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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

City Council Approves Improvements for Remodeled Library

• Additions Include Librarian for a Young Adult Section and Extended Hours on Sundays

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council unanimously agreed this week to purchase equipment for the remodeled Malibu Library, which is slated to open in April, and agreed upon extended hours, a teen librarian and a newly offered speakers series.
For outgoing Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, this may be the crowning glory of her eight years in office. She was the city official who spearheaded the efforts that led to uncovering unspent funds and a bigger budget for the library that paid for the current remodeling project and paid for improvements.
Ulich, along with former Councilmember Sharon Barovsky, obtained a greater share of funding for Malibu.
The effort, for a short time, even included a municipal threat to leave the county library system until a memo of understanding was drafted that acknowledged the county would use all of the property taxes earmarked for Malibu Library to go to it. For years, that had not been the case.
Council members praised Conley Ulich for her actions. “I want to thank Pam. She started this before we got to the council,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte.
“I echo what Lou said. We have been able to have the library and direct what happens there,” said Councilmember John Sibert.
The first item on the agenda, agreed upon without public or council comment, was to authorize the city manager to execute a purchase order for equipment for the library improvement project totaling $250,000.
According to a staff report, nearly 90 percent of the construction is finished and completion is expected at the end of the month.
After the building is finished, workers will begin the installation of furniture, fixtures and equipment, which will take approximately three months, according to a staff memo to the council. The library is scheduled to reopen on April 22, 2012.
“All of the equipment that is being purchased as part of the improvement project is either being purchased through the county of Los Angeles contracts that provide for prenegotiated reduced prices,” wrote Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, in a staff report.
Feldman indicated the equipment purchases include items such as computers, monitors, printers, media equipment, book carts, trash cans, small appliances and other necessary office equipment for the Malibu Library.
Conley Ulich, during a power point presentation, explained how all of the expenses for the library and equipment is reimbursable.
The county sets aside the difference between the city's property tax revenue and the library's expenses into a designated fund. At of the end of the last fiscal year, the set-aside fund totaled about $7.3 million, according to the outgoing council member.
“It is expected that approximately $1 million will be added to the fund annually. Sufficient funding is available in the set-aside fund for the full project cost [of $6,289,647],” she added.
Conley Ulich explained the additional monies give the city the ability to increase hours and other services.
In stating why she thought the Malibu Library needed additional hours of operation, Conley Ulich explained that the new library at Topanga is open 48 hours, Rolling Heights is open 69 hours per week while Malibu is open just 37 hours.
She told her colleagues, the hope was to add 13 hours and give Malibu a total of 50 hours per week.
Council members agreed to increase the hours on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and other hours on a weekday.
The council unanimously approved the increased service hours that can be implemented with the reopening of the library in April.
The increase in hours will cost about $82,000 a year, which can be funded from the set-aside funds, according to Conley Ulich.
Conley Ulich also talked about enhancing the existing collection with materials specific to Malibu. She suggested it could be something such as an ocean and surf collection.
Some Malibu residents have expressed the hope that the library could focus on showcasing the works—and lives—of some of the numerous literary figures who have made Malibu their home, including Frederick Hastings Rindge, Malibu’s first resident author; librarian Lawrence Clark Powell; novelist John Fante; “Tarzan” and “John Carter of Mars” creator Edgar Rice Burroughs; best seller Michael Creighton; screen writer Philip Dunne; mystery novelist Ross Thomas; and children’s book author and actress Julie Andrews, to name a few. The estimated cost of the collection enhancement is approximately $25,000, which can also be funded from the set-aside funds.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she and Conley Ulich disagreed on the need for a teen librarian. “Do we need a teen librarian or should we see what they want?” Rosenthal asked.
Conley Ulich said it should be done now. “Where’s the fire?” asked the mayor.
Conley Ulich said 39 other county libraries employ one. She said the cost would be $130,000 annually.
Establishing a speaker series program to provide a minimum of six guest speakers a year could be done by having the Harry Barovsky Memorial Youth Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission provide input in identifying speakers for the program at a cost of $75,000 per year using the set-aside monies, the staff report added.
The council did not discuss it, but they approved establishing a deferred maintenance reserve of $100,000 a year. The deferred maintenance reserve can be paid for from the set-aside funds during the term of the agreement with the county.
The added services were discussed with the county and among members of the ad hoc library committee, according to the staff report.
The Malibu Library was built in 1968. The current remodeling project is the first upgrade to be performed at the facility.

Point Condo Plan Is Axed by Commissioners

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission, at its meeting last week on a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Jeff Jennings and Carol Randall dissenting, denied approving an application for the construction of a new, two-story, 4,459-square-foot, three-unit condominium building, uncovered balconies and patios, and a 1,768- square-foot subterranean garage with six parking spaces on 29255 Heathercliff Road on Point Dume.
The planning panel also recommended the city council deny a Local Coastal Program Amendment to change the parcel's zoning and land use designation from Rural Residential to Multi-Family.
Commissioners could not agree about the map discrepancy between the Malibu Municipal Code Zoning and General Plan Land Use Policy Maps and the Local Coastal Program Zoning and Land Use Maps.
Commissioner John Mazza said he could not support the matter before the panelists.
“This is a rezoning. We do not have adequate information to support that. It is surrounded on three sides by residences. There is a question about density on Heathercliff Road. We should consider the zoning as a separate issue,” he said.
Commissioner Joan House, who is running for a city council seat, agreed. “Like John, for me it is the intensification of use. I think you have a very nice project. If it were single-family, it would fit right in. I have a problem with the zoning. You've done a good job, but I won't be supporting it,” she said.
Commissioner Jeff Jennings disagreed. “I’m kind of surprised by these comments. Joan and I both served on the General Plan Task Force. There is no question about any of these things. There were lots of errors. It is a zoning change, now you are downzoning the property. I’m confused, the property is zoned a particular way. There is an issue of interpretation, but it was resolved by the city council. It does not need to be revetted,” he said.
Jennings said he understood what was going on. “I understand you don’t want anything there. It will block your view. But that is not protected. It would block your view if it was a single-family home. I am prepared to support the project,” he added.
“I agree with Jeff,” said Randall. “What bothers me is neighbors arguing with one another. You’ve seen the lot empty for a long time, but somebody has a right to build on it. Somebody made a mistake, obviously the Coastal Commission. We are not talking about 12 units.”
Plans also call for a driveway with fire department turnaround, grading, a retaining wall, including a site plan review for construction up to 27 feet for a pitched roof, and a conditional use permit for a multi-family condominium subdivision.
The commission had heard the matter previously, but wanted more information if the condos posed a threat of view impairment to the surrounding neighborhood homes.
However, at this meeting, the commissioners stayed focused on the zoning issue.
“I think zoning is a separate issue,” said Chair Roohi Stack. “The zoning issue is important. It is about intensity. A single-family home is not comparable to a three-unit condo. Intensity is also an issue,” she said.
Talking to the majority, Jennings said, “I understand it. You want to downzone the property.”
House disagreed. “I know we both served on the General Plan Task Force. I think there is a discrepancy. There are single-family lots on both sides,” she said.
“Are we going to direct a downzoning? If you change it by definition it is a downzoning,” insisted Jennings.
Mazza disagreed insisting the Local Coastal Program takes precedence over all plans and zoning. “What we would be doing is upzoning it. It is legally a single-family lot,” he said.
Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski explained only the council would be making the zone change, the commission could only make a recommendation to the city council.
The commissioners were told the staff would bring back the findings for a denial and come back to the planning panel for another vote.
Also on tap, the changes sought by the builders at the Trancas Country Market were unanimously approved by the commission at its meeting.
The planning panelists were being asked to approve an application to amend the coastal permit for the shopping center granted last year, currently under construction, for proposed changes to landscaping, roofing materials and the nursery area, including a minor modification to reduce the required rear yard setback.
The staff recommended approval of the coastal permit amendment and minor modification to amend the coastal permit.
Architect Doug Burdge said most of the changes were to accommodate the nursery, which had signed a long-term lease.
Most of the commission discussion centered on whether the plans before them constituted the final permit versions.
Mazza said some items that are included in the final permit approved by the city council were not on the amendment plan maps and that concerned him.
The panelists with the help from staff crafted language that required the city council's approved permit supercede all language for final plans.

