the area.
Last month’s meeting was no different when some of that same group of critics came back to the commission to show opposition.
The staff carried out a reevaluation of the new CUP application and “determined that onsite conditions, which led the planning commission to the aforementioned conclusion, have not changed since 2007.”
Commissioner John Mazza first made the motion to deny the permit.
Jennings said there was no real logic in denying the permit.
During his presentation before the commission, the applicant’s consultant Don Schmitz said they were willing to accept almost any conditions the commission or the public would want to impose for approval of the permit.
The applicant also unsuccessfully argued the sale of beer and wine “will be an incidental sale item to the nearly 5000 goods currently offered for sale at the market.”

Ho-Ho-Ho—Point Dume Santa Parade Marks Its 63rd Year of Merriment

• Residents Line the Streets and Sing

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

For more than 60 years on Christmas Eve, Santa has paused from his very busy schedule to stop on Point Dume and visit with children, young and old, to share in the magic and wonder of the season.
Malibu lifeguards Bob Burnside and Jack Campbell began the tradition in 1948.
The Kotler, Rondell, and Smith families have once again volunteered to keep the tradition alive and help coordinate Santa’s visit.
“It is with great pride that we will continue the tradition of the Point Dume Santa Sleigh Ride this year,” Kirby and Honore Kotler told the Malibu Surfside News. “We look forward to watching Christmas wishes come true with all of you.”
The parade begins on Cliffside Drive at 5 p.m. Official Santa Stops are located at Grasswood Avenue, Dume Drive (two stops), Bluewater Road, Birdview Avenue, Sea Lion Place, Fernhill Drive, Grayfox Street, Wildlife Road (three stops), Zumirez Drive, Heathercliff Road, and Wandermere Road (twice). A detailed map of the stops is located at: http://tinyurl.com/ptdumesantasleigh
Residents and friends are asked to congregate at designated and marked “Santa Stops” along the route. “For everyone’s safety, Santa can only stop at the designated stops. If you cannot make your way to one of the designated stops, please wave and sing a noel as we drive by,” Kirby Kotler writes.
Even mythical beings must follow fire regulations, and that Santa’s “sleigh must make a U-turn before stopping on streets that end in a cul de sac, like Wandermere and Grayfox.
Point Dume drivers are reminded to use extra caution on Christmas Eve, watch for children, and have patience with any traffic generated by the parade.
FI: 310-600-1106

Reexamination of Remains Yields No New Clues about Mitrice Richardson’s Death

• LASD ‘Watchdog’ Panel Bans Public Access to Draft Reports on Malfeasance Allegations

