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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Council’s Reorganization Meeting Overshadowed by Fight over Mayor Pro Tem

• Nomination for Top Vote Getter in 2012 Election Blocked by Majority Vote Initiated by Outgoing Mayor Laura Rosenthal

BY BILL KOENEKER

It is called the reorganization meeting when the Malibu City Council meet and the mayoral gavel changes hands, this time with outgoing mayor Laura Rosenthal handing over the symbolic title to incoming mayor Lou La Monte.
However, there was much more than symbolism when a majority of the council blocked Councilmember Skylar Peak’s presumptive taking of the oath of office for mayor pro tem.
Councilmember John Sibert served as mayor before Rosenthal, and Councilmember Joan House was elected at the same time as Peak, who was the top vote getter.
The impetus for blocking Peak became apparent when a political operative of what many local politicos call the Sharon Barovsky camp, Lloyd Ahern, told the council during public comment that he believed Peak should not be nominated at this time.
He said the ongoing sheriff’s investigation of Peak and his alleged public behavior should preclude him for serving as mayor pro tem.
Then another Barovsky ally, former Councilmember Ken Kearsley, came forward and said he agreed with Ahern. “This office is about respect and dignity,” he added.
Once La Monte had taken the mayoral gavel, he called for nominations for mayor pro tem. Peak nominated himself.
Rosenthal said she wanted to nominate Sibert for a five-month term.
However, Sibert turned down the nomination saying, “I’m not sure that is appropriate. I cannot accept that. We went through this process before. The largest vote getter is next in line. I see no reason to change this. This was a vote of the people. If he had not nominated himself, I would have [nominated him].”
Rosenthal responded, “I have to disagree with a couple of things. I have thought long and hard and tried to come up with a compromise. This would be the first time somebody, except myself, would be serving in less than the nine and half months. There is so much to learn. There is precedent. Skylar has been on the council for only four months. I supported you, I still support you,” she said.
Rosenthal started to say, “As a doctor of psychology,” when catcalls from the audience briefly silenced her.
“There is an active police investigation. If we just waited five more months, get those things behind you. What I am thinking is best for the city. We need to be taken seriously,” she said.
La Monte then announced he wanted to nominate Councilmember Joan House, who said the meeting was turning into a “most interesting” one.
“I don’t want to be in this place. What is best for the city. I accept the nomination only if we could reorganize. I have no fixed plan to be mayor pro tem. But Malibu has to have an image. We have to have steadiness. Every country knows Malibu. I conferred with no one. I prefer [the term of] mayor for one year,” House added. “We need to start talking in paragraphs rather than sentences.”
When asked to comment, Peak said, “It is utterly ridiculous to reorganize what has been done before.”
La Monte concluded by saying he did not know what to believe about the TV news coverage and conflicting stories about Peak. “We don’t want a Cudahy or Bell. It is a distraction to the city. We are about good schools and good people,” he added.
When it came time to vote on the nominations House voted for herself, Peak voted for himself, Sibert voted for Peak, and Rosenthal and La Monte both voted for House.
Some in the audience immediately erupted into calls of “Shame” and “Shame on you.”
Then it was the rest of the public’s turn to speak, with Barovsky commenting on the proceedings, “I compliment you for tonight. It really was difficult. It is never perfect. You did the honest thing. Whether right or wrong remains to be seen. Laura, you have conducted some of the best meetings,” she said, adding the voters do not elect a mayor. “You are elected to the council. The voters spoke to elect a council member.”
Former council candidate Hamish Patterson said the council belittled Peak with their actions.
Patterson then launched into a critique of Rosenthal’s trip to China when she was mayor. “Why are we pandering to the Chinese? The city is not going to placate to the Chinese. China has a terrible human rights record. The mayor was going on about the Chinese this and that. China is not the Malibu way of life. What is this thing about China?”
Another former council candidate Andy Lyon said Rosenthal as mayor did little “to fix the disaster in the lagoon. Laura, you did not do anything.” Lyon asked whey there was even a reorganization meeting. “Why do we even have a mayor-go-round. Let’s have a real mayor.”
Lyon asked whey there was even a reorganization meeting. “Why do we even have a mayor-go-round. Let’s have a real mayor.”
Lyon chided the council for placing so much emphasis on allegations made against Peak.
“What is it guilty before being proven innocent? Maybe that is how they do it in China,” he added.
Monday night’s reorganization was not that dissimilar to when both former Councilmember Andy Stern, who was reelected, and newly elected Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich both expected to serve as mayor.
It appeared a nasty fight was ahead of the council at that reorganization meeting when it seemed that Stern’s camp and Conley Ulich’s supporters were prepared to battle it out at the meeting.
However, Barovsky at the eleventh hour came up with a plan that involved the mayor serving for nine and half months, instead of a year and allowing Conley Ulich to serve that first abbreviated term with Stern to follow.
All parties in the packed council chambers agreed to the terms and a potential political crisis was averted.
Both sides were apparently happy and the power moves appeared elegant and statesmanlike as opposed to Monday night.
When Rosenthal took office, a little more than nine months ago, she spoke briefly about her goals and priorities during her term.
She did the same Monday night.
The outgoing mayor said safety on the highway was still one of her top priorities. Rosenthal also mentioned the arts, which was accomplished by the creation of the Cultural Arts Commission.
“I worked very hard to improve the image and to be taken seriously,” she said. “I discovered my passion for public service.”
La Monte also addressed his plans for his mayoral term, saying the safety on PCH is still on the top of his list.
 “I want to keep this city as safe as humanly possible.”
“We will continue to go to Sacramento. We want to keep the Highway Patrol on PCH. We want to control parking [on PCH] like at Paradise Cove.
“We want to partner with other cities. There are 62 other cities in the same battle with the Regional Water Quality Control Board over natural sources [of total dissolved solids in water bodies].”
“Nobody but the city is responsible to meet those standards. We want to team up with other cities for the drug rehab problem. They don’t pay attention to laws,” he said.
La Monte vowed to keep the movement alive for forming a Malibu school district and wants to help in retiring commercial land in the Civic Center area and find a managed opening at the lagoon.
“I want to have an old style town hall meeting where everyone is treated with respect,” he concluded.
“It is a very short journey from swearing in the mayor to swearing at the mayor.”

Malibu Residents Voice Frustrations and Concerns

BY BILL KOENEKER

Reorganization meetings of the Malibu City Council have changed over the last two years.
As one longtime council member put it last year. “Since when did the meeting become a platform for everybody else’s agenda?”
That being the case, though, this is what everybody else had to say about items that had nothing to do with the changing of the gavel on the dais.
Sweetwater Mesa resident Jim Smith said he noticed the disappearance of owls and birds on and around his property which is surrounded by vacant land and a few neighbors.
He said he found out there were 14 bait stations placed around his neighbor’s house loaded with an anticoagulant to kill off mice and rats more potent than the warfarin that is currently used in most residential poisons.
“It is only available from commercial outfits,” he said. “The EPA is trying to put restrictions on it. There are other ways to get rid of pests.”
Smith said his neighbor “felt terrible” when he was told about what had happened.
Smith said he would like to see the city council enact some kind of measure, under what powers it has, to either outlaw the stuff, restrict it or even require the commercial pest control operations to be cognizant of the powerful domino effects of anticoagulants. The chemical has an equally insidious effect on wildlife as smaller animals, which have ingested the anticoagulant, that is stored in the body, are eaten by predators and the chemical moves up the food chain.
On another item not on the agenda, Mikail Antrios, who says he is an artist who came down out of the hills of Malibu, offered some advice to council members about the proposed Cultural Arts Commission now in the formative stages. City officials have urged artists to join, though they seem to be slow to do so.
Antrios, a painter, said rules, regulations and commissions are anathema to the artists.
 In a statement that left some scratching their heads, he said what the commission needs is a czar or a king. Antrios said art by its nature should have some dangerous element to it. He said art should not be driven by committees or commissions, but a personality needs to drive decisions.
On another issue, several speakers, including Robert Richstone said they wanted to urge the city council to support Prop 37, a measure on the November ballot that would require the labeling of genetically modified food in the state of California.
Richstone said people have a fundamental right to know what is in their food.
“What are the big corporations hiding?” he asked. He said that GMO could weaken the strength of the world’s food supplies. Most people, he said do not know what is in their foods. “Very few people know,” he said.
John Mazza talked about Terry Tubesteak Tracy, who recently passed away. “He was the Big Kahuna,” said Mazza, who recalled how Tubesteak quit his job  and moved to Malibu Beach where he lived in a shack and surfed. “He was the personification of the surf culture,” Mazza said, adding he had the biggest influence on the surf culture and “probably did more than anyone else to put us on the map.”
Tracy’s life was written about by the author of the “Gidget” series.