Chamber Executive Departs

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Chamber of Commerce recently issued a press release informing the community about the departure of its administrative executive.
The tersely worded memo reads, “Mark Persson, director of membership services, has accepted the role of interim chamber executive replacing Rebekah Evans, whose last day was Friday, Feb. 17. The role of interim president is a temporary position created to lead chamber operations while the board conducts a thorough executive search.”
The release makes no further mention of Evans, who served as CEO of the local organization for the last six years.
Persson indicated the board approved the press release that was sent out, but acknowledged there has been quite a bit of discussion about the memo since it was released.
In announcing the departure of Evans, who formerly worked at the Moorpark chamber, the press release makes no mention of whether the former MCC head resigned or was replaced by the board.
Persson said the board did in fact accept her resignation.
Evans was contacted for comment, but declined to speak at this time.
Her departure comes on the heels of Don Schmitz taking over as chair of the chamber board of directors.
Schmitz heads up a land use consulting firm that has taken on some of the most controversial development issues in Malibu, including obtaining the entitlements for the La Paz shopping center and, so far, unsuccessfully attempting to secure permits for the U2 guitarist the Edge that resulted in international headlines.
Both Schmitz and Evans traveled together to China on a fact-finding mission for city sisterhood status that was ostensibly ratified prior to going before the city council on the matter.
Persson declined to comment further, saying he could not speak for others. The interim replacement, who has been with the chamber since August 2011, said he hasn’t decided if he will seek the top post.
He noted that the board is ex-pected to conduct its own executive search and did not think a search firm would be hired.
Persson is touted in the press release as an individual who “brings tremendous leadership skills and an extensive track record of success in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds to his new role. Mark’s outstanding commitment and dedicated service to the chamber, which has included enhancing chamber membership development, retention, member benefit programs, as well as identifying and implementing new programs, has resulted in a tangible benefit to the chamber. As such we are excited to have him lead chamber operations in the interim. We look forward to tapping into his many years of business experience.”

City Still Has Not Made Lagoon Study Decision

• Critics Call for Another Approach as Time Runs Out for the $25,000 Project Review

BY BILL KOENEKER

There is still no agreement about who should review the Malibu Lagoon documentation pertaining to the restoration project, according to Wetlands Defense Fund head Marcia Hanscom, who told the Malibu City Council Monday night maybe another approach should be attempted.
Her associate, Roy van de Hoeck, the science director of the Wetlands Defense Fund, acknowledged that scientists do have biases and that maybe another approach could be each side choose two experts so that both sides would have their own reviewers of the documentation. “The city council could give guidance to the city manager,” said Van de Hoeck. City Manager Jim Thorsen was not at the council meeting.
“We could reach an understanding that all of the three or four scientists would be dividing up the $25,000,” he added.
Two weeks ago Hanscom and Van de Hoeck, who are critics of the Malibu Lagoon restoration project accused the Department of Parks and Recreation for dragging its heels and not providing the documents needed nor making a recommendation for a consultant to review the paperwork for a $25,000 study to evaluate the restoration proposal for a city council decision on whether to support or oppose it.
Hanscom, who is spearheading opposition to the restoration plans, said it was not true that her group had not submitted information and blamed State Parks..
However, Suzanne Goode, senior environmental scientist for State Parks, said that was not the case.
“Our documents were either submitted at the same time or before Marcia's. I've given everything [to the city] last week,” she said.
Goode also countered Hanscom’s claims about the recommendations.
Councilmember John Sibert, who is running for reelection, urged his colleagues on the city council several weeks ago to allocate $25,000 for an independent study of the reports and documents related to the Malibu Lagoon restoration in order for the council to take a position. It was given a 30-day timeline.
Hanscom this week said at the least the city could call for an Environmental Impact Report supplemental or rescind the letters sent to the California Coastal Commission in support.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who has been most strident in her opposition, seemed unimpressed by the newly offered solution.
“Then we will have the battle of the project experts,” she said. “Let’s use common sense. This is not a restoration. It is not natural. Let Mother Nature go. Using clean drinking water funds to create this is wrong.
[It’s] something that is not. It is wrong for Malibu. Stand up and be counted. It is time to take a hard look at this. Time to stand up and make a decision,” she said.
Conley Ulich said the city was willing to file an amicus brief during the fight against the LNG port. “The mayor could meet with the governor,” she added.
Conley Ulich picked up on a theme Hanscom had talked about how the city oversaw phase one and then did not oversee phase two.
“What happened?” asked Conley Ulich, directing the question to City Attorney Christi Hogin.
“I was not involved in that decision,” Hogin answered.
Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said she believed phase one was wholly within the city’s jurisdiction, but would have to research and report back to the council about phase two.
“This goes back to local control,” said Conley Ulich. “This is insanity. I have legal questions about the process, I will be asking Christi Hogin. I will make a report on March 12.”
Sibert has repeatedly said the study needs to be done in a timely matter. “We need to sort out the assertions from the evidence and find out which is what in the lagoon.”
Sibert had previously said he was not looking for another study, but rather have an independent consultant to look at the facts.
Sibert initially indicated there are so many claims and counter claims he wanted to see that corrected.
Responding to charges that he wanted to delay the matter until after the election, Sibert said, “I want to see this done before the election. We need to agree on who is going to be doing this. We are not on opposites,” he said.
“This study may or may not be done by the election,” said Conley Ulich, who previously challenged Sibert saying he could have called for the study nine months ago. “I want to know why Councilmember Sibert had not called for it then. They could have been studying this. What happened in the last nine months? Is it now nine months later because of the campaign?” Conley Ulich asked.
“I resent that statement,” shot back Sibert. “It is not [because of the city council] campaign. I did not say that about that.”
When it came time to pony up the $25,000, Conley Ulich said she was going to support the allocation, but did not want the researcher to be from NOAA, and the study must be done in 45 days.
Councilmember Lou La Monte, at the time, said he was going to consider the matter based on the scientific evidence.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner defended Sibert, saying his colleague took a fair stand.
“I think we should follow through. The USGS could do this. But we do need it in thirty days,” he said.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she too wanted the information. “I’m hearing things tonight I know are absolutely not true. I want to support this.”