BY ANNE SOBLE

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office has completed its recent forensic reassessment and review of the exhumed remains of Mitrice Richardson. Despite extensive additional autopsy and toxicology studies, the cause of her death remains unknown.
Department of Coroner Deputy Medical Examiner Lisa Scheinin wrote in a supplemental report to the agency’s 2010 report that had also reached the same conclusion, “After reexamination of the remains, no traumatic injury is identified. Therefore, while homicide is not excluded, the cause and manner of death must remain undetermined.”
Assistant Chief Coroner and DOC spokesperson Ed Winter told the Malibu Surfside News this week that the ruling means, “The case is done.”
Winter declined to comment about any of the specifics of the latest report, which notes that a number of the dead woman’s bones were never recovered, including the hyoid bone in the neck that supports the tongue—important for the detection of strangulation or asphyxiation, the xiphoid process (lower sternum), coccyx, one rib, and a number of finger bones.
Richardson was a 24-year-old African-American honors college graduate taken into custody at Geoffrey’s restaurant on Sept. 16, 2009, for allegedly being unable to pay an $89 dinner check and possessing a minimal amount of marijuana.
Patrons and restaurant staff described Richardson as disoriented and speaking gibberish. She said she was from Mars, and would become mesmerized by bright lights and moving objects on the restaurant’s computer screens.
After the restaurant manager performed a citizen’s arrest, the three responding deputies handcuffed Richardson and drove her to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. The woman’s car—with her purse and cell phone locked inside—was towed to the Malibu impound lot in the Civic Center area.
The Los Angeles resident was booked at Lost Hills and released from the station’s side entrance just after midnight the next morning.
She was ostensibly alone and without a means of transportation, money, credit cards, cell phone, or adequate attire for the cold temperature in an unfamiliar and isolated area.
A subsequent professional assessment indicated that Richardson might have been experiencing a bipolar episode and could have been unable to provide for her personal safety.
The aspiring psychologist disappeared without a trace. Other than a possible sighting in Monte Nido on the morning of Sept. 17, there was no sign of Richardson for 11 months until park rangers checking on an abandoned marijuana grove not far from that lone sighting location discovered what were determined to be her unclothed skeletal remains.
Last November, the coroner’s office officially ruled that a cause of death could not be determined and publicly criticized the sheriff’s department for impeding its investigation by mishandling the remains at the find site.
The county coroner’s office lambasted LASD personnel for moving Richardson’s remains before specially trained coroner’s department investigators could examine them in place. This could constitute a violation of state law, and the coroner’s report states that it compromised the DOC investigation.
When additional bones were subsequently found on two separate occasions in the same vicinity, the Richardson family outcry about carelessness and possible LASD ulterior motivation became louder.
The Office of Independent Review, the county panel that reviews allegations of law enforcement misconduct, had indicated that it would monitor the dispute between the two agencies.
Michael Gennaco, the chief attorney and head of the OIR, told The News last month that the report on the alleged mishandling of Richardson’s remains by the sheriff’s department is in draft form and has been sent to the agencies for review.
When asked about the report, Winter said that he could not comment on the coroner department’s reaction to the report.
Gennaco will not discuss the second draft report. It is not clear whether he ever will, as he also declines to comment on the first report exonerating the LASD in Richardson’s booking and release from Lost Hills. Gennaco maintains that the first report is also a draft. He refuses to regard it as a public document even though the LASD leaked it to the media.
Observers say that from a public relations perspective, it was to the sheriff’s department’s advantage to release the original report clearing the agency at about the same time that Richardson’s remains were discovered. The timing helped divert attention from LASD insistence that Richardson was alive and did not want to be found.
LASD spokesperson Steve Whitmore told The News on Tuesday that he will check into the status of the second report. The News will continue its ongoing efforts to request that OIR and the sheriff’s department make copies available to the media.
It is not clear whether the fact that Los Angeles County has finalized the legal claims against it by Richardson’s parents, essentially precluding additional claims, may be a factor in a decision on release.
The impact of the Richardson case on LASD operations is evident in the formalization of a department policy during the summer, requiring that an “arresting deputy shall, when practicable, book with the arrestee certain personnel items or items of personal identification in possession of the arrestee at the time of arrest (e.g. driver license, passport, credit cards, cellular telephone, etc.) when the items would provide proof of identification and/or facilitate the identification, booking or release procedure.”
Whitmore repeatedly reiterates that Sheriff Lee Baca will continue to do whatever is possible to try “to get answers surrounding the tragic death” of Mitrice Richardson.
Members of the Richardson investigation support group say they were told in person by Baca that he plans to hold a press conference and issue a plea that anyone with information related to the case, no matter how seemingly insignificant, share it with authorities. The date for this event has not yet been scheduled.

