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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Seven Candidates Have Spoken, Now It’s The Voters’ Turn

2012 Malibu City Council Campaign—Part Four

All of the Malibu City Council candidates on the April 10 ballot were asked to respond to a questionnaire from the Malibu Surfside News.
The fourth and final series of questions and answers are published in this week’s issue.
The questionnaire is an effort to provide prospective voters with an opportunity to compare all of the candidates’ responses simultaneously.
The responses appear in alphabetical order for easy cross reference. Aspiring city council members were asked to be succinct, but were not restricted to a set word limit.

QUESTIONS

What is your assessment of the city staff? The city manager? The city attorney? The planning department head?

JOAN HOUSE: As a planning commissioner the staff has been available and helpful on asked questions. Information is given in a timely manner. I find them very hard working.

HANS LAETZ: We have quite a little bureaucracy now, don’t we? Something like 76 FTE for this tiny, but complex city.
The city manager?
Jim Thorsen is able, competent, and his office is transparent. I always get immediate, straight answers from him. That said, in the future all senior department heads should live in Malibu – although he has children with ties to another community, I understand that. And I have serious questions about some of his record. I believe the city is in over its head on the sewer project. As much as I respect senior city staff, we have been led down a deep hole on the sewer issue. I believe Thorsen has seriously underestimated the seismic impact of injecting 760,550 tons of water per year into an active earthquake fault (below). But Thorsen is an adept and understands his obligations to the city council. The problems I have are with the city council, not the city manager.
The city attorney?
I believe there is a fundamental conflict of interest between a city attorney who recommends legal alternatives to the council, and the same city attorney who makes substantial fees for legal action as a result. Although Ms. Christi Hogin apparently scrupulously observes her fiduciary and State Bar Association duties to her clients, there is an inherent appearance of a conflict of interest there. I believe Ms. Hogin is quite incorrect on her legal opinions about open government. Her policy is that that e-mails to and from city staff and the public are not government documents! Our city attorney has instructed employees to delete every official e-mail as soon as it is read, while I feel that is a blatant and near-criminal violation of the state Public Records Act.
The planning department head?
Although Joyce Parker-Bozylinski gets it, her staff has not always remembered who they work for. Developers and landlords seem to have in years past gotten a whole lot more consideration than mere homeowners. I think Joyce has provided leadership to change that.

ANDY LYON: I would love to see at least some performance review in this area if not term limits. I don’t like the set up that they stay on and on and on. It seems they are the ones running the show and answer to no one.

HAMISH PATTERSON: Who do they work for? City councils come and go, and the city staff stays the same. Time for an overhaul of our city government, some of our city staff has been there since city hood and have grown far too comfortable in their position to be effective advocates for the community. Your average resident has no idea who Jim Thorsen, Christi Hogin, Joyce Parker-Bozylinski, and Vic Peterson, and yet they are supposed to work for and make decisions that reflect the community they are employed by. Every one of these positions should be forced to undergo a public confidence vote every election, and if the public decides they have no confidence in those employed at these posts, the hiring process should begin anew.

SKYLAR PEAK: Staff—I appreciate their commitment to improving Malibu and serving our community.
Joyce—Best planner! Its great to have her back and she brings a great deal of professionalism to the planning department.

JOHN SIBERT: I have found the city staff to be generally very hard working, professional and responsive. There are only three staff members who serve at the pleasure of the council—the city manager, the city attorney and the city treasurer. All others report to the city manager. If there are issues with individual staff members, I take them to the city manager.

MISSY ZEITSOFF: Decline to state.

What is your position on the amount of indebtedness incurred by the city to date? Additional new indebtedness? Overall financial management? Fiscal transparency?

HOUSE: Malibu has a Triple A Bond Rating. Our ratio of bond indebtedness to income is one of the lowest in the State. However, I will fight for even more in our reserve account. And I will resist any non-essential spending.

LAETZ: I am quite concerned by Steve Sheinkman’s analysis of the City Hall purchase. There are serious doubts as to how the city will pay off the loans in the future. More importantly, the city council never asked citizens if a new City Hall was a bigger priority than, say, parks, street maintenance or other city goals. Now, past city councils have taken it upon themselves to lock down city spending priorities for a generation.

LYON: Living high on the hog, as they say. The City Hall might have been a deal, but if you can’t afford it is it still a deal? I can get a great deal on a yacht right now, but that would be stupid. We don’t have money to defend ourselves against things like the MOU or the Legacy Park suit, but we buy a building and spend $2.5m on a sewer design? And are still on the hook for Miramar. Maybe the fact that we haven’t had a treasury for a few years is an issue ???

PATTERSON: Indebtedness is bad especially when we do not have much to show for it. Who in their right mind would promote more indebtedness? It is time to have the entire financial history of the last ten years audited by an outside agency so that we as a community can rest assured that all of our finances are as they should be and what exactly we are spending them on. This all goes back to my answers on question 6 and 7.