Council Revisits View Ordinance to Make Additional Changes

• Observers Say the Latest Chapter Is Case Study in How Members Switch Their Positions

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council this week revisited the second reading of the so-called view restoration ordinance after Mayor Laura Rosenthal asked to have it pulled from the consent calendar.
“The reason I wanted to pull this. I want to admit a mistake,” she said.
Rosenthal explained she thought the current law about primary views included views from bedrooms. That is not the case. The municipal zoning code excludes bedrooms.
The mayor said she wanted the language changed in the view restoration ordinance to reflect the current law.
“We can do that,” said City Attorney Christi Hogin by changing “including” to “excluding” in the view ordinance.
Hogin also explained the change would require the new law have its first reading. She explained no time would be lost. The law would be enacted within 30 days instead of 60 proposed.
When the roll was taken, only Councilmember Jefferson Wagner voted against the law.
“I agree with the changes, but I still think the law should go back,” Wagner said.
Councilmember John Sibert said, “People have a right to a view. They can now establish that view they have now, It is important to have evidence.”
Two weeks ago, the council was unable to make a decision about enacting a restoration ordinance and instead voted for a view preservation law.
Having it both ways during election season, the council agreed to revisit the restoration element of the ordinance in six months.
After hours of council deliberations and debate, Councilmember John Sibert, who is running for reelection, urged his colleagues to put aside the restoration aspect of the ordinance.
They decided to replace the language of pre-existing view, defining primary view that existed on or after Feb. 13, 2012 and direct staff to come back in six months and allow claimants to some kind of view assessment. That became the motion that passed 3-2 with the mayor and Councilmember Jefferson Wagner dissenting.
The permit fees will be calculated separately and presented in a fee schedule later for the city council consideration, according to planners. To start claimants will be charged $300.
At a previous meeting, the council could not initially 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 at the meeting voted 3-2 with Conley Ulich and Councilmember Lou La Monte dissenting, to allow retroactivity to the date of incorporation or point of purchase.
Sibert was the swing vote and had asked if the council was going to have another vote on the proposed ordinance and was told yes.
La Monte insisted he would not support a retroactive ordinance and said the view restoration proposal created a brand new right at the expense of the foliage owner.
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.
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.”
However, the proposed ordinance has also received extensive criticism from a large number of residents who are opposed to the plan.

Grays Ahoy—Malibuites Look Seaward to Marvel at the Journey of These Wondrous

Behemoths from and to Their Native Habitat

BY KAYLA BROWN

The American Cetacean Society will once again plunge into its traditional Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project.
When whale watching season reaches its peak, the American Cetacean Society partners with its Los Angeles Chapter for the annual count. It is a “unique long-term shore-based study of the marine mammals that utilizes the shore waters of the Palos Verdes Peninsula” according to the ACS website. This whale-watching peninsula is located approximately eight miles north of Los Angeles Harbor in Southern California.
This optimal location, running from Dec. 1 through May 15, the declared whale watching season, provides great views of marine life from its cliffside post 125 feet above sea level. The coastal waters within this area abruptly drop off close to shore, which allows clear sightings for watchers analyzing the open waters.
Teams of trained volunteers from the ACS, Cabrillo Whalewatch Program, and the general public have aided in this gray whale spotting census since 1979. These participants are provided with “official project binoculars” with “built-in reticles and compasses.” These unique scopes aid the spotters in observing and recording the “weather data, including visibility and sea conditions” as well as “various marine mammals and their behaviors, focusing on gray whales.”
Volunteers also detail “migratory behaviors observed, including breaching, spyhopping, rolling, courtship, apparent nursing, possible feeding, and interaction with kelp and with other marine mammals.” Considering the gray whales were near extinction due to overhunting, participants also attempt to identify the “possible human impacts on gray whales, including boat interactions, possible harassment incidents, and entanglements.”
A large majority of gray whales utilize offshore migratory routes throughout the Channel Islands area, which is why only a small portion of total gray whale population is accounted for. Thus the ACS census focuses on “ascertaining seasonal usage of the near shore migratory path, and documents changing trends over time.”
The incorporation of weather variables and shifts in migratory paths may also influence the fluctuating results in annual counts, which does not necessarily mean the gray whale population is fluctuating as well.
On Feb. 13, observers spotted approximately eight gray whales traveling southbound and nine traveling northbound. “Many larger-sized gray whale pods came by” as well as “two trios, two pairs” and one trio they could fully see underwater.
As of Feb. 19, observers documented zero sightings of gray whales traveling through the San Pedro area. The whale watchers noted, “Although we had no gray whales (very rare for us this time of year), we did see two fin whales that were only about a mile and a half offshore.”
Since the beginning of whale watching season, commencing on Dec. 1, whale watchers have witnessed an awesome 691 gray whales. Of these, 640 whales were headed southbound, while 51 grays were headed north. Spotters noted 21 calves were part of these packs, which aids the ACS in tracking trends in calf recruitment and gray whale reproduction rates.
In comparison to the 2010-2011 season, the amount of spotted gray whales has increased by 291 behemoths traveling along the coast this season.
As gray whales make their 10,000-14,000 mile migration, from the Arctic waters of the Bering Sea to the warm bays of Baja California for mating and birth seasons, Malibu locals can be sure to witness these massive beauties traveling along coastal waters.
Measuring 46 feet in length and weighing 40 tons, gray whales are easy to spot from several locations in Malibu. Point Dume State Beach is one of the renowned locations for whale spotting, and providing viewers the unique opportunity to clearly see whales from land.
For a more hands-on and interactive whale watching experience, the local open water tours docking from the Channel Islands National Park and Marina Del Ray are available to the public.
More information for Channel Islands tours is available at www.islandpackers.com/GrayWhales.html, and for Marina Del Ray tours, call 310-822-3625.
According to the ACS census reports, Malibu locals may not witness grays this particular week but can expect to see small fleets of them gracing the coastline within the next few weeks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hotel Project Estimated to Be Four Times Size of Colony Plaza

• City Is Currently Seeking Consultant for Supplemental EIR for the Most Recent Proposal

BY BILL KOENEKER

More information has been revealed about the size and shape of the Rancho Malibu Hotel project as city officials seek a consulting firm to do an Environmental Impact Report Supplemental.
The planning department staff is currently reviewing an application for the hotel plans submitted last year, which proposes construction of a 146-room luxury hotel on a 27.8 acre vacant parcel located on the northeast corner of Malibu Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway.
Plans call for a 141,428 square foot main building comprised of a 82,036-square-foot basement, which includes a spa and fitness center and a first and second floor including a lobby area, retail, restaurant, banquet and meeting facilities, according to planning officials.
The guestrooms and suites are located within casita-type buildings totaling 133,873 square feet. Two swimming pools and 543 parking spaces are provided. The 165,259 square foot parking structure will house the majority of the parking.
That is a whopping 440,560 square feet of building space, which makes it four times the size of the Malibu Colony Plaza shopping center.
There is a ten-page synopsis, prepared by a city planner, of the history of the project as it has wended its way through the approval process since 1984.
The staff has determined that the Conditional Use Permit is still valid, but the site plan review has expired and a new SPR would be required to move forward on the project. Currently, the project has a coastal permit issued by the California Coastal Commission.
“Since the project was never evaluated against the Local Coastal Program (which was certified in 2002) a new CDP from the city would also be required,” stated an in-house planning department memo.
The history of hotel plans for the bluff top acreage that sits above the Civic Center area is a long one.
In 1984, a large hotel previously referred to as the Adamson Hotel was proposed and received Los Angeles County approval for 300 rooms in separate hillside villas, a separate restaurant and a separate community use facility.
The Adamson Companies, which owned the land and interests in the plans is no longer involved in the project.
The California Coastal Commission approved the permit with 47 conditions, according to municipal officials.
In 1991, the city placed a moratorium on all new development and the project was stalled.
By 1995, the property owner submitted a Conditional Use Permit package for a somewhat smaller 250-room hotel complex.
A scaled down version of 146 rooms was approved by the city. The project, according to city officials, was kept active until 2006 through annual time extensions issued by the municipality Upon adoption of the Local Coastal Program, the applicant was required by the municipality, to apply for a coastal permit.
In 2007, the property owner submitted a coastal permit application for the construction of the 146-room hotel. The city contracted with an environmental firm to start work on an EIR. However, the applicant submitted a letter requesting to withdraw the application and the coastal permit and associated requests were officially withdrawn on June 2009.
In June 2011, the property owner submitted a coastal permit application to the city for the same scope of work purposed as part of the 2007 coastal permit. That application is currently under review, according to city planners.
CAPTION:
MASSIVE—Plans show a sprawling compound that critics say represents the largest commercial development project in Malibu’s history. Controversial issues that have yet to be dealt with include traffic issues and the presence of a significant Chumash archeological site that appears to be completely engulfed by development in the schematic shown above.