Athlete Paints Picture of Extraordinary Life with Book of Poetry

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Longtime Malibu resident Tommy Hawkins, a native of Chicago, was a two-time basketball All-American and captain of the Notre Dame team, and one of the first black athletes in the NBA.
Hawkins has played for the Lakers, served as player representative and as a member of the NBA players’ labor negotiation team, spent 18 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers as vice president of communications and external affairs, was a local and national television and radio broadcaster, and network sports analyst. He has also taught university courses at California State University Long Beach, where he serves on the advisory board of the school of sports management.
Hawkins volunteers his time and energy as a member of the board of directors of the Center Theater Group, the Los Angeles Sports Council, the Children’s Burn Foundation and the Friends of Jazz at UCLA. He is now the author of a book of poetry.
“I take nothing for granted,” Hawkins told the Malibu Surfside News during an interview this week. “Hustle like a rookie, that’s my motto.”
“Life’s Reflections: Poetry for the People” is a coffee table book that pairs Hawkins’ poetry with photographs and paintings by artists, includes works by LeRoy Nieman, a longtime friend of Hawkins, and the late Ernie Barnes.
“What we have here is a product I guarantee will challenge, enlighten and inspire,” Hawkins told The News. “This is poetry for people who on a scale of 1-10 would rate poetry a minus 1, people who think poetry is a waste of time. What I have put together is narratives that rhyme and are supported by paintings. It’s user-friendly.”
This is an intensely personal book. The 45 narratives explore Hawkins’ passion for sports and jazz, his love of words and rhythm, his experiences as an African American, his thoughts on love and the events of 9/11. Words create portraits of the author’s mother, artist LeRoy Nieman, and the pain Hawkins felt at the death of his father.
“My life is poetry, syncopated rhythm,” Hawkins says. “Questions come to me as music.”
“When I was at Notre Dame working on a degree in sociology, I was required to take a year of English literature. I was thinking, Oh no, “Beowulf” and “Canterbury Tales,” get it over with. When the teacher walked in, he was a priest, tall, deep resonant voice. ‘Good morning men, it is my pleasure to be teaching you. My specialty is poetry. I will make it live in your souls.’”
“He wasn’t sending out words,” Hawkins says, “It was lightning bolts. He taught us how to read poetry, recite it, research it, understand it. He planted the seeds in 1956.”
The introduction to the book includes a tribute to Father Chester Soleta, who “engendered a lifelong love of poetic expression.”
Hawkins recites the last line of his never-to-be-forgotten mentor’s favorite poem, T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”
“That’s powerful stuff,” Hawkins says. “I have said to myself through the years how can I impart that power?”
“When I wake up at 1:30 a.m. and this is on my mind, tugging on me, when that happens, sleep is not an option.”
Hawkins recalls “When I was a rookie with the Lakers, sitting on a plane, hiding, writing poetry. Today, I can laugh at myself and laugh at you.”
Hawkins shares some recollections of the early days of the L.A. Lakers. “We were the pioneers,” he says. “We didn’t even have a full-time trainer. The Dodgers moved to L.A. in 1957, flew in on a private plane. There was a ticker-tape parade, a welcome at City Hall.
“The Lakers drove in through San Bernardino on a bus. No one knew we had arrived. We were such a non-entity we didn’t even have a radio broadcast.”
Hawkins recalls that the team would be loaded into trucks, given a script and driven around town broadcasting things like: “Hello, I’m Tommy Hawkins, of your new L.A. Lakers.”
“I have seen these things grow and develop, the exciting part is to see it grow,” Hawkins says, adding that he is writing an autobiography and a history of the NBA.
Hawkins also shared some thoughts about Malibu with The News.
“I moved here 30 years ago,” Hawkins says. “I used to drive through Malibu, I loved it.” Hawkins moved from the coast to one of Malibu’s canyons 25 years ago.
“It’s a paradise for birds,” he says. “I hear the coyotes every night. I stepped out the door the other day and this big buck went right past me. You don’t realize how powerful they are until you see them up close.”
His current plans include sharing “Life’s Reflections” with the world. “This book comes with a guarantee. You will find images of self, me, family, friends. This is the first book of its kind written by a professional athlete. This is me. What you see is what you get. This has been decades in the making.”
Hawkins’ poem “Yesterday’s Gardenias” appears to sum up his philosophy:
“‘Where have all the flowers gone”’ I’ve heard so many sing,/ voicing the need of adornment that pretty blossoms bring./ Gently caress a bouquet of beauty, partake of petals galore/ and when they die and lose their form, go out and get some more.”
The author says he is planning to have a Malibu book reading and signing event in the near future. “Life’s Reflections: Poetry for the People” is available at Hawkins website: http://tommyhawkins.net

Malibu Artists Publish Two New Field Guides

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Dawn Navarro Ericson and Dominique Navarro, a mother and daughter team of Malibu illustrators, have published two new field guides that invite the reader to take a closer look at two local ecosystems: Southern California coastal wetlands and the Channel Islands.
Like the previous four “Weekend Naturalist” foldout field guides in the series, the new guides are lightweight, waterproof and user friendly.
Malibu residents will find “Ocean Animals of the Channel Islands” and “Southern California Coastal Wetlands” relevant and helpful. Both guides feature numerous species that are residents or frequent visitors offshore and in the Malibu and Zuma lagoons.
The Channel Islands book includes illustrations comparing the size and markings of five species of whale and eight species of dolphin.
The wetlands book features illustrations of a wide range of bird, fish and mammal species in the habitats where they are most likely to be observed.
One illustration shows how birds like the long-billed curlew and the marbled godwit use their specialized beaks to extract tasty invertebrates and gastropods from sand or mud.
“I’ve always wanted to illustrate that,” Ericson told the Malibu Surfside News. “It’s been in my mind for years.”
“The field guides have been so much more successful than anticipated,” Ericson said. “We wanted them to be more like a tour guide, to give you a scope of the environment. not just provide a list of names.”
Ericson and her daughter provide full-color and black-and-white illustrations. They are accompanied by photographs and text that has been written by scientists in the field.
Latin and common names are provided for each organism. The guides are equally appealing to children and adults.
“Kids don’t need something different,” Ericson says. “They don’t need it to be dumbed down.”
Maps offer a guide to locations that are farther afield, although many of the species in both guides, ranging from Western grebes to gray whales, can be found in and around Malibu.
Two new guides—one featuring the Channel Island fox—are already being developed and will be appearing in 2012.
All six guides in the “Weekend Naturalist” series are available at Diesel Bookstore in Malibu, at 23410 Civic Center Way, 310-456-9961.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Controversial View Restoration Proposal Inches Forward