Pepperdine President’s Son Charged with Threats against His Parents and Theft of Their Handgun Was Taken into Custody on Campus the Next Day

• Last Week’s Alleged Incidents Occurred on the Date Christopher Benton Was Scheduled to Appear in Malibu Court on Previously Filed Misdemeanor Charges of Being Under the Influence and Driving without a License. The Current Felony Complaint Lists Five Counts. The Complaint Cites Three Prior Felony Convictions for the 27-Year-Old that Occurred between 2003 to 2009, Including Possession of Controlled Substances, Possession of Marijuana for Sale and Grand Theft. Benton Is Being Held in Men’s Central Jail with Bail Set at $195,000.

BY ANNE SOBLE

Swirling in a vortex of rapidly changing information and misinformation, a picture is emerging of two days on the Pepperdine University campus that had the potential for tragedy of major proportions and yet neither those on campus or in the community at large were apprised of any danger.
According to court documents, during the time period from Wednesday, Aug. 22, to Thursday, Aug. 23, Christopher Benton, the son of university president Andrew Benton, allegedly threatened his father and mother Deborah Benton at Brock House, the family campus residence, with commission of a “crime that would result in death and great bodily harm,” which led them to “fear for his/her safety and the safety of his/her immediate family.”
At the same time, the senior Bentons alleged that their son committed grand theft of a firearm that was their personal property, yet this possession of a handgun by someone in a stressed emotional state apparently did not raise enough of a red flag to warrant a public campus alert or notice to the Malibu community at large.
The Bentons contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Lost Hills deputies ostensibly searched for the younger Benton unsuccessfully. Christopher Benton was not apprehended until Thursday when he was spotted on campus, allegedly with the gun in his possession—he attempted to discard it—and ammunition was found in his car, although there are even questions of how he could have been driving because of license suspension issues.
Reports of armed individuals in public settings, such as schools, often result in lockdowns and other precautions, but it is not clear what procedures were implemented for public safety after the Bentons filed their report.
Malibu Surfside News inquiries to the Pepperdine administration and the LASD about the exact time frames and the extent of public safety decision-making and by whom have not yet received responses.
Christopher Benton, 27, has three felony convictions for illegal substance use/sale and related charges dating from 2003 to 2009, which compound the gravity of the current charges he will face.
Benton was scheduled to appear in Malibu Municipal Court on the Wednesday of the alleged family altercation on a double misdemeanor case dating back to October 2011 for being under the influence and driving without a valid license, but he did not show up.
Although that might have been perfunctory to issuance of a bench warrant, Judge Larry Mira reportedly recused himself on the matter and no action was taken.
Those two charges now pale beside the five-count complaint filed in Van Nuys Municipal Court on Tuesday related to Benton’s alleged actions on campus last week. The counts include each parent’s count for “threatened crime [that is] so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific as to convey a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution.”
Of equal seriousness is the count of grand theft firearm of the handgun that is the personal property of the senior Bentons, as well as a separate count of possession of said firearm by a narcotic addict/convicted felon and possession of ammunition and reloaded ammunition for the firearm.
On Tuesday, Andrew Benton issued a bulletin to the Pepperdine community:
“For about 14 years, Debby and I have dealt with issues emerging from the presence of drugs in the life of our son, Chris, and those with whom he has chosen to associate. For the most part, this issue has been kept private, as we have tried a number of treatment methods. We have not given up, but we have not been successful.
There have been glimpses of improvement and reasons for hope, followed by steep falls and what we can only describe as chaos within our family. Last Thursday, after our decision to engage law enforcement, our private, family situation became very public. In the midst of the joy of the opening of a new school year, members of our campus community witnessed the arrest of our son.
Chris will not be returning to campus for some time, probably a long time. That status will not change until the University Threat Assessment Team concludes that it is appropriate for him to do so. All parties—the Court, the District Attorney, University leaders tasked with assuring campus safety, as well as his mother and I—agree with this decision. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is appropriate.
Again, you have my personal apology for the impact this has had on our wonderful Pepperdine community.”
There has been no statement to the Malibu community at large.
While this saga is seen as an obvious tragedy for all concerned, there was the potential for an even greater tragedy involving dozens or more people that no one appears willing to discuss publicly.
A bail hearing held on Monday resulted in Benton’s initial bail amount of $250,000 being reduced to $195,000.
As The News goes to press, he remains in custody in Men’s Central Jail downtown.
The first airing of the felony charges is set for Friday, Sept. 7, in Van Nuys Municipal Court.

Father of Overdose Victim Katie Wilkins Meets with Chris Benton

• An ‘Apology’ But No New Info after Unusual Exchange at Lost Hills

BY ANNE SOBLE

While Christopher Benton was still being held at the Lost Hills Station, Tim O’Quinn, the lead Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detective on the Katie Wilkins death investigation, arranged an impromptu visit with him. O’Quinn was accompanied by dead woman’s father Rob Wilkins.
The LASD detective said, “I took [Katie’s father] with me in an attempt to get some/any answers and possibly some degree of closure for the family.”
Katie Wilkins, a 25-year-old graphics designer, was found dead in her family’s home in eastern Malibu on April 28. After nearly four months, the county coroner ruled the cause of death was acute morphine (heroin) intoxication but declined to classify the death, stating that whether it was an accident or caused by the actions of another “could not be determined.”
Benton, 27, who has a lengthy list of prior drug-related arrests and convictions during the last ten years, is believed to be the last person to have been at the Wilkins residence the evening when the recent honors college graduate apparently experienced a fatal drug reaction. A criminal attorney who has indicated that he will not allow his client to speak to authorities is representing him.
Wilkins told the Malibu Surfside News the two men met with Benton in a conference room at the station. He said O’Quinn “read Benton his [Miranda] rights and Benton seemed well-schooled by his attorney.” Wilkins said Benton indicated, “Without a lawyer, I can’t say anything.”
O’Quinn said he perceived Benton “as [being] emotional during the interview and he apologized several times to Mr. Wilkins,” but Wilkins said he didn’t sense “remorse, contrition, or anything I can describe.”
Wilkins said he “made eye contact” with Benton but there were long pauses during what he described as  “approximately a half-hour exchange.”
Still Wilkins stated, “I feel better having met with him—to let him know how painful this is for us. I wanted to tell him face to face that if he had anything to say, we wanted to hear it.”
O’Quinn told The News that he did not need the permission of Benton’s attorney to interview him while he was detained on other charges as long as Benton was apprised of his right not to answer questions without the presence of legal counsel.
He echoed Wilkins’ indication that Benton told O’Quinn that he “would not discuss the incident on anything but very general terms and referred [him] to his attorney for any additional comment.”
O’Quinn said the recently filed charges against Benton were not brought up. He reiterated his earlier statements to The News that this “remains a case that cannot be filed at this time.” O’Quinn emphasized, “No evidentiary statements were made by [Benton].”