City Council Prepared to Discuss New Library Equipment Acquisition

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council meeting scheduled for next week will focus on the library for purchasing equipment for the remodeled facility, which is expected to open in April and for extended hours and a newly offered speakers series.
The first item on the agenda is to authorize the city manager to execute a purchase order for equipment for the library improvement project totaling $250,000.
According to a staff report, nearly 90 percent of the construction is finished and completion is expected at the end of the month.
After the building is finished, the library will begin the installation of furniture, fixtures and equipment, which will take approximately three months, according to a staff memo to the council. The library is scheduled to reopen on April 22, 2012.
“All of the equipment that is being purchased as part of the improvement project is being purchased through the county of Los Angeles contracts that provide for pre-negotiated reduced prices,” wrote Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, in a staff report.
Feldman indicates the equipment purchases include items such as computers, monitors, printers, media equipment, book carts, trash cans, small appliances and other necessary office equipment for the Malibu Library. All of the expenses for equipment is reimbursable. The county sets aside the difference between the city’s property tax revenue and the library’s expenses into a designated fund. At of the end of the last fiscal year, the set-aside fund totals about $7.3 million, according to Feldman.
“It is expected that approximately $1 million will be added to the fund annually. Sufficient funding is available in the set-aside fund for the full project cost [of $6,289,647],” she added.
Also on tap, the council is being asked to approve increased services that could be implemented with the reopening of the library in April.
Increased service hours could include Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The increase in hours will cost about $82,000 a year, which can be funded from the set-aside funds, according to Feldman.
Another improvement could be to enhance the existing collection with materials specific to Malibu. The estimated cost of the collection enhancement is approximately $25,000, which can also be funded from the set-aside funds.
Consider establishing a deferred maintenance reserve of $100,000 a year. The deferred maintenance reserve can be paid for from the set-aside funds during the term of the agreement with the county.
Another consideration is to establish a speaker series program to provide a minimum of six guest speakers a year. Have the Harry Barovsky Memorial Youth Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission provide input in identifying speakers for the program at a cost of $75,000 per year using the set-aside monies.
The added services were discussed with the county and among members of the ad hoc library committee.
The Malibu Library was built in 1968. The current remodeling project includes a surf and beach themed interior, complete with surfboards, bubble-like lights, and a faux lighthouse. Other additions include patio space and a history exhibit in the foyer.

Parks and Rec Commission Discusses Wish List

• Consulting Firm Continues to Seek Residents’ Input to Assist in Creation of Updated Master Plan

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

An ice skating rink, a golf driving range and more playing fields topped the City of Malibu Parks and Recreation Commission’s wish list for recreational facilities at the second of two public workshops intended to gather public input on revising the Parks and Recreation Master Plan Parks.
The 2000 Master Plan is in the process of being updated, and “the public is invited to participate” in the process of creating “a blueprint for the future goals of Malibu parks and recreation,” a press release stated. “The objective is to translate the community’s values and vision into an action plan for parks, trails, recreation facilities and programs.”
Four members of the public attended the Feb. 16 workshop. City Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich put in a request for ball fields, listing more space for league play, lacrosse, tennis and field hockey.
She also suggested that Zuma Beach would benefit from the addition of a hockey rink, and described a rec center in Aspen, Colorado that features an indoor water park and indoor rock climbing walls.
Two members of the public requested walking and bike paths in Malibu's residential neighborhoods, one said there is a need for a safe pedestrian route connecting the Civic Center area to neighboring residential areas and suggested that the city needs an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Malibu resident Tony Schafer also mentioned walking paths. “The whole city needs walk paths. We have no bike paths. We need walking paths, bike paths,” Schafer said.
The commission also discussed some of their own ideas.
“We have really good facilities, just not enough of them,” Commissioner Dermot Stoker said, endorsing the ice rink idea. “Any well-run sheet of ice can handily pay for itself.” He indicated that he would like to see the city generate cash to buy property for the rink for hockey, curling and ice-skating.
Stoker also suggested that a batting cage and a golf driving range could be money-spinners for the city, adding that a golf range could generate $70,000 a month for the city. “It would only take two to three acres,” he said. The fees the city could charge “would still allow people to participate, not prohibitive, but would fund improvements,” Stoker said, adding that a batting cage could also generate funds for the city.
“There are 140 adult softball players [who could use the batting cage]. Those types of things are not only fun, they are one more thing to do,” Stoker said.
“The ocean is under-utilized as a resource,” Commissioner Mark Wetton said.
“We need to fill up existing programs that we have,” said Commissioner Skylar Peak, who is a candidate in the April city council election. “If they don’t have participation we need to address that.”
Peak suggested that the city could work with Pepperdine University to develop mentoring and tutoring programs, and reminded the commissioners and the public that access to Pepperdine’s Olympic-sized pool and other athletic facilities are available to the community.
A representative of the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu suggested that the city could partner with the club to build a multi-purpose rec center. “Boyle Heights Boys and Girls Club just built a $10 million rec center,” he said. “We serve pre-teens and teens. We have 100 kids a day. We could have 200.”
“Land is cheaper in Boyle Heights,” responded Peak.
“Malibu is facing an aging trend,” Neelay Bhatt, a representative of Pros Consulting, the firm hired by the city to develop the updated plan, reminded the commissioners. “[In Malibu] people 55-plus will be 40 percent of the population,” he said.
Pros Consulting will be sending questionnaires to a random sampling of Malibu residents to help the firm determine parks and rec priorities for the future.
“Almost 50 percent [of Malibu homeowners] may not live here,” Conley Ulich said. “I'm concerned that [survey respondents] won't have children. Can we do petitions?”
Bhatt responded that his firm will also create an online survey and stressed that Malibu residents of all ages are encouraged to submit their ideas to Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings at bstallings@malibucity.org or 310-456-2489 ext. 225.

Planning Panel to Consider Controversial House Demolition Plan

• Commission Postponed Vote on Project That Has Angered Many and Raises Issue of Precedence

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing to consider a controversial request to demolish a Bart Prince-designed home and replace it with a new 5,710 square foot, single-family home on Tuesday, March 6.
The planning panel previously postponed a vote on the contested request to tear down the Point Dume residence designed by the well-known architect, built in 2004, and replace it.
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. However, the planning staff indicates the residence “does not qualify as a ‘historical resource’ under any of the criteria [it cited].”
Don Schmitz, who represents the owners, insisted at the previous planning commission meeting there are no significant impacts to views, nor impacts to the slopes.
“We are proposing a smaller home [than the existing one]. It is not a monolith. It is compliant with the Local Coastal Program and the municipal code. We have minimized all impacts,” he said.
Plans call for a new, two-story home with a 93-square-foot basement, a 483-square-foot detached garage, a 450-square-foot cabana with a 250-square-foot studio above, a 400-square-foot trellised carport, a swimming pool and spa and 29 square feet of covered porches projecting more than six feet.
The request also includes a site plan review to waive the height restrictions for a height to the home in excess of 18 feet. There is 28 feet proposed and what is called a minor modification to reduce the required front yard setback from 65 feet to 32.5 feet.
There was a mix of critics who took different viewpoints.
Realtor and activist Susan Saul said, “This is about the views. The view corridors are protected.”
Local architect Doug Burdge agreed that it was about the views. "It is not about the architecture, it is about the project placement on the site,” he said. “I'm working on eight projects on Point Dume. You have to work with the neighbors at the outset or you probably won't get the project approved.”
Actress Kelly Lynch said it is about architecture. “I'm not here for the views. I'm here to defend the house. Bart Prince has 50 homes on the planet. If this building is lost it is a shame. What stands there now is a masterpiece.”
The appellants Chad Smith and his wife told planning commissioners. “We stand here not just protecting our views. It is upsetting we never have met the applicants,” they said.
Smith went on to say it was upsetting for him that the privacy issue was not understood.
Then it was time for the commissioners to speak. Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings said the city does not have a preservation ordinance.
“That argument won’t hold for me,” he said. It was the same response given by the staff.
“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 Register. Accordingly, the existing residence is not an historical resource for the purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act.”
Jennings said it is about the envelope. “If you stay within the envelope you are OK. People have a right to know what they can build,” he said.
Commissioner John Mazza took a different tack. “I’m almost the exact opposite of Jeff. We have to make findings. It has to follow the LCP.”
Commissioner Joan House, who is running for a seat on the city council, said she was concerned about how the homes were being put out further down the slope to gain ocean view and wanted to know if there was a domino effect. Planners could not tell her and she wanted to continue the matter until commissioners could find out from the staff.
“I am disappointed we have no opportunity to look at the overview of the canyon domino theory. Is there an impact on the neighbors? I will not support it because of that. I need to see the impact going up the gully,” House said.
The commission agreed to continue the matter, until the staff could provide some answers.