PEAK: We are at a level where we must be responsible about expenditures and budgeting. It is vital for our future.

SIBERT: Malibu has a AAA bond rating and is widely recognized as one of the most fiscally sound cities in the State. The operating budget has been balanced every year I have been on council. The target for the undesignated reserve had been set at $8 million by an earlier council. Since that time, the council has targeted raising the reserve to 50% of the annual General Fund budget, about $10 million. We should end this year with a reserve of nearly $9 million. As a member of the Administration and Finance Committee, I will continue to look for savings and the growth of the reserve, while still providing the services Malibu citizens want and deserve.

ZEITSOFF: One of my first actions would be an outside audit
of the budget, possibly by the State Department of Finance. The over-reach in capital projects, the 14 months the city has paid $66,000. per month for the old offices, while vacant, is alarming. The rapid decrease of our reserve/emergency fund is unexplainable. The lack of a Treasurer for over a year is strange. The suggestion to use the Michael Landon million for water injection tests for [only] the proposed sewer is perplexing. The city has too much debt, and can’t afford more! The staff is bloated, and the thought of someday pensions must be dealt with now.

What is your perspective on commercial development in the community? Civic Center area hotel? Whole Foods Center? Trancas Center expansion? Prospect of 800,000-plus square feet of new commercial development? Other?

HOUSE: We need to encourage resident serving commercial development. When I was on council, I was the only one who voted against this hotel project. I favored a smaller Bel-Air type residential serving hotel. But that is now a vested project, and I doubt it can be revisited. If the Trancas Center accomplishes local services to the residents and lessens the traffic on PCH, it will achieve its goal. If elected, I will hold the developers to our zoning laws and give no special favors to any landowner.

LAETZ: The sad fact is that the commercial zoning nightmare is a hangover from the giveaways that county supervisors gave to cronies 25 years ago. Malibu has no power to downzone these entitlements. But we can take these constructive steps:
Use the sewer moratorium window to force the landowners to fund a joint EIR for all their projects’ cumulative impacts. (2) Impose development impact fees that accurately address every impact: if there is any strain on the water system, make the developers pay to upgrade it. (3) Impact fees on every single vehicle trip on PCH or canyon roads that commercial development adds. If we cannot stop commercial development, we can make it pay its own way.

LYON: Anybody that tried to get around Civic Center last Sunday knows what a nightmare it is there already.
We are all going to be on lockdown every weekend if even half of this is built. It seems as though there are 10 cross walks between PCH and Civic Center way on Cross Creek…with cars trying to go left into Lumber yard and the mart it is a disaster! I can’t imagine what it will be like, but Malibu in general hates that area anyways
so I guess it’s ok to cross creek cross creek , just don’t cross creek anywhere else??
They have a saying on the North Shore of Oahu...“keep the country country”
Keep Malibu Malibu!

PATTERSON: Every one of these is a disaster for our community! PCH dictates all growth, as of now the PCH is crowded, dangerous, and a major commuter route that services more people than those who live within the city. Our city cannot handle the development we have now, all our parking lots are traffic jams, and very few of them actually service the needs of the community. We need to stop commercial development and growth until we get a handle on what we have now. This again goes to the heart of the problem—a few powerful entities imposing commercial schemes on a residential community. How any of these projects will benefit your average Malibu resident is beyond me.

PEAK: Any new projects must first and foremost serve the residents of Malibu. Due to Malibu’s very stringent zoning codes, getting CDPs has not been proved to be very easy for developers. For the most part, commercial development is not sustainable given the condition of our water system, population, and the traffic on the highway.
We are not adding any more lanes to PCH and population has for the most part flat lined in the last 10 years.
The Trancas center needed a facelift and I hope the project will better serve the needs of the residents and local businesses on the west end of town.

SIBERT: The original zoning of the Civic Center at cityhood, established the entire area as commercial. Malibu has implemented the most restrictive commercial floor area ratio zoning of any city in California—0.15. In other words, a one acre commercial lot could have a maximum sized building of 6,000 sq.ft.—less than many homes in Malibu. That 800,000 sq.ft. of potential development has been there since cityhood. The city took 130,000 sq. ft. of potential commercial development out of the picture with the acquisition of Legacy Park. I would be totally opposed to seeing that scale of development take place in the Civic Center, but these owners have the legal right to realize the potential value of their property. The city should use every legal means to make sure that any development that is planned is consistent with the General Plan and zoning codes and does not significantly negatively impact the quality of life in Malibu.

ZEITSOFF: I would call for a commercial moratorium; Whole Foods, hotel, thousands of square feet of commercial potential, all growth to be made possible by a sewer. We need a time-out, to figure this out.