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu City Council Coup and Public Image •

BY ANNE SOBLE

All of the official protestations to the contrary, I haven’t spoken with anyone yet who doesn’t view what transpired at Monday night’s Malibu City Council meeting as anything other than blatant power politics and part of the game plan for the 2014 municipal election.
Aspects of Monday’s proceedings that should have had nothing to do with local political differences raise interesting questions. Shouldn’t a city council member’s oath to uphold the law include such legal staples as presumption of innocence, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, and separation of the legislative and judicial functions? As for concern about the city’s public image, is there an official image? If so, who determines it?
But what is most puzzling about Monday’s council coup is more intangible. Why did politicians who are part of a well-oiled campaign organization that has had until now no problem marginalizing those who refuse to fall into lockstep think they had to do something to neutralize the top vote-getter in the last council race?
Realistically, there’s no way one member could alter the current city council’s direction on commercial development, or any other municipal policies. Certainly, the double-or-triple age difference and culture gap should be embraced, because this is Malibu’s future leadership pool. As for deleterious private legal issues, if they ever materialize, they can be addressed at that time.
Could it be that a young and mediagenic political newcomer was perceived as such a threat that there was a decision to perpetuate a stigmatization of personal behavioral or mental health issues as a defect that should be viewed as a source of public shame and the basis for discrimination in opportunities for public service?
Many Malibuites have been in the forefront of challenging ethnic, gender and sexuality prejudice, and they think it is time for one more closet door to open. Might an honest and forthright public acknowledgment of bipolarity and other medically treatable, but still stigmatized, mental health conditions be as major a step forward in establishing Malibu’s seriousness in the public policy arena as the focus on wastewater disposal?
For those interested in humanizing and universalizing Malibu’s public image, might championing this cause strike a responsive chord with the families that live with behavioral health issues? If the data that as many as one in four adults experiences some form of mental health problem is even close, there is an enormous potential for Malibu to make a major policy contribution.
The Malibu City Council could have taken a leadership role in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness that results in denial, avoidance of treatment, and perpetuation of a vicious cycle that robs society of some of its brightest and most creative members.
Five weeks ago, a psychologist wrote a letter to the editor that challenged “members of the community of Malibu to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of mental illness; to defuse negative and insensitive discussion of those with behavioral health issues; and engage in productive discussion of the issue.”
Some city council members didn’t get the message.

Rare and Endangered Flowers Found at Proposed Residential Development

• City Officials Call for Public and Agency Review of Plans That Call for Mitigated Negative Declaration and Conditions

BY BILL KOENEKER

A single-family home planned for the slopes below Charmlee Park are getting extra scrutiny by city planners after rare plants were found on the site.
The property is located on Noranda Lane where an applicant wants to build a 5,236-square-foot, two-story home with an attached 893-square-foot garage and 643-square-foot second residential unit.
Municipal planners issued a notice of intent to adopt a mitigated negative declaration for the residence and associated development also given that the applicant is seeking a variance for construction in an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area
“The required fuel modification is expected to impact approximately 1.5 acres on the subject parcel and 1.48 acres on an adjoining parcel of ESHA,” a public notice states.
“The proposed project requires the removal of two oak trees and encroachment into the protected zone of 18 oak trees. The oak trees to be removed are located within the paved portion of the proposed driveway improvements and within the five-foot- wide fire department pedestrian access around the proposed residence,” the notice goes on to state.
Two types of special status plant species (Plummer's mariposa lily [Calochortus plummerae] and Santa Susana tarplant were found on the subject parcel, according to city planners.
The mariposa lily is located within the proposed building pad and the tarplant is located northeast of the subject parcel but within the fuel modification area.
“The applicant’s biologist recommends the relocation and propagation of the lily on the subject parcel outside of any fuel modification and an alternative fuel modification plan to avoid any adverse impacts to the tarplant,” the notice states.
The review period for public and agency comment begins on Aug. 30 and ends Sept. 28.
The purpose of the review, according to planners, is to allow public agencies and interested members of the public the opportunity to share expertise, disclose agency analysis, check for accuracy, detect omissions, discover public concerns and solicit counter proposals
At this time a hearing date before the planning commission has not been scheduled.

Book on Elvis Also Sheds Light on Enigmatic Actor Nick Adams

• Malibu Resident Rediscovers Father’s Lost Manuscript About Friendship with Presley and Shares Story

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Actor and aspiring writer Nick Adams died in 1968, when his daughter Allyson Adams was still a small child. His death—initially investigated as a possible homicide or suicide and finally ruled undetermined—has haunted his daughter.
The chance discovery of an original manuscript written by Nick Adams in 1956 chronicling his friendship with the young Elvis Presley has offered Allyson Adams, a writer, independent filmmaker and Malibu resident an opportunity to learn more about her father and offered new insights into the life of Presley.
“The Rebel and the King,” Nick Adams’ original manuscript describing his friendship with Elvis, augmented with research and photos collected by Allyson Adams, was published this month.
“I had no idea the journey I was about to begin when I reached up and got my “Daddy Box” down from the closet to take with me back to California,” Adams writes in the forward.
“The cardboard bankers box with ‘Daddy’ scrawled across it is stuffed with my father’s memorabilia. I’ve carted this box across the country for 40 years and, believe it or not, never opened it because I couldn’t deal with my father’s story, even though it haunted me.”
When Allyson Adams finally opened the box, she found her father’s type-written manuscript entitled “Elvis Presley: Singer, Actor, Man.”
“Daddy died of an overdose when I was seven years old,” Allyson Adams wrote. “The Los Angeles Coroner labeled the cause of death undetermined. Nothing was found in the house. Every trace was gone—his drugs, journals, the typewriter given to him by James Dean, the bronze Rebel cap, his tape recordings, his life.”
“I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hands had been here all along,” Adams said.
Elvis was filming his first movie, “Love Me Tender,” when he was introduced to Nick Adams, a young actor who had just appeared in “Rebel Without a Cause” and who was making a name for himself as a celebrity writer.
The two men rapidly became friends. Adams introduced Presley to his friends, including actress Natalie Wood, and showed the young singer around Los Angeles. Presley invited Adams to visit his family in Tennessee.
“The Rebel and the King” is a portrait of Elvis during eight days in Memphis during the performer’s “Tupelo Homecoming” tour in the summer of 1956.
“I would rather live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb,” wrote Nick Adams, in 1956. “A very great man once made that statement.  And that was the first thing that came to my mind when I sat down to write this story about Elvis.” 
Allyson Adams was invited to participate in the Official Elvis Insiders Conference at Graceland Tennessee, last week. The Malibu Surfside News spoke to her about the new book as she was concluding her own whirlwind tour at a Tupelo Film Commission event focusing on women in film.
“The people are so nice, I love it down here,” Adams said. “Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis. He bought his first guitar at the hardware store. He was fifth place in the grade school talent show. This is where it happened.
“I feel a sense of connection with my father,” Adams said. “The Rebel and the King” about eight days in Memphis, The climax is in Tupelo.”
“I’m learning about my dad,” Adams said. “I’ve learned other stories, met people who were 14, 15,  16 years old in 1956 and remember the concert, remember my dad.”
 Adams also discovered eight never before seen pictures of her father. “The journey continues,” she said.
“Elvis fans are the nicest, warmest, most down-to- earth people,” Adams said, adding that she wanted to share her father’s manuscript because it offered a rare look at Elvis at the beginning of his career.
“I love it because it’s a positive, spiritual message without politics,” Adams said. “That’s why I published it. Elvis was ahead of Ophra. His message was ‘be grateful for what you have.’ My dad was tape recording what Elvis said word for word, so it’s a historical document. A little time capsule.
“I still recall the words, ‘All good things come from God,’ Presley told Nick Adams. “And if more people when something good happens to them in life and makes them happy or if something is given to them if they would just stop and think and thank God for it and say, ‘God, thank you for this wonderful blessing you have bestowed upon me.’  Then they would have more good luck and more blessings. That’s my honest, sincere, way of thinking.  And if tomorrow, should all my success come to an end, I wouldn’t stop thanking him. And I would go on for the rest of my life telling people what a wonderful blessing he once gave me. This is my way of thinking and the words are coming directly from my heart.”
The manuscript also provides a portrait of Presley’s parents. “My dad brings Elvis’ parents alive,” Adams said.
The book includes photos of the Presleys relaxing in the backyard of their Memphis home in 1957 with Nick Adams mother, Catherine Adamshock. The family laundry is on the line in the background. Sweetpea, a dog that Elvis gave his mother as a gift in one of the anecdote provided by Nick Adams in the book, is in Gladys Presley’s lap.
“Finding the manuscript changed my life,” Adams said. “I’ve learned about dad in Hollywood. He was a writer. I love that.”
“It’s brought light to a sometimes dark legacy,” Adams said. “This is my father’s best side. I love the innocence of it. Elvis was a gentleman. He had manners. He was down to earth and humble. As soon as I read the manuscript I new I had to share it.”
Adams will be signing and discussing “The Rebel and the King” at Diesel Bookstore, Malibu, 23410 Civic Center Way, on Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. Adams, who worked at the original Malibu Books and Company in the 1990s, and later at Tops Gallery, says the Diesel event is like a homecoming for her.
“How cool for me to come full circle to the same little shopping center where I worked,” Adams said, adding that no matter how far she travels, Malibu always draws her home.
More information on the book is available at therebelandtheking.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Public Comment Period Extended for Sewer Plan