City Awaits Responses to New Skate Park ‘Request for Proposal’

• Council Members Approved Up to $40,000 for ‘Design Element’ of Proposed Permanent Facility

BY BILL KOENEKER

On Feb. 8, what is called a Request for a Proposal or RFP was released by the city's Parks and Recreation Department to solicit proposals to complete design elements for a skate park facility to be located at Malibu Bluffs Park.
There is nothing in the RFP that states what type of skate park the city wants. Skate park designers have until March 14 to submit their proposals to Malibu City Hall.
For those interested in the details, park officials are informing would-be consultants that since the RFP never states what type of skate park the city is seeking there are no specs on what it could be.
If it is not an above ground, can that kind of equipment be eliminated?
What to do if there is no decision about seeking poured-in-place construction, which is the norm and highest quality, or how would a modular-poured-in-place be determined?
The city’s answer? “The goal for the project is that it be a permanent skate facility.
“Construction material and type of facility have yet to be determined. The consultant selected for the project will identify those items as tasks are completed.”
There are no dimensions available for the proposed skate park, according to city officials, who are letting consultants know that the actual skate facility will be determined in the second phase of conceptual design.
“The consultant selected for the project will identify those items as tasks are completed.”
Park officials are also letting consultants know that company manufacturers who sell “non-cement” skate park equipment, won’t be considered until the completion of step 2 or what they call task two, which is the conceptual design phase of the scope of work.
“The concept discussed in community meetings with the Skate Park Ad Hoc Committee was for a mixed-use skate park plaza that would combine challenging skate features with pedestrian-friendly pathways and landscaping amid a skate park layout. The design could include an all-wheel friendly features that would allow BMX and rollerblade uses. There was also discussion of a traditional style, permanent skate park specifically for skateboarding,” the RFP concludes.
At a previous meeting, the Malibu City Council, to the thunderous applause of the standing-room-only crowd of young people and skate board enthusiasts, unanimously agreed to spend up to $40,000 for design services for a new skate park at Malibu Bluffs Park.
Skate park enthusiasts praised the council’s decision. The call for design services is for a permanent facility at Bluffs Park.
There was a council chamber full of not just youngsters, but adult skateboarders and moms and dads, who came to the council chambers to express their support for a skate park and in particular a skate park at Bluffs Park.
“Think about sharing it with the children. It is a world-class location. If you oppose it, take a deep breath, but keep the kids off the street,” city council candidate Hamish Patterson said, in response to concerns raised by members of a senior citizen Tai Chi group, who expressed concerns about noise, traffic and parking.
Former planning commissioner Regan Scharr, whose son is a skateboard champion, said there are more children with a skate board than own baseball mitts. “Skateboards are not just really for children,” she said.
Last year, the city council formed the Skate Park Ad Hoc Committee to address the loss of the city’s skate park.
The committee comprised of outgoing Councilmembers Jefferson Wagner and Pamela Conley Ulich, were tasked with assessing the need for a permanent or temporary skate park, identifying potential locations with favorable zoning and community acceptance and researching funding sources and costs for new park construction.
The panel assessed several options for construction of a temporary skate park. Of the sites considered, a portion of the Malibu Bluffs Park parking lot was deemed the most feasible location.
Both council members talked about how other locations were looked at, but none proved as feasible as the Bluffs Park since the city owns the land.
“Bluffs Park is the place to put this. The kids are already there,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte. “We need to find a way to build a world-class skate park. But we need to put a temporary park in now.”
“The staff is currently working on a plan to establish a temporary skate facility at the park, including negotiating an agreement with the adjacent property owner to use a portion of his land for parking,” said Bob Stallings, the city’s parks and recreation director, in a memo to council members.

Grunion Run Offers Opportunity to Witness Annual Fish Ritual

• Malibu’s New Marine Protected Areas Are Off-Limits for Fishing Activity Open for Observation

                                                      BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The grunion are coming. For a couple of hours following the highest night tide of each full or new moon from March to June, the California grunion—a silvery fish that rarely grows to be more than five or six inches long—comes ashore to spawn on sandy beaches from Point Conception to Punta Abreojos in Baja California.
Even many longtime residents have never seen this almost mythical fish, but when conditions are right certain Malibu beaches can be covered in a shimmering carpet of glittering fish, as the grunion leave the water to lay their eggs in the wet sand.
According to the California Department of Fish and Game, “The spawning season extends from late February or early March to August or early September, varying slightly in length from year to year. Actual spawning runs are restricted to relatively few hours during this period. Grunion spawn only on three or four nights after the highest tide associated with each full or new moon and then only for a one to three hour period each night following high tide.”
This year’s grunion run officially begins on Thursday, March 8, 9:20-11:20 p.m.
In Malibu, Zuma, Point Dume and Surfrider are frequently good grunion run beaches, although grunion runs are not consistent from year to year and there may be many fish or none at all.
“Spawning runs typically begin with single fish swimming in with a wave... Gradually, more and more fish come in with the waves and by swimming against the outflowing wave, strand themselves until the beach is covered by a blanket of grunion,” a DFG document states.
“Spawning normally starts about 20 minutes after the first fish appear on the beach. Typically a run lasts one to three hours, but the number of fish on the beach at any given moment can vary from none, to thousands.”
Grunion hunting became so popular that the species was allegedly on its way to extinction by 1920. According to the DFG, “a regulation was passed in 1927 establishing a closed season of three months, from April through June. The fishery improved and in 1947 the closure was shortened to April through May.” The three-month closure is still in effect to protect grunion during their peak spawning period.
Despite “local concentrations,” the DFG concludes that “grunion are not abundant,” and the life history of grunion while at sea is still not well known. Loss of spawning habitat caused by beach erosion, coastal armoring, construction, and pollution impact the species.
Many grunion enthusiasts prefer to observe rather than catch grunion and, for the first year, grunion take is now completely prohibited in the newly implemented Marine Protected Areas in Malibu, which extend from the western end of Paradise Cove to El Matador Beach.
However, for those who enjoy catching—and eating—grunion, the DFG advises that “During the open season, a fishing license is required for persons 16 years and older to capture grunion. Grunion may be taken by sport fishermen using their hands only. No holes may be dug in the beach to entrap grunion. There is no bag limit, but fishermen may take only what they can use—it is unlawful to waste fish.”
Flashlights, warm clothes, silence and patience are recommended for all grunion seekers.
Malibuites who are interested in participating in grunion research can email their observations to www.grunion.org, a grunion research project developed by Pepperdine University professor Karen Martin.
A full list of potential grunion run dates and times from March to August is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/grunion.asp.