What is your assessment of the current planning commission? Please be specific about members and decisions.

HOUSE: My answer is much the same as is to Question 4. My colleagues on the planning commission read their agenda packet, study the issue at hand, ask intelligent questions, and make an informed vote. Sometimes I agree with that vote, sometimes I don’t. But I respect the process.

LAETZ: Roohi Stack: Runs a terrific meeting. Very polite to all.
John Mazza: John has been a lone voice for sanity on many items. He continually catches staff on errors or omissions that always seem to favor developers. Just last month he caught a shopping center developer and staff decision to override a condition of development set down by the city council. I may not always agree with John, but we need someone paying at-tention like he does.
Joan House and Jeff Jennings: Both have a great institutional memory, but their track record on the Trancas commercial over-development shows they are weak as we face the Civic Center overdevelopment that is rolling our way. They voted for a layout at Trancas that is too dense for the site, and will cause pedestrian nightmares on Trancas Canyon Road. Both voted on the city council and planning commission for massive exemptions, waivers and variances at Trancas. They voted for the Lumberyard Mall that is contrary to Malibu’s Vision Statement in the General Code. They mishandled the lagoon issue while on council. That said, they are both great, honest and hardworking people with whom I disagree.

LYON: All I can say about that is what I hear from clients that talk about a nightmare process.
I used to watch them more when it was televised and it was very exciting TV.

PATTERSON: The planning commission wields immense power in our community and from all appearances is a revolving door for former city council members. The commission wields too much power and influence to be left to the appointment of council members and should be forced to go before a public vote. Again I feel that naming specific people is to miss the point that the system as a whole seems only to represent those with big bucks and those with an agenda that dove-tails with commercial property developers more than your average resident which is the vast majority of this community.

PEAK: John Mazza—Thoroughly does his homework and takes great pride in preserving Malibu.
Carol Randall — Has not been on the commission long enough to evaluate.
Roohi Stack—Still learning the ropes.
Joan House—Many years of experience .
Jeff Jennings—Approves most projects he sees.

SIBERT: I also do not believe I should comment on individual planning commission members. Each city council member appoints one planning commissioner. My approach to this important appointment is to find the best candidate, appoint him or her and trust their judgment. Do I always agree with my appointee’s decision or the decisions of the commission? No, but I believe that the commissioners study and debate the issues thoroughly. Those decisions may be appealed to the council, so council members will make the final decision.

ZEITSOFF: Decline to state.

What is your opinion on the quality of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s job in Malibu? Do you think the California Highway Patrol should resume oversight of Pacific Coast Highway?

HOUSE: The CHP now patrols and tickets on PCH. There are more decoy cars, a new motorcycle officer, grants solicitations, new crosswalks. Both the Sheriff Dept. and CalTrans are working continuously on PCH. There is always room for improvement, but given our resources, I think our law enforcement agencies are doing a good job.

LAETZ: The lack of a station here means we are not getting our money’s worth. If Avalon, Lomita and West Hollywood can each have a sheriff’s station, so can Malibu. Don’t blame Lee Baca, it’s the county supervisors who ripped us off on this. I strongly support the $200,000 or so that the city spends on the beach team, and I very much oppose my opponents’ talk about scaling that back. Those of us who live near public beaches know that the extra summertime deputies are very important, and they benefit the entire city by providing extra protection at a time when roads are crowded and we are vulnerable. I resent some candidates who knock the sheriff for citing motorists going over 57 mph in the 45 zone at Ralphs. People have been hurt there by speeders.

LYON: I think we should have more input on how they patrol the Hwy. We are paying them so we should have liaisons that target areas that we as Malibu citizens deem problematic. I would like to see better communication with the dispatch when trying to call in reckless driving situations.

PATTERSON: The deputy sheriffs seem a little too comfortable at Starbucks. I would absolutely support the return of the CHP to PCH, but in all realities it is not the resources, it is the execution of said resources that need to be addressed. I think a citizens task force would be a good way for the city and the community, combined local law enforcement agencies to come together and begin a serious reworking of the tactics being employed to protect all who use the PCH.

PEAK: The sheriffs deputies have continued to provide great service to Malibu. It’s up to us to tell them what we want. There is always room for improvement. Whether it is more traffic patrol on PCH, DUI checkpoints, or better response times, I hope the LASD will continue to work with Malibu and make it one of the safest communities in Los Angeles.

SIBERT: The Sheriffs’ Department performance has improved in recent years and we have added additional cars and motorcycle patrols. Captain Joe Stephen, and Lieutenant Jim Royal have been very responsive to issues we have raised and are assisting in finding additional funding for improved safety. We now have the CHP patrolling and ticketing on PCH, thanks to the efforts of Councilmember Lou La Monte.