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Regional Water Quality Control Board announced last week it is extending the comment period until Sept. 10  on the agency's comment letter on the conceptual groundwater injection plan submitted by the City of Malibu.
The Regional Board indicated it has received comments regarding the injection plan and among those comments are requests for an extension of the comment period. “Board staff agrees that the comment period should be extended,” the announcement states.
In a somewhat unusual move, the state water boards indicated they were accepting public comments on their forthcoming comment letter on a report prepared by the City of Malibu on its proposed groundwater injection plan.
Based on the terms of the memo of understanding between the city and the water boards, municipal officials submitted a conceptual groundwater injection plan that is “based on field testing and modeling” on June 29, 2012, according to Rebecca Chou, chief of the agency's groundwater permitting and land disposal section of the RWQCB.
“The Regional Board intends to provide a letter to the City of Malibu regarding the report. The regional board is accepting public comments on the technical portion that may be incorporated into its review letter to the City of Malibu.” The original deadline for public comment letters to the Regional Board was on August 9, 2012.
Written comments can be sent during the  one month extension.
Written comments shall be submitted electronically to losangeles@waterboards.ca.gov or to
California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region, 320 W. 4th Street, Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90013
ATT: Dr. Eric Wu, Chief of Groundwater Permitting Unit.
Plans for a proposed Civic Center wastewater treatment plant have been outlined for disposal of the treated effluent by groundwater injection, which,  has become the preferred method of the city, but requires feasibility tests to confirm the viability of groundwater injection of the treated effluent in the Civic Center area and the estimated groundwater injection capacity in that area. The actual feasibility studies have yet to be done.
The city council had held off on spending its own money, $6.5 million for the study, until the proposed Community Facilities District was established and could come up with the cash to finance the rest of the study and other work including an Environmental Impact Report.
The tests are to determine if up to 500,000 gallons of effluent can be injected on a daily basis.
The first goal of the study is to determine the extent and hydraulic properties of what are called the Civic Center gravels. “The intent of this work is to assess if the hydraulic properties of this unit are adequate to meet project needs. Three exploratory test wells will be installed to bedrock for this purpose. Pumping tests will be conducted to each of the wells to measure local aquifer hydraulic properties. If these tests show that the Civic Center gravels are reasonably transmissive, more in-depth investigative work, Phase 2, may be conducted,” a consultant's document states.
Water sampling tests will be taken along with other water testing and analysis will be done including an assessment for the potential for adverse geochemical reactions that could occur with groundwater injection of treated wastewater. Aquifer properties will be measured and other related water sample tests undertaken.
Phase 2 would be to determine if the Civic Center gravels could receive and transmit the planned quantities of up to approximately 500,000 gallons per day of injected water “without adverse consequences.”
Many other tests are included in Phase 2 besides geophysical and geotechnical assessments including conducting a geotechnical evaluation of the allowable pressurization of the system during injection, preliminary modeling simulations and geochemistry assessment.
Phase 3 consists of conducting a full scale testing, confirming feasibility and finalizing the basis of design. A full-size well will be drilled and the installation of deep multi-level monitoring wells will take place with the installation of full-scale test wells.
Some of the last tasks include final model simulations, meeting with regulators and preparation of a basis of design report.

Council Prepares for Reorganization Meeting

• City’s Youngest Council Member Slated to Be Mayor Pro Tem

BY BILL KOENEKER

It is called the reorganization meeting when the Malibu City Council meets next week and the mayoral gavel changes hands this time with outgoing Mayor Laura Rosenthal handing over the symbolic office to incoming Mayor Lou La Monte.
It is believed that Councilmember Skylar Peak is the presumptive nominee for Mayor Pro Tem since Councilmember John Sibert served as mayor before Rosenthal and Councilmember Joan House was elected at the same time as Peak, who was the top vote-getter.
However, when Peak was asked if he expected to be nominated and elected to the post, he said, “I expect to, unless Mayor Laura Rosenthal tries to block it.”
When the mayor was asked what her expectations are, she said, “I don’t know, we will have to see.”
That would not be dissimilar to when both former Councilmember Andy Stern, who was reelected, and newly-elected Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich both expected to serve as mayor.
It appeared a nasty fight was ahead of the council at that reorganization meeting when it seemed that Stern’s camp and Conley Ulich’s supporters were prepared to battle it out at the meeting.
However, Councilmember Sharon Barovsky at the eleventh hour came up with a plan that involved the mayor serving for nine months, instead of a year and allowing Conley Ulich to serve that first abbreviated term with Stern to follow. All parties in the packed council chambers agreed to the terms and a potential political crisis was averted.
When Rosenthal took office nine months ago, she spoke briefly about her goals and priorities during her term.
The mayor said safety is one of her top priorities. Rosenthal also mentioned the arts, which prompted  the creation of the Cultural Arts Commission.
The incoming mayor said that during her term she wanted to be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the installation of lights at the Malibu High School football field.
She got close but litigation and a split of the community in western Malibu dashed hopes of that happening on her shift.
Rosenthal quipped she was asking for forgiveness in advance for her errors and reminded those in council chambers that an “error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”
That appeared to foreshadow what transpired at the previous reorganization meeting, and dogged the rest of her term over what became known simply as the lagoon issue.
In a complete departure from the conventional reorganization meeting, the public comment portion of the session, usually a chance for family and friends to congratulate incoming officials was turned upside down and taken over by a standing-room-only crowd of critics, surfers and environmentalists who took Rosenthal and the rest of the city council to task for its position on the proposed Malibu Lagoon restoration plan.
With astonishing growth and a powerful voice, the crowd, which snowballed politically, attended subsequent meetings on a regular basis and followed Rosenthal and the rest of the council until nearly the end of her term. No one had seen anything like it before during Malibu’s short political history, or in council chambers.
The ongoing lagoon debate, sometimes very unruly at times, was fueled by outgoing Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who insisted the council should take a position opposing restoration plans, which the council ultimately did.
“We’ve had a surfer mayor, we have had a science mayor, we don’t want to see a secretive mayor,” one speaker said at that reorganization session.
There were other speakers who took up their own issues to the point it prompted one longtime council member to wonder, “When did the mayoral change become a venue for self-promotion?”
In a touch of political irony, the outgoing mayor talked about how Malibu had a “raucous youth over the past years,” but had grown up.
Conley Ulich said Rosenthal was the sixth female mayor of Malibu.
The council member said there was a tradition that started when Barovsky was mayor. “It is the mayoral bling,” said Conley Ulich as she passed over to Rosenthal a shiny metallic object, saying she was going to keep up the tradition.
It is not known what Rosenthal plans to do with the “mayoral bling. ” Stay tuned.