Exploring Management of Malibu’s Commercial Sector

• Second in an Ongoing Series on Looking Ahead to the Future of Local Business

BY ANNE SOBLE

MAP CAPTION
COMMERCIAL INVENTORY—Copies of this map with legend and notes was provided to members of the City of Malibu stakeholders group addressing issues of municipal business regulation. Put together by the planning department with express statements that the inventory does not assess the feasibility of development of any parcel on the map, except where noted. The major impediment to buildout of these parcels is they require completion of a Civic Center area sewer system that they can hook up to before they would be able to seek approval. The potential for 820,000 square feet of development with a .15 floor-area-ratio, or over 1,000,000 square feet if those lobbying for a .20 FAR succeed, has motivated members of the Preserve Malibu Group to try to put the brakes on local commercial growth.


DIVERSE POINTS OF VIEW

Next month, the Malibu City Council is slated to address whether it will approve the municipal planning department preparing an ordinance to regulate the composition of commercial activity in the city.
A grassroots community organization that calls itself Preserve Malibu, and is often referred to as the Preserve Malibu Group, has been spearheading the push for a regulatory measure that would impose commercial diversification.
City of Malibu officials have been hosting what are called stakeholder meetings involving PMG representatives and the majority of the local commercial center owners, or their spokespersons.
These meetings were closed to the public and the media over the protest of PMG.
If the city council votes to initiate the ordinance process for a commercial diversification measure at its March 26 meeting, the municipal planning staff will be directed to prepare a draft proposal.
The ordinance process could take from a few weeks to a few months, unless it becomes bogged down in the way that the view preservation measure has and takes several years.
PMG spokesperson John Mazza said the group “has been working for almost a year to save local, vital businesses facing eviction due to a rapidly changing commercial landscape.” 
PMG has indicated that a statement “in support of an ordinance to help protect local serving retail/services in Malibu and to assure a diverse retail balance was signed by over 200 Malibu residents within the first two days of its limited circulation.”
Mazza said the group “will continue to collect more and more signatures as they keep flooding in,” and added, “There should no question at this point that this is a paramount issue for Malibu citizens.”
Mazza stressed, “This effort to preserve our city will continue until it is finished.”
Preserve Malibu has proposed a draft measure covering shopping centers over 10,000 square feet in size. If an ordinance results, it would not affect current tenants.
Mazza said the goal is to gradually balance retail uses to ensure that local goods and services provide a future retail balance for both the community and tourists.
If a new tenant provides a use that, combined with existing uses, exceeds 30 percent of that same use in a center, that tenant would be required to obtain a Conditional Use Permit from the city planning commission.
Mazza said, “The intention is to gradually balance the centers to meet needs in the community as tenants change.”
PMG views the issue of diversification as a major issue in the upcoming city council campaign, which is why they put so much emphasis on any action that might be taken at the March council meeting.
In response to PMG’s draft diversification proposal, commercial center owners had developed a preliminary pledge list of free services and community outreach.
But local PMG member Kerry Beth Daly described that effort as “a list of standard practices to maintain their own businesses’ land upkeep, parking, security, etc.”
Daly added, “All the while they are raising rents, pushing out local business owners, and bringing in retail that neither serves nor reflects the people and culture of Malibu.”
PRESERVE MALIBU’S
BUILDOUT FEARS
Realizing that it will take years to alter the city’s current commercial balance, PMG wants an ordinance that will regulate potential new development before it breaks ground.
The group regards the map on page 11 that was provided to members of the stakeholders group by the city planning staff last week as an indication of what could become allowable if a Civic Center sewer is built.
They point to the adverse impact of traffic and noise, as well as demands on infrastructure, and indicate that they want detailed regulations in place before anything new applies for permits.
PMG’s Mazza said the map does not include all potential commercial development. He noted that that conversion of the Charter building to retail is not shown, nor is the Adamson property on Cross Creek.
He also indicated that at least two council members are thought to be contemplating mixed-use development in the area that might include condominiums.
He reiterated PMG’s concern that there is a staff-and-developer-driven effort to increase the floor-area-ratio in order to up the allowable density in the Civic Center area. to .20 FAR.
That might mean that instead of 820,000 square feet of potential development, there could be over one million square feet of new commercial built.
CENTER OWNERS’
UPDATED PLEDGE
The Malibu commercial center owners, however, remain adamant in their stance that any regulation by the city will have an adverse effect on their operations and the city as a whole.
Malibu Country Mart owner Michael Koss sent an updated version of the pledge offered by the center owners in lieu of an ordinance to city planning officials on Friday.
Koss’ letter states, “We believe that the city can provide a requirement that shopping centers in Malibu with net rentable retail space of 15,000 square feet or more and/ or 12 or more stores must include a minimum of 20 percent allocated to food service and or service retail [subject to availability of water for the restaurants and water users].”
The center owners communication continued, “Also, we would like to have major anchors, such as a super market or bank, excluded from this formula as they may disproportionately dominate the total square footage and they do provide needed services to the community.”
Koss added, “This will ensure that many service businesses in Malibu, typically small businesses, will continue to serve the community and new developments will maintain diversity.”
The commercial property owners also reiterated their previous week’s pledge to: “1) Maintain free parking, 2) Encourage local hiring when possible and establish a job posting through the internet to help facilitate local hiring, 3) Maintain picnic areas at no less than their present allocation, 4) Encourage our tenants to use eco friendly practices, 5) Encourage the use of local vendors and contractors, 6) Emphasize local, not outside-the-area, advertising, 7) Work with the city or city-appointed manager to encourage the support of a local serving business campaign, and 8) When we have more than one qualified tenant option, we will strive to give preference to local serving and service-oriented businesses.”
There has also been preliminary discussion about a business internship program involving local high school students who would be mentored by business leaders in Malibu.
Koss reaffirmed the center owners’ concerns about “the suggestion by a small but vocal number of Malibu residents that the city impose excessive governmental regulations.”
He said, “To do so would not be in the interest of the city, residents of Malibu, the property owners, and the small business people who are tenants in the shopping centers.”
Koss added, “The Malibu retail environment is currently about 80 percent non-chains and the Civic Center is one of the most beautiful and pristine gathering areas available for any community. We want to ensure that this continues.”


PIE CHART CAPTION

PLANNING TOOL—This pie chart is another of the City of Malibu Planning Department’s graphs illustrating the leased tenant mix in the four local retail centers that provided data—Malibu Country Mart, Malibu Village, Malibu Lumber Yard and Point Dume Village. The uses fall into the basic retail categories of hard goods, soft goods, food/food services and community retail services, as well as show office use and the current percentage of vacant space in each center. The percentages vary widely from center to center.


BAR CHART CAPTION

COUNTERINTUITIVE—Despite the oft-stated premise of some of the critics of the current local commercial composition that formula businesses have taken over Malibu’s shopping centers, this bar chart created by the City of Malibu Planning Department from center-provided data appears to indicate that none of the four centers has a major percentage of formula or chain businesses. That notwithstanding, the Malibu City Council is expected to address a request for an emergency ordinance to immediately place a limit on formula businesses at its Monday, Feb. 27, meeting at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Council Shelves View ‘Restoration’ in Favor of ‘Preservation’

• Controversy Has Dogged Proposal Throughout Process that Included 31 Public Meetings