ZEITSOFF: The LASD is very professional and has served us well. I agree with the Public Safety Commission’s rec for 2 more patrol cars. We could save $200,000 a year for the Zuma Beach Patrol if we negotiate with LACO. This take-back of responsibility by LACO could save us the money to pay for the additional cars. I would explore more concurrent passing through of the CHP, adding to our safety.

What new public facilities do you think the city needs, if any? Why? How should they be financed?

HOUSE: The Michael Landon Center needs to be remodeled to better serve the entire community. There is $1,000,000 set aside in a reserve fund for this project, and I support the center’s expansion in order to provide a teen center.

LAETZ: Pocket parks should be built in the Civic Center area for senior adult use, since Bluffs Parks is so overcrowded. I strongly support skateboard parks both at Bluffs and in western Malibu. The population center of Malibu is at Paradise Cove, and the library, City Hall, Legacy Park and other city improvements almost all seem to go to the east end of town. Like all parks facilities, grants, state bond money and private donors can be tapped to build needed facilities with just a small contribution from our city treasury. The city needs to secure state funds to make sure every Malibu resident can walk or bike to the beach along PCH.

LYON: Skatepark for starters. If they can get money for Legacy Park, I think they can get some for this.

PATTERSON: A top of the line skate park would be a good place to start, because that is what kids do. Swings are another thing kids like to do, and we do not need to spend money on studies to find that out. Corporate sponsors are the way to go, and Pepperdine could contribute more to the community especially when it takes so much from the community.

PEAK: A permanent skate park and youth center will enhance our community. It’s not always so much what new facilities, but its how do we make the best use of the facilities we have. It is often easier and quicker for Malibu to improve existing facilities and programs than to acquire land. Build and initiate new programs. Any new preservation of open space with parks or recreational facilities may be funded by a bond but before any of this happens our city must listen and evaluate what our community wants and needs and place facilities near our population center and schools.

SIBERT: We need more facilities for our youth, including ball fields and a skate park. I strongly support these new or expanded facilities, but we have a limited budget. I would support taking a sound Parks and Rec Master Plan, that is now being developed, to the citizens as a bond issue if there is not another way to fund it.

ZEITSOFF: I don’t think the City needs any new facilities, except for a skateboard park. A teen center should be located in the City Hall. We have the Senior Center there. We also need a cultural arts center in the City Hall. This would be a place for art to be created and displayed. The city has over-extended, and must give up new facilities.

Do you think there is a need for more athletic facilities in Malibu? If so, where do you think those facilities should be located? Who should pay for them?

HOUSE: Yes, I wholeheartedly support shared-use agreements with the school district. The lower section of the Mesa could be studied by both the city & the school district to determine if additional facilities could be located there. Also, I think it is time to ask the City if it wants to consider a bond measure to purchase additional land from landowners in order to replace commercial development with active recreational amenities.

LAETZ: In 1999, the city conducted a parks needs survey, and it said we had a deficit of 11 fields then. There is a demonstrated need for more athletic facilities: my grown daughter and her chums from Malibu High days all have to drive to Pacific Palisades to play in an adult softball league because there is no room here. The city pool is too small. Some additional fields can be added at the high school for low-impact, non-lit use. It is a shame that the city hall and Legacy Park bond payments mean that additional playing fields at Point Dume slipped us by. Maybe someday we can work with Donald Stirling or buy out Trancas Fields to get a soccer and softball field out west.

LYON: It’s too bad the city didn’t buy the adjoining property at the Bluffs Park instead of the Legacy Park. They missed the boat there and also on the property at Heathercliff.

PATTERSON: Absolutely, and at this time there is no place to put them, the city does not possess the land for more athletic facilities. The city missed the opportunity to purchase the former Crummer property and expand Bluffs Park, which could have been a showcase for our community’s athleticism. Instead, the money was spent on Legacy Park, which serves nobody in the sense of a traditional park in the heart of a small city. I find it ironic that the city has done little to protect our two best athletic facilities Surfrider and Zuma Beach, both targeted with restoration projects that could potentially damage them irreversibly.

PEAK: Skate Park is a must.
From the work done thus far, the Bluffs Park is the most feasible location for this although one may see more use on the west side of town. Our city should work more closely with SMMUSD and Pepperdine for joint use of facilities.
City monies set aside for improving Bluffs Park should support the skate park and buildings there.
Moving forward hopefully we can get more grant monies or fundraise for specific athletic facilities projects.

SIBERT: There are needs for more facilities, as mentioned in #16. The shared use with the school district can be expanded and there is room for another soccer field or two at the high school. The other alternative is to float a bond issue for acquisition of additional land, if the Master Plan mentioned in #16 is compelling enough.

ZEITSOFF: The only athletic facilities we need and must afford are more play fields for all sports. The City will need to seek land donations, from generous patrons.

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