Critics Charge Paradise Cove Traffic Safety Problems Continue to Create Major Hazard

BY BILL KOENEKER

A motorcycle accident near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Paradise Cove Road over the weekend gave ammunition to critics, who contend state and local authorities are not doing enough to abate the ongoing traffic congestion problem that has grown exponentially  this summer
Although it was not on the agenda, the Malibu City Council had heard an informal report from City Manager Jim Thorsen several weeks ago about the traffic congestion, parking and other problems at Paradise Cove.
Council members got phone calls from irate citizens and were told by Thorsen the staff was aware of the problems and had talked to the property owner.
At the last city council meeting, Thorsen told council members the property owner had hired a sheriff’s deputy to manage traffic on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in response to the city’s request to mitigate the mess at the increasingly dangerous intersection.
The city manager said that helped somewhat, but the situation, for the most part, remained unchanged.
“We have issued a letter to the property owner about it,” Thorsen said.
Overflow traffic, hundreds of walk-in visitors, who park on the narrow shoulder of Pacific Coast Highway and the closure of the road leading to the cove when the parking lot is full have created traffic jams and swarms of pedestrians at the intersection unlike those ever seen before, according to residents.
“I have received a lot of complaints about the parking,” said Councilmember Joan House, who noted complaints have also surfaced about the parking along PCH at the trailhead to Escondido Canyon Falls.
“Near Paradise Cove on the ocean side the cars are parked near driveways and the residents cannot get out,” House added.
In the case of “I told you so,” public comments warned about what would happen it the dangerous situation was allowed to continue.
David Saul, a member of the Public Safety Commission, said people are upset about it since many beachgoers are walking along PCH. “It is very dangerous. It is an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
Councilmember Skylar Peak said he was also getting phone calls about it. “Maybe we should close off the parking lot,” he said.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she and Councilmember Lou La Monte were meeting with the Secretary of Transportation and encouraged folks to send in photos or videos to the mayor’s office so that other officials could see first hand the problem. “Lou and I welcome movies,” she said.
Thorsen had further explained the staff had met with the restaurant owner. “We went over a lot of issues,” said the city manager, who indicated there will be a hearing before the planning commission in September on renewal of a septic system permit.
“We talked about the parking, the cabana rentals, alcohol on the beach, and the food service on the sand,” he said.
Peak wanted to know how the septic system could handle so many visitors. “Where are we at with the water quality? How can they possibly have that many people? How are we managing that?” he asked.
Thorsen said there were two issues at Paradise Cove concerning water quality. The first is stormwater flow. “It is a slow trickle [in the summer]. There is a high bacteria count [from the creek]. It goes through treatment and it’s clean. It is discharged [near the creek mouth] and within minutes it is dirty,” he said.
Thorsen said the wastewater issue is complicated by what appears to be a background of bacteria from natural sources. “There has been no study to determine [the efficacy of] wastewater treatment.
High bacteria counts appear in high use, low use, summer and winter. They do use porta-pottys when there is high use. That is OK. It may be natural bacteria sources.”

Alcohol Permit Hearing Is Expected to Be Postponed

BY BILL KOENEKER

MMK Enterprises, Inc., the owner of the Circle K convenience store located at 21216 Pacific Coast Highway, who wants to appeal to the city council the planning commission's decision to not allow the store to sell beer and wine, is  again seeking a postponement.
The city council was scheduled to hear the appeal at its regularly scheduled meeting on July 23, when its was postponed.  Another cancellation is sought for the rescheduled date on Aug. 27 until Sept. 10.
The planning staff is recommending the council deny the appeal and also deny the Conditional Use Permit for “the sale of beer and wine for offsite consumption as an accessory use to the existing Circle K convenience store.”
The proposal was rejected by the planning commission on two separate occasions.
The latest stir involves a Malibu Chamber of Commerce unsigned email sent to members seeking support.
The email reads, “A fellow Chamber Member is requesting your help. The Malibu 76 Circle K store is appealing their denied application to sell beer and wine. The owner needs your help in signing a petition. If you have any questions, please contact Mehran Saraf directly at 818-481-9450.”
However, when Saraf, who is the owner, was contacted by the Malibu Surfside News as instructed in the email, Saraf deferred all questions to Don Schmitz, who is the head of the chamber, but also is representing Saraf before the city.
There is nothing in the email, which reveals Schmitz’s connection to Saraf.
The day-to-day operations of the chamber are handled by Mark Persson, the interim executive director, who was asked about the email and said it is common for chamber members to elicit help from other members through letters and emails.
When questioned about Schmitz’s dual roles in the matter Persson said, “That is a little tricky.”
During the previous hearings, commissioners were apparently swayed by public opinion that there were already too many outlets where alcoholic beverages can be obtained along that stretch of Pacific Coast Highway.
The appellant contends that the basis for denial on the grounds that there are a concentration of too many businesses selling alcohol for off-site consumption is not legal and cannot be implemented by the municipality. Planning staff disagrees. 
The commission hearing was for an application for a conditional use permit to allow the offsite sale of alcoholic beverages as an accessory use to the existing uses of the convenience store.
In May 2007, an application was received by the planning department for a CUP for store use, which included a proposal to sell beer and wine as well as the interior remodel of the existing service station.
At that meeting, commissioners heard from homeowners, attorneys and others who protested the opening of another location for the sale of alcoholic beverages given the proximity of so many other outlets in the immediate area.
A second meeting was no different when some of that same group of critics came back to the commission to show opposition.
Critics have vowed to show up again at the upcoming hearing. “We are going to be there. We are not going to let them get away with this,” one critic said. “We will have another petition.”
The staff has carried out a reevaluation of the new CUP application and “determined that onsite conditions, which led the planning commission to the aforementioned conclusion, have not changed since 2007.”
The applicant also unsuccessfully argued the sale of beer and wine “will be an incidental sale item to the nearly 5000 goods currently offered for sale at the market.”