BY BILL KOENEKER

Despite 31 public meetings regarding a citywide view restoration ordinance including six council sessions, the Malibu City Council this week was unable to make a decision about enacting a restoration ordinance and instead voted for a view preservation law.
Having it both ways during election season, the council agreed to revisit the restoration element of the ordinance in six months.
“They gutted the ordinance,” said critic John Mazza, who is a planning commissioner and was a member of the View Protection Task Force, after the meeting “There is not going to be a restoration ordinance.”
In what had become a highly divisive issue among the public and even among council members seemed to be moving closer to adoption by the city council at its previous meeting after a series of motions narrowed down the shape of the proposed ordinance.
At the conclusion of the previous meeting, council directed staff to complete a draft citywide view restoration ordinance “which includes the city making a determination in view disputes and to protect views as they existed on the date of acquisition of property or date of cityhood, whichever is more recent,” according to the planning staff.
But that all changed this week after hours of council deliberations and debate, when Councilmember John Sibert, who is running for reelection, urged his colleagues to put aside the restoration aspect of the ordinance.
Sibert said, “The issue to Lou [La Monte] and others is retroactivity. Somewhere in between is the truth. I’d like to find out where that is and also we have a fiduciary responsibility. Malibu is not Rancho Palos Verdes or Beverly Hills. Whatever you put out there, some will game it. I would like us to establish a window for people to claim their view. We don’t know how many claims [there might be],” he said.
The council talked about how many cases might be generated, the costs, whether to require an aerial survey, not wanting to keep the 18-foot height exemption. The reason for the law is that neighbors can’t get along with each other, whether to include commercial buildings, and a definition of a primary view.
After the dust settled, Sibert said. “We can split the ordinance in half, then [later] write the ordinance.”
“This is no restoration ordinance. It is not something I like,” said the mayor. “But how do we handle restoration. There is nothing in there on it.”
City Attorney Christi Hogin then summarized the motion that was on the floor, “We are replacing the pre-existing view, defining primary view that existed on or after Feb. 13, 2012. Direct staff to come back in six months and allow claimants to some kind of view assessment,” she said. That became the motion that passed 3-2 with the mayor and Councilmember Jefferson Wagner dissenting.
“This is going to take a lot of staff time. We are asking them to pay for something that might never happen. Is that legal?” Rosenthal said.
The fee was estimated at $6940, which includes planning department time, consultants such as arborists and biologists and public noticing. It would not include permit decisions that are appealed or code enforcement staff time.
Appeal fees will be calculated separately and presented in a fee schedule for the city council, according to planners. To start claimants will be charged $300.
At the previous meeting, the council could not initially 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 at the last meeting voted 3-2 with Conley Ulich and Councilmember Lou La Monte dissenting, to allow retroactivity to the date of incorporation or point of purchase.
Sibert was the swing vote and had asked if the council was going to have another vote on the proposed ordinance and was told yes.
Sibert said he wanted a trial run, have folks come in to 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. There were four more new claimants who contacted the staff in the last two weeks.
La Monte insisted he would not support a retroactive ordinance and said the view restoration proposal created a brand new right at the expense of the foliage owner.
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.
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, while others raised questions about the legal implications and potential impacts from the law of unintended circumstance.

Lagoon Review Is Still Mired in Debate

• Deadline for $25,000 Study Is Rapidly Approaching

BY BILL KOENEKER

Fingerpointing started at the Malibu City Council meeting this week when critics of the Malibu Lagoon restoration project accused the Department of Parks and Recreation for dragging its heels and not providing the documents needed nor making a recommendation for a consultant to review the paperwork for a $25,000 study to evaluate the proposal for a city council decision on whether to support or oppose it.
Marcia Hanscom, who is spearheading opposition to the restoration plans, said it was not true that her group had not submitted information.
“We didn’t hear anything from State Parks,” she said. “There is such expertise needed [in so many fields of science]. Who is an expert in all of that? This process is not the best idea.”
However, Suzanne Goode, senior environmental scientist for State Parks, said that was not the case. “Our documents were either submitted at the same time or before Marcia’s. I’ve given everything [to the city] last week,” she said.
Goode also countered Hanscom’s claims about the recommendations. “She has rejected all five of our recommendations. She submitted five names, none of them have coastal wetlands background and most of them are not third party independent consultants. Some of those are personally known to her,” Goode said.
“She also rejected the governor’s recommendations. We have another recommendation, but I have not contacted the party and have not yet told her,” Goode explained.
Councilmember John Sibert, who is running for reelection, urged his colleagues on the council several weeks ago to allocate $25,000 for an independent study of the reports and documents related to the Malibu Lagoon restoration in order for the council to take a position. It was given a 30-day timeline
Roy van de Hoeck, who works with Hanscom, said this week it is important the council take a stand. “The council did not take a position or give direction to City Manager Jim Thorsen,” he added.
Van de Hoeck was referring to two letters sent to the Coastal Commission that expressed concern about the water quality during construction. The letters were signed by Thorsen.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner defended Thorsen saying he and the city manager had worked closely together on the letters and Thorsen did not take anything upon himself.
Sibert said this week the study needs to be done in a timely matter. “We need to sort out the assertions from the evidence and find out which is what in the lagoon.”
Sibert had previously said he was not looking for another study, but rather to have an independent consultant to look at the facts.
Sibert initially indicated there are so many claims and counter claims he wanted to see that corrected.
Responding to charges that he wanted to delay the matter until after the election, Sibert said, “I want to see this done before the election. We need to agree on who is going to be doing this. We are not on opposites," he said.
However, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who had openly opposed the restoration, said this week she personally felt the matter should have been handled just like when there was the threat of an LNG port near Malibu, referring to the $50,000 the city spent in opposing LNG.
“This study may or may not be done by the election,” she said.

Opponents File Appeal

Opponents of State Parks’ controversial Malibu Lagoon construction project have filed an appeal in San Francisco Superior Court in an effort to overturn a ruling made by Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith last fall, that paved the way for the project that involves dredging, draining and reconstructing the western portion of the lagoon, to proceed in June, after a lengthy legal challenge that stalled the project in 2010.
“The Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All and CLEAN (Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network), the three environmental and public interest groups that filed a legal challenge against the California Coastal Commission in December, 2010, for permitting a highly engineered and mechanized overhaul of Malibu La-goon, have filed an appeal in San Francisco Superior Court in an attempt to overturn a decision made last fall that they say does not comply with state law,” a press release issued by the opponents states.
“While an initial ruling went their way last May, freezing the project in it tracks when the Superior Court granted a stay of the construction project, environmental advocates were disappointed with the ruling that essentially reversed that earlier acknowledgement that the bulldozing project would be harmful to the birds, fish, dragonflies, residing in the lagoon.”
James Birkelund, the lead public interest lawyer for the case, stated, “The trial court refused to enforce the Coastal Act’s strict protections of our wetlands. The project’s undeniable massive dredging will kill existing wildlife and demolish a treasured beach trail, yet these harms can be avoided.”
Steve Hoye, Executive Director of Access for All, wrote, “This phony ‘restoration’ proposal would destroy a popular public accessway to one of California's great beaches and create an access hardship for disabled people, older folks and children trying to get there. That’s just unacceptable.”
Marcia Hanscom, one of the leaders of the lagoon opposition effort, wrote that she “remains confident that the project will be stopped and re-thought. “The project is based on old science and decades-old reports that have now been refuted, she said. “We stopped the bulldozers for an entire year, and we intend to stop them again.”
“The Malibu Lagoon project is a grading and re-engineering proposal that would be uniquely destructive and devastating to the lagoon’s existing wetlands, habitat, and public access,” the press release states. “The project is antithetical in numerous respects to the law and underlying spirit of the California Coastal Act and California Environmental Quality Act.”