• Extent of Retroactivity Time Frame Remains a Thorny Component for Some Council Members

BY BILL KOENEKER

In what has become a highly divisive issue among the public and even council members moved closer to adoption by the Malibu City Council at its meeting this week after a series of motions narrowed down the shape of the proposed ordinance.
The two big questions before the council Monday night were: “Should the city be involved in making a determination in view disputes and enforcing that determination? [And] Should the view ordinance retroactively restore views or be effective day forward?
Previously, the council could not agree on whether to make the ordinance protect a view that existed on the date of ordinance adoption, date of incorporation or the date of a property acquisition, but no earlier than March 28, 1991.
After hours of deliberations, the council this week voted 3-2 with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and Councilmember Lou La Monte dissenting, to allow retroactivity to the date of incorporation or point of purchase.
The staff had provided two draft versions. “The majority of the two ordinances are identical with the exception of the Malibu Municipal Code (Restoration Procedure). Draft Ordinance No. 1 offers a non-binding city advisory opinion as a step in the restoration procedure and Draft Ordinance Number 2 offers a city determinant, made by the planning commission as a step in the restorative procedure,” the staff report states.
The council deliberated for hours on which way to go, but ultimately, the majority chose Draft Ordinance Number 2. The majority insisted the city should get involved, meaning after arbitration and mediation if the parties had not resolved the matter, it would go to the planning commission for a full hearing and could be appealed to the city council.
During public comments before council deliberations, much had been made about the city’s liability if the final determination in the process was made by the municipality.
City Attorney Christi Hogin explained. “If the final determination is by the city, it is subject to judicial review. If someone is unhappy they could sue. The liability would be attorney’s fees if they were successful. In terms of other liability, it would have to be something unusual,” she said.
Councilmember John Sibert said he wanted a trial run, having folks come in and show what kind of information or evidence they have to determine how many cases there might be and what kind of data people could provide before the council enacted any law.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he was willing to support Sibert’s proposal, that he would not support a retroactive ordinance and that the view restoration proposal created a brand new right at the expense of the foliage owner.
“You cannot legislate neighborliness. It is not our responsibility. There is no guarantee that the city will get anything. The legal fees could bankrupt the city,” he said.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner said he saw it as “a lot of squabbling between neighbors that has moved to the city council level.” He insisted the city should get involved and the retroactive date should be the point of sale or date of incorporation.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said that 60 percent of the voters had asked for some type of restoration and insisted the retroactive date should be 2008 when the advisory measure was voted upon by the public.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she supported the notion that folks had paid for their view when they bought their homes and the loss of those views because of foliage growth meant a loss of equity. “People have a right to a view. They paid for a view when they bought their houses. In three or four years there is nothing,” she said.
Planners also wanted the council to provide general comments on the draft ordinances such as the maximum allowable foliage height, indemnification language and whether a city determination should run with the land.
The most substantial change, according to planners, is the addition of an allowable foliage height permitted by right, according to the staff report.
The citywide view restoration ordinance is described by municipal planners as a proposal “establishing a private right of action for property owners to restore pre-existing views that have been significantly obstructed by landscaping on neighboring properties.”
The majority of the planning commission in June was able to tether together a proposed citywide view restoration ordinance using various parts from other cities, staff and commission recommendations.
A majority of the planning panel turned down a proposed ordinance that would have been more closely modeled after a Rancho Palos Verdes version.
The impetus for the proposed ordinance came from the voters on April 8, 2008 when an advisory measure asked the citizens, “Should the Malibu City Council adopt an ordinance that would require the removal or trimming of landscaping in order to restore and maintain primary views from private homes?” The measure was approved by 60 percent of the voters.
The then city council decided on June, 2008 to create the View Protection Task Force to gather public input on what should be included in the citywide ordinance.
During the subsequent public hearings and workshops there have been some speakers who urged the commission and the city council to adopt the proposed ordinance, which was crafted by the municipal task force charged by the city council to vet the issue.
Speakers, who were on the task force, suggested that the panel’s recommended ordinance would better serve the city.
Some former task force members said they will make one last effort to convince the council the panel’s proposed ordinance is the best fit for Malibu.