Publisher’s Notebook

• Please Keep the Wild Wild •

BY ANNE SOBLE

I received a disturbing email this week. It appears well intentioned, but it describes actions that violate state law, federal law and even raise questions with regard to the international Migratory Bird Treaty Act—behavior that, as outlined, appears to ignore potential major, if not fatal, effects on the wildlife it discusses.
There is no need to publish all of the specifics or the author’s personal information, but the bottom line is the communication disregards that, under California Department of Fish and Game code and other state laws, it is illegal to feed wildlife.
In particular, the feeding of magnificent raptors, such as the red-tailed hawk, is as adverse for both birds and humans as feeding raccoons, coyotes and larger mammals with their much more obvious repercussions. The reason there are such excellent specimens of these hawks in Malibu is they have an abundant food supply and near perfect reproductive conditions. This makes the notion that someone is breeding mice and hand-feeding them to some wild hawks all the more incongruous.
One also has to wonder whether these actions mean hand-fed raptors are not hunting natural prey and might that result in the native rodent population in that vicinity becoming greater than might otherwise be the case?
In addition, the emailer enclosed a video of a child, wearing a mitt for protection, holding up a mouse for a visiting owl to swoop down and grab. Might a bird that has been so conditioned be flying over a backyard and spot a small child holding food up in the air and think that the food is there for the taking?
Red-tails are skilled hunters. Their eyesight is eight times more powerful than that of humans and they have the ability to fly more than 100 mph. Any human activity that diminishes their skills impacts not only the animals, but also their offspring. “Training” these birds, or making them dependent, also might run afoul of very specific and restrictive state falconry laws designed to protect hawks from “harassment” in the wild.
Because these raptors can adapt and survive close to human development, they are more accessible to those who might attempt to turn them into cartoon characters for their entertainment. As has been shown time and time again, when humans and wildlife interact on anything but a fleeting and incidental basis, wildlife is inevitably the loser and the loss is usually fatal.
The author of the email is rightly concerned about rodenticides—a danger The News has repeatedly written about. But there may be no greater danger for all wildlife than loss of an innate fear of humans. Humans who try to alter wildlife behavior patterns and diminish their survival skills do them great disservice.
The irony is that although the email writer is deeply concerned that raptors might be disappearing because of rodenticide poisoning, he does not appear to appreciate that actions that make wild creatures dependent on humans are just as lethal.
He said, “I think the problem is one of education.” Yes, that is exactly what the problem is. But the education has to begin with letting all wild things be wild.

Cemetery Is on Wish List of Possible Civic Center Land Uses

• Ad Hoc Panel on Possible Ways to Retire Land for Open Space Meets Next on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

BY BILL KOENEKER

At a meeting of the Civic Center Property Owners Negotiation Ad Hoc Committee town hall meeting last week, a suggestion was made about using land in the Civic Center for a cemetery.
That seemed to resonate with quite a few individuals who immediately recognized the wish to stay in Malibu forever.
The ad hoc committee is comprised of Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmember Joan House, who both host the forum for the public in an informal setting to contribute ideas on how the city can retire vacant land.
The ad hoc committee is empowered as well to negotiate with Civic Center property owners to determine if they would be willing to sell their vacant land to the city.
Two town hall sessions have been held so far. The panel was formed just months ago. Ad hoc committee member Rosenthal said, at the outset of the meetings, “Preserving vacant land zoned for commercial use is one way to ensure that Malibu retains its rural landscape. We look forward to productive meeting[s] filled with great ideas.”
During last week’s meeting Dennis Torres, who is the senior real estate officer at Pepperdine University, suggested a cemetery.
Torres was asked after the meeting if he was putting out feelers for the property Pepperdine owns in the Civic Center.
The university owns nine acres behind the Los Angeles County-owned government complex and an additional 7.3 acres, which historically was operated as a nursery, adjacent to the Malibu Racquet Club.
Torres said one of the parcels co-owned by partners is currently the subject of litigation.
The other acreage is also co-owned with partners, who are currently expecting to maximize profits.
Torres said many of the other ideas he heard bandied about include putting bond measures on the ballot for the voters to tax themselves to acquire the multi-million dollar properties. “That is probably not going to happen,” he said.
Another panel member proposed that billionaires who own homes in Malibu could come forward to buy the land for the citizens of Malibu.
Torres said he had made the cemetery suggestion 20 years ago at a planning meeting and was laughed at. He said he proposed the cemetery idea again because it would not cost the citizens or the city money and the property owner could still make a profit.
Torres said when he looked into it, he found it has already been done and there are even cemeteries where they do not allow embalmed bodies because they want so-called environmental cemeteries.
There are no headstones in this type of cemetery. The cemetery could be a park. The graves could be located by GPS, according to Torres, who said many folks at last week’s meeting laughed, but then thought about it and seemed to agree. This all would not have to be at the Civic Center, it could be spread around all of Malibu, he said.
There was some brief discussion about what a Malibu cemetery might look like with some conversations afterwards talking about more of an open space than a facility with buildings, mausoleums and other such development.
A dissimilar example might be the city of Ventura turning a cemetery into a public park. All headstones and crypts were removed to make for a large grassy hillside suitable as a park for the public
Controversy, nevertheless, has followed the park, especially when the city council allowed dogs on leashes in the park.
City officials renewed their promise to allow dogs in the park just this past July.

Coroner’s Final Report Attributes Katie Wilkins’ Death to Heroin Overdose But Says Classification Remains Undetermined

• Ruling Leaves Room to Question Administration of Fatal Drugs and Possibility of Duress

BY ANNE SOBLE

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s autopsy report on the death of Katherine Jessie Wilkins, who died April 28 at the Malibu family home she had moved back into a year ago, the official cause of death was acute morphine (heroin) intoxication.
However, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Malibu Surfside News that is still to be officially released, the coroner’s department did not rule on the classification or context of the death of the 25-year-old everyone called Katie, which remains undetermined.
Because of the complex toxicology and DNA analysis involved in the Wilkins autopsy, the report took almost four months to complete. In light of the information about preliminary tests and the presence of recent injection marks, the heroin overdose determination was not unexpected.
There had been no anticipation either way on whether the coroner’s department would rule on the classification or modality of the death from the choices of natural, suicide, homicide, accident or “could not be determined,” the latter of which is the designation for Wilkins.
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detective Tim O’Quinn, “The reason for this mode as opposed to ‘accidental’ is that there is no way with present facts in hand to determine if the lethal dose was self-injected or injected by another person.”
The issue of self-injection is relevant because the last person known to have been with Wilkins, and whose fingerprint was found near a door not far from her body, is Chris Benton, 27, the son of Andrew Benton, the president of Pepperdine University. A criminal attorney who has told the LASD he will not allow his client to make a statement is representing Chris Benton.
Barring any additional incriminating information, O’Quinn maintains that Benton cannot be brought in for questioning. The detective said his hands are tied, and, “for the same issues/reasons as those listed in the coroner’s report, and because Katherine had a known prior history of heroin use, [he] will be forced to close the LASD case shortly as there is ‘insufficient evidence of a crime having occurred.’”  
Members of Wilkins family question this LASD stance because they say the young woman was “clean from illegal drugs for over a year” and her prior behavioral issues should not preclude a full investigation of all relevant leads.
However, the chief detective on the case responds, “At this time, we simply do not have enough facts and/or evidence in hand regarding what occurred at the Wilkins residence on the night of April 27 to bring about a filing of criminal charges.” 
Knowing that this stance may not sit well with many in the Malibu community and might be perceived as special treatment for the offspring of a prominent citizen, O’Quinn stresses, “The fact is that the ‘proof beyond any reasonable doubt’ standard of justice protects all of us from illegal criminal prosecution. In this particular case, as unpopular a reality as it may be to Katherine’s family, myself, and to many others, Chris Benton ends up benefiting from this standard as well.”
The detective submits, “One can only hope that Chris Benton will one day do the right thing by this wonderful family and end his silence and tell them the truth about what took place that night.”
Wilkins’ parents Robert and Diane share that hope. They say they have made repeated attempts at outreach to Benton and his family that have been rebuffed. They ask why someone wouldn’t be willing to discuss a child’s last hours with parents unless there was some form of criminality, such as having provided and administered the drugs?
Wilkins’ parents also say they cannot understand why, if Benton was with their daughter when she commenced an overdose reaction, he did not seek medical assistance. Diane Wilkins adds, “There was a landline phone within several feet of her body. Whoever was with her could have dialed 911 anonymously before they left the scene and Katie might be alive today.”
Wilkins was bright and attractive. At times, the Malibu High School graduate battled difficult but not uncommon personal demons for young people, but she had recently received a degree with honors from the Art Institute of California in Orange County and hoped to become a graphic designer.
Any aspirations ended on the fateful Saturday at the end of April when Steve Wilkins found his sister’s lifeless body on the floor of the garage of the family home.
Since then, Steve Wilkins has kept up an unending drumbeat of requests that Chris Benton step forward and tell the LASD and the family what he knows.
The devoted big brother has always cut to the chase in his comments. “Chris is Katie’s last known contact. I believe Chris should have been named a suspect in her death as soon as the investigation revealed signs that Katie was dragged and left dead in the garage with her car and car keys missing.”
He added, “Regarding Chris’s response to being asked to cooperate with the investigation and/or speak with my family; I’m not convinced that an accidental heroin overdose requires the thorough and absolute secrecy I’ve witnessed from Chris. If it does, I’d like to know why, and I’d like to know how he was afforded his lawyer and rehab stint directly following Katie’s death…I don’t want anything other than the truth.”    
The Wilkins family is now working on plans to honor their daughter that will bring some meaning to her death. Diane Wilkins says, “We are looking for a way to do good and make a difference while we wait and hope that one day we will have answers to all of our questions.”
 UNANSWERED QUESTIONS—The county coroner has ruled the official cause of death for Katie Wilkins to be heroin overdose, but left the door open for the possibility that the drugs were not self-administered because of the location of needle marks and her opposing handedness. In light of numerous bruises on Wilkins’ body, the use of force in the administration of the lethal drugs has not been ruled out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Planning Panelists Hold School District Staff’s Feet to the Fire