Council Rezones Malibu Bay Company’s Broad Beach Lots

• New Overlay District Created to Permit Building Subdivision

                                                               BY BILL KOENEKER

At its meeting this week, the Malibu City Council unanimously agreed to re-adopt the Local Coastal Program Amendment to the Local Implementation Plan amending the single family medium zoning district to include a 45-foot minimum lot standard for beachfront lots and incorporating the California Coastal Commission's suggested modifications for the Malibu Bay Company Overlay District for the parcel addressed 30732 Pacific Coast Highway.
The council made no comments about the complicated zoning procedures nor was there any public comment.
City Attorney Christi Hogin told council members MBC was going to go along with the trial court, but the plaintiffs appealed and lost everything.
The plaintiffs, the Ross Family Trust, had been battling the city, the California Coastal Commission and the Malibu Bay Company over the beachfront subdivision granted to the commercial company owned by Jerry Perenchio.
They recently tried to take their case to the Supreme Court, which declined to review an appellate court ruling, which was favorable to the beachfront subdivision planned for Broad Beach.
An appellate court in Oct. 2011, in a published opinion, ruled in favor of Malibu, the Coastal Commission and the Bay Company on how MBC’s property on Broad Beach was zoned and allowed to be subdivided by the two governmental entities.
In November 2008, the city council approved an ordinance adopting the CCC's modifications to the LCPA. A lawsuit was subsequently filed and the city was ordered by the trial court to set aside its approval. In compliance with the order, the city council adopted Ordinance 350 rescinding its approval of the LCPA, according to city officials.
However, the Oct 2011 appellate court ruling in favor of the city, MBC and CCC and the denial of a request for a review by the Supreme Court will allow the city council to rescind ordinance 350 and re-adopt LCPA 05-502.
The history of the attempt to subdivide the multi-million dollar properties is long and complicated.
At the beginning to facilitate the subdivision of the property, the city, among other things, adopted an amendment to its LCP.
The Coastal Commission, relying on a written staff report and public testimony, subsequently certified the amendment to the city’s LCPA, but only after increasing the view corridors from Pacific Coast Highway to the beach. No environmental impact report was prepared, according to the court’s synopsis of events.
In response, neighbors Deane Earl Ross and the Ross Family Trust, filed a lawsuit challenging the commission’s certification with the view corridor modification of the city’s LCPA.
The trial court granted Ross’ mandate petition, in part, finding noncompliance with the procedural process and substantive requirements imposed for EIRs by the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Coastal Commission, the city and the developer appealed the portion of the judgment partially granting plaintiffs’ mandate petition, the appellate court noted.
Several blogs and published reports over the past few weeks somehow got the location of the land entirely mixed up and stated the MBC-owned property was located on Las Flores Creek and Beach.
MBC officials confirmed they own no property in that area of Malibu and that the court case applied to residential property they own located on Broad Beach.

City Seeks Supplemental EIR Proposal for Newly Resuscitated Hotel Project

• Hotel Plans for Site Have Been In the Works Since 1980s

                                                        BY BILL KOENEKER

The deadline to submit a request for proposal for the Rancho Malibu Hotel Environmental Impact Report supplemental is Feb. 24.
The planning department staff is currently reviewing an application for the Rancho Malibu Hotel project submitted last year, which proposed construction of a 146-room luxury hotel on the vacant parcel located on the northeast corner of Malibu Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway.
At the beginning of this month, a RFP was released to seek a qualified environmental consulting firm for the preparation of an EIR supplement for the planned project.
The history of hotel plans on the 27.8 acre site is a long one.
In 1984, a large hotel previously referred to as the Adamson Hotel was proposed and received Los Angeles County approval for 300 rooms in separate hillside villas, a separate restaurant and a separate community use facility.
The California Coastal Commission approved the permit with 47 conditions, according to city officials.
In 1991, the city placed a moratorium on all new development and the project was stalled.
By 1995, the property owner submitted a Conditional Use Permit package for a somewhat smaller 250-room hotel complex. A scaled-down version with 146 rooms was approved by the city.
The project, according to city officials, was kept active until 2006 through annual time extensions issued by the city. Upon adoption of the Local Coastal Program, the applicant was required by the municipality, to apply for a coastal permit.
In 2007, the property owner submitted a coastal permit application for the construction of the 146-room hotel.
The city contracted with an environmental firm to start work on an EIR. However, the applicant submitted a letter requesting to withdraw the application and the coastal permit and associated requests was officially withdrawn on June 2009.
In June 2011, the property owner submitted a new coastal permit application to the city for the same scope of work purposed as part of the 2007 coastal permit. That application is currently under review, according to city planners.
It appears unclear what the ramifications are of a Superior Court ruling on a writ of attachement concerning the hotel. The writ states that landowner Richard Weintraub has allegedly defaulted on a $15 million loan for which the property was used as collateral.

Point Dume Condo Plans Get Airing before Commission

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hear a request on Tuesday, Feb,, 21 for the approval of an application for the construction of a new, two-story, 4,459 square foot, three unit condominium building, uncovered balconies and patios and a 1,768 square-foot subterranean garage with six parking spaces on 29255 Heathercliff Road on Point Dume.
The staff is recommending approval for the coastal permit and other entitlements and recommending the city council approve a Local Coastal Program Amendment to change the parcel’s zoning and land use designation from Rural Residential to Multi-family in order to correct a map discrepancy between the Malibu Municipal code Zoning and General Plan Land use Policy Maps and the Local Coastal Program Zoning and Land Use Maps.
Plans also call for a driveway with fire department turnaround, grading, a retaining wall, including a site plan review for construction up to 27 feet for a pitched roof, a conditional use permit for a multi-family condominium subdivision.
The commission had heard the matter previously, but wanted more information if the condo posed a threat of view impairment to the surrounding neighborhood homes.
Also on tap, the changes sought by the builders at the Trancas Country Market are scheduled to go before the commission at its meeting.
The planning panelists are being asked to approve an application to amend the coastal permit for the shopping center granted last year, currently under construction, for proposed changes to landscaping, roofing materials, lighting plan, and nursery area, including a minor modification to reduce the required rear yard setback, according to a public notice.
The staff is recommending approval of the coastal permit amendment and minor modification to amend the coastal permit
Those who still patronize what is left of the center, since the grocery store space is still vacant, noticed recently the fences on the parking lots have changed resulting in making access to and parking for Starbucks somewhat easier, but making access and parking to the nursery somewhat more difficult
Currently all ingress and egress by vehicle is via Pacific Coast Highway.

Research Librarian Tracks Down Lost Local History

Museum of Ventura County Research Librarian Charles Johnson will offer a fascinating look at the history of the still remote Yerba Buena portion of Malibu and early 20th century homesteaders Lauretta and John Spurgeon Houston. The talk is scheduled for Thursday, March 1, 5:30 p.m., at the museum, 100 East Main Street, Ventura, 805-653-0323.
Johnson will take his audience “behind the scenes of the newest publication of the Journal of Ventura County History, which focuses on the struggles of the Houston family.”
Johnson will discuss the rediscovery of “The Big Ranch Fight,” an article about the homesteaders published 57 years ago, and introduce “the ‘village’ of people who helped him bring their story to a new generation of readers.”
Johnson will be joined by Linda Valois, National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, “who has lived and worked in the area for over a decade and who describes current efforts by the National Park Service to preserve the area’s history through research and oral interviews.”
The City of Malibu’s annual Battle of the Bands will take place on the Civic Theater stage at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, on Friday, March 3, at 6 p.m.
Presented by the Harry Barovsky Memorial Youth Commission and the Malibu Boys and Girls Club, the event offers young Malibu performers in every musical genre—from hip hop and R&B to folk and reggae—an opportunity to compete on stage in a friendly, supportive environment.
Bands interested in particiating in the competition must submit performance applications by Friday, Feb. 24.
According to the city’s official press release, “All members of each band must be high school or middle school students.”
Cash prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners.
A “Viewer’s Choice” prize will also be awarded the night of the event based on an audience vote, according to the press release.
“Additional event highlights include a food truck and raffle prizes,” the press release states.
Tickets will be available at the door for $5.
Prospective competitors can call 310-456-2489 ext. 350 for additional information.
Perfomer applications are available at www.malibucity.org