Council to Consider ‘E Pluribus Unum’ on Office Wall

• Rejects Lobby for ‘In God We Trust’ that Predicates Patriotism on Religiosity

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu City Council members were split on allowing the display of the motto, “In God We Trust” at Malibu City Hall with Councilmembers Lou LaMonte and Pamela Conley Ulich favoring it and Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmembers John Sibert and Jefferson Wagner opposed.
Instead, the council decided they would discuss placing the motto E Pluribus Unum, Latin meaning all for one, in City Hall.
Conley Ulich and La Monte had wanted their colleagues to consider the matter of placing what is called our country’s national motto in City Hall.
Proponents, who are not from Malibu, but represented a group that lobbies around the country, equated a level of patriotism with those who endorsed placing the motto in civic places.
However, Councilmember John Sibert was most adamant about how he believed in the separation of church and state. “I recognize the motto has been adopted twice by Congress. They are equating putting up this motto with patriotism. If I don’t believe in putting this motto up, then I am not a patriot? That is wrong. The people pushing this are equating patriotism and Christianity,” he said.
“I have the same difficulties with this,” said Wagner, who went on to talk about how many religious activities the city endorses, including a crèche on city land. “I stand with John. This is a no go,” he added.
La Monte said he does not equate patriotism with displaying the motto. “These four words are something to be forbidden?” he asked. He said Conley Ulich had brought the matter up and he wanted to hear from his colleagues. “I got phone calls about 50-50 on this,” he said.
Some local opponents, who urged the council to not endorse the public display of the motto, were also critical of Conley Ulich.
“You obviously don’t know me,” responded Conley Ulich. “I do what I think is right. I feel strongly about displaying the motto. I understand what John and Jay are saying about equating it with patriotism. But the motto is for everyone, not for just one group. I can display it on my own property. I don’t care about my approval ratings.”
“I’m really against bringing this up,” said Mayor Laura Rosenthal. “I agree with John and Jay, patriotism does not have anything to do with it. I feel strongly about the separation of church and state.”
The mayor suggested E pluribus unum. “That is a great motto,” she added. Other council members concurred.
However, a shout from the public about acting on an item that was not on the agenda caused City Attorney Christi Hogin to advise the matter should be brought back at the next council hearing.
Malibu resident Lucy Atwood said she was offended that “outside” groups would come to Malibu to urge the action. She said it would be different if it were Malibu residents.
“‘In God We Trust’ for 180 years was not our motto,” she added. “This country is about everybody, not just those who believe in God.”
John Carr said his group, In God We Trust. Inc. is trying to encourage patriotism. “It does not offend anyone. This is legally approved. Patriotism is a love of God and a love of country.”
According to the city manager, on July 30, 1957, the U.S. code section 302 established the saying found on U.S. dollar bills and coins as the country’s national motto.
On Nov. 13, 2002, the 107th Congress “reaffirmed the exact language that has appeared in the Motto for decades,” according to Thorsen’s research.
In God We Trust—America, Inc. was put together to promote the display of the national motto in city halls and county headquarters across the country.
According to the campaign’s website, 364 cities or counties across the country, including 89 in California, have approved the displays.
However, the motto is not without controversy. For a long time, critics have contended the words are indeed a matter of “law respecting an establishment of religion,” by the government and violates the establishment clause of the first amendment and the separation of church and state.
Critics went to court in 1970, but the appellate court ruled otherwise, saying “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency. ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
The U. S. Supreme Court, in settling the matter, also held that the nation’s “institutions presuppose a Supreme Being and that government recognition of God does not constitute the establishment of such a state church as the Constitution’s authors intended to prohibit.”