• MHS Plans Raise Security Concerns

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission, at its meeting last week, considered an application from the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District to redevelop portions of the joint Malibu Middle and High School campus.
Commissioner Jeff Jennings recused himself from the proceedings, saying he lives across the street from the school and he thinks that “California law forbids me from voting,” although he has no vested personal financial stake in the district project.
Makings its decision after the midnight hour, the planning panel directed staff to bring back an amended resolution approving the coastal permit, Conditional Use Permit and various other entitlements, including a demolition permit, to redevelop portions of the campus with a new classroom/library/administration building totaling 20,274 square feet of net new building area and approximately 12,509 square feet of interior renovation and modernization of existing classrooms.
An Environmental Impact Report, which was approved by the school district prepared for the proposal, acknowledges that the project would not be able to avoid adverse impacts related to increased sky-glow.
After hours of public comment and commission deliberations, the planning panel approved a reconfigured 119-space lighted parking lot with an onsite roundabout, a reconfigured 61-space lighted parking lot, but a majority of the commissioners insisted a new 150-space parking lot should remain unlit.
During public comment, Jennings testified as a citizen and, after citing his longstanding affiliation with the school district, said, “On this issue I part company with the district. I direct your attention to the landscaping plan, sycamore tress that will grow 100 feet high placed on the ridges. The trees don’t need to be on a ridge, they could be in the gullies.”
Many other public comments, like Jennings endorsed the staff recommendation about the reduced lighting.
Some parents called foul, saying the plans for the campus had been thought out for years by various committees and it was not fair to fiddle with the design so late in the process.
“The proposal before you did not come out of the sky,” said Mike Sidley. “The project needs approval without the staff recommendation.”
Malibu Park neighbor Judy Hutchinson said she welcomed the staff recommendation. “I’ve never seen large attendance at the games,” she added.
Another neighbor Terry Lucoff said there was no planning on the part of the district for road conditions for ingress and egress to the proposed parking lot. “The parking lot is in the wrong place. It is ill conceived. It is not acceptable,” he said.
Parent Colleen Baum said it was not just about the games, but about children who are on the campus from day to night. “There is also theater and other kinds of performance. The lights are a big safety issue,” she said.
District officials reiterated that concern and told commissioners they were also bound by code and safety requirements. The big issue, commissioners were told, is the parking lot lighting and walkway lighting. That the standards are not established by the district but are adopted by other agencies—the district has safety and liability standards. A school campus requires a certain kind of lighting.
However, Stanley Lamport, an attorney representing the Malibu Township Council and the Malibu Community Preservation Alliance, two organizations suing over ball field lighting said the district has a long history of disregard for lighting. “The school district has not earned the trust of the community. There are significant impacts,” he said.
Lamport told the panelists there are acceptable alternatives and there is additional evidence that the combined effect of more field lighting and parking lot lighting makes for a change of circumstance such that agencies cannot make the current findings.
After hours of questions and deliberations, the commission approved the staff recommendation of the unlit parking lot, some traffic changes and for two new unlit tennis courts, new outdoor common areas, new fencing, landscaping and grading, relocated equestrian trail, upgrades to the onsite wastewater treatment system and drainage and renovation of existing infrastructure.
The CUP is for operation of a public educational institution and the expansion of more than 500 square feet in that zone.
Variances were successfully sought for grading in excess of 1000 cubic yards, and constructing structures on 2.5 to one slopes and impermeable coverage over 25,000 square feet..
The school district, which is the lead agency, issued a Draft Environmental Impact Report last fall.
The DEIR describes the project as approximately 76,694 square feet of new construction, some of it replacement building since 15,041 square feet of old buildings are earmarked for demolition while other buildings will be upgraded or renovated, according to school district documents.
Building plans include one, new two-story building for classrooms, library and administrative office uses, outdoor space, and the renovation of the existing building E.
New staff and student parking for a proposed 150-space parking lot is located adjacent to the existing school’s athletic field.
School district documents indicate the proposal also calls for separating middle school from the high school by devoting building E solely to the high school, while middle school classrooms would be provided in the replacement classroom/ library/administration building.
A new student drop-off and pick-up lane would be placed along Morning View Drive in front of the replacement building.

Facilities District OK’d for City Sewer

• No One within Proposed Boundaries  Files Written Protest

BY BILL KOENEKER

On a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Skylar Peak dissenting, the Malibu City Council this week approved forming a Community Facilities District to levy special taxes on 15 properties within the CFD boundary for the Malibu Civic Center wastewater treatment plant design phase in order “to issue bonded indebtedness.”
The city council had previously given notice declaring its intention to form a CFD in order to levy special taxes within the district utilizing bonds to pay for $6.5 million worth of design work for the wastewater plant.
City Clerk Lisa Pope informed the council she had received no protests and only one public speaker came to the council chambers to voice objections.
Peak did not explain his dissenting vote. When it was his turn to speak, he said, “No comment.”
City Attorney Christi Hogin spoke before the council members’ comments. She asked, “How did we get here?” and indicated, “We do not believe the Civic Center is polluting the ocean. We brought new science to the water board, which chose to believe in the old science and issued the [discharge] prohibition.”
“This has nothing to do with growth inducing. How much can be built is governed by the General Plan and the Local Coastal Program,” Hogin said.
The city attorney said this is a way to test the old science versus the new science. “We think the wastewater plant won’t have any effect on water quality. If we are proven wrong, why wouldn’t we go to phase two and three? We are not going to ask people to pull out expensive onsite systems,” Hogin added.
Councilmember Lou La Monte praised City Manager Jim Thorsen for his negotiations with the RWQCB that resulted in the memo of understanding creating a phased in approach.
La Monte said it was time for the Civic Center property owners to begin to pay the design bills rather than the city. “The city paid its fair share,” he said.
Councilmember John Sibert agreed, “What the water boards did is the triumph of dogma over fact. The negotiations got it down to phases,” he said.
Sibert talked about how the proposed injection wells for discharging effluent would not be deep wells. “They will be 180 to 250 feet. That is not a deep well,” he said.
City Manager Jim Thorsen added the wells doe not go into bedrock.
Sibert said there is a misperception about the pressure. “It is about 2.5 pounds,” he said.
He said people are talking about millions of gallons, but the injection is done only when it is needed and not all of the time. He said there was discussion about forms of storage, but nothing panned out.
“We are trying to keep property values stable. We are doing this in such a way we can show doing all of this doesn’t make a difference in the ocean. We avoid using our money upfront,” Sibert said.
Councilmember Joan House said the story about the board and he city sounds like “Alice in Wonderland,” adding, “It is important the city not invest its own money in this. This is not growth inducing.”
Mayor Laura Rosenthal also said she supported the actions. “Not any of us wanted this. It is the law. I appreciate people keeping to the facts.
Thorsen was asked when the city would get its money back and he said the $1 million invested by the city for design work already performed would come back when the bonds are sold.
The city manager said the city looked at an ocean outfall. “The outfall was a non-starter with about every environmental group,” he said.
The resolution sets forth the rate and method of apportionment of the special tax for the district and the special tax to finance the plant design and the incidental expenses.
The maximum special tax for each assessor’s parcel of non-residential property shall be $19,707.33 per acre and for each assessor’s parcel of residential property shall be $3,941.47 per acre, according to the public notice.
Beginning with fiscal year 2012-2013, and for each following fiscal year, the special tax shall be levied in equal percentages on each assessor’s parcel, up to the applicable maximum special tax. The maximum special tax shall not be levied after fiscal year 2052-2053. 
“If the city council determines to submit for a vote the question of levying the special taxes within and authorizing bonded indebtedness of community facilities district an election will be held to approve the levy of the special taxes and the issuance of bonds. At the election, each landowner within the community facilities district shall be entitled to cast one vote for each acre of land or portion thereof that it owns within community facilities district. For a proposition to be adopted, two-thirds of the votes cast at the election must favor passage, according to city officials.
The date of the election is November 20. On Nov. 26, the council can certify the election. The tax could be levied by Dec. 10. The bond sale can occur in January.
Feldman said the CFD would not attempt to collect the tax payments until after a benefits assessment district could be formed.
The vacant properties include what is called the Whole Foods parcel, which is headed by Steve Soboroff, who told the council it was the correct thing to do to start taking action.
Other property owners include the Malibu Bay Company, whose president David Reznick said he wanted to talk to the council about jump-starting the deadlines to adhere to the precise deadlines in the MOU.
Lagoon critic Andy Lyon told the council, “This is ridiculous. We don’t know if the design is going to work. Why aren’t we fighting this? What are we doing? This talk about buying Civic Center land—after doing this? There are no bargains. This is a joke. There are 15 owners who are going to decide,” he said.
Neither city nor county land can be included in a CFD, according to state law.

Managed Breach Point Is Latest Concern in Ongoing Malibu Lagoon Construction Plan

BY BILL KOENEKER

Councilmember Lou La Monte at this week's Malibu City Council meeting might have best summed up the remaining concerns about a “managed breach point,” at Malibu Lagoon when he said, “It is one of the few things we can all agree upon about the lagoon.”
Earlier during public comment, activist Andy Lyon said he was told the water would be moving faster in the lagoon and he asked if studies had been done for what to do. “They are not looking where the break point is. How do they protect state property if it will drain out faster?” he asked.
La Monte questioned State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap, who was present to give the council an update about progress on the lagoon, if he had been able to find any of those studies.
Sap said he had been out of town and would be meeting with the contractor Iater.
Councilmember Skylar Peak said it was important “to get a managed break point.”
Sap had come to tell council members about how much work had been completed. Responding to questions from the mayor, he said there has been no problems with the trucks removing excavations of soil. “All five don't go at once. There is less truck traffic than at Ralph's Market,” he said.
The State Parks spokesperson said the contractor was working overtime during some of the initial grading, but has cut back and usually is off the site by two or three in the afternoon. He also said the fledgling birds have left the nests, and that the contractors are working on the paths and an interior fence for the Colony residents is being built.
Upon prodding by Peak, the district head talked about drinking the reclaimed water.
“I admit it was salty. I was told it was eight parts, but it was 12 parts. It was not a bad taste,” he said.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal asked if the project was on schedule. “We seem to be on schedule,” he said, saying they have to be out of the lagoon by Oct 15 and hope to be completed by Dec. 15.

14-Year Fight Comes to an End as CCC Approves Creek Revetment

• Commission Staff Changes Course and Recommends Yes Vote for Proposed Development with 11 Conditions

BY BILL KOENEKER

The California Coastal Commission last week, without comment, approved a long-sought-after permit by Malibu resident Grant Adamson involving a 14-year-old struggle between Adamson, who heads up the Mariposa Land Company, and the coastal panel over a rock rip-rap revetment on Malibu Creek. The matter was moved to the consent calendar and approved with conditions.
With a staff recommendation for approving the permit, the coastal panel did not discuss the matter when it met in Santa Cruz.
The issue began on February 20, 1998, when the coastal agency issued an Emergency Coastal Permit to place about 500 linear feet of rock rip-rap revetment along the west bank of lower Malibu Creek, about 300 feet upstream of the Pacific Coast highway bridge, according to CCC officials.
The revetment consists of 1500 tons of  granite boulders placed on the slope and 14-16 feet in height with two-to-four-foot toe below the stream.
Adamson told coastal staff at the time the revetment was necessary to protect the subject property and an adjacent commercial development from further severe storm bank erosion in the face of potential continuing winter storms.
Prior to placement of the revetment, coastal officials maintain approximately 20 feet of lateral erosion occurred along the stretch of creek bank following a powerful storm that month.
The applicant then filed a lawsuit challenging the approved permit condition that required the rock slope protection be re-engineered. The trial court ruled in the applicant’s favor, finding that the evidence in the record did not establish that the re-engineered revetment would be feasible.
The court issued a writ of mandate remanding the permit back to the commission with directions to hold a new hearing on the permit. in the record,”  the CCC staff report states.
This time the staff recommended approval of the proposed development with eleven conditions.
The project area lies within the City of Malibu, but falls within the commission’s area of retained original permit jurisdiction because development is proposed on lands that are below the mean high tide line and/or on public trust lands.
On another matter, two California Coastal Commission members, who wanted to appeal a Malibu Planning Commission decision approving the construction of a Broad Beach residence contending that the development approved “is not consistent with the policies and provisions of the Local Coastal Program with regard to shoreline development and public access,” will have to wait. The matter was postponed
The CCC staff had recommended that the commission determine that a “substantial issue” exists with respect to the grounds on which the appeal [was] filed relative to the approved project's conformity to the policies and provision of the city's LCP.”
Given the relatively new status of the commission and its members, the appeal may be closely watched, if it is taken up by the coastal panel.
Another Malibu agenda item was also postponed when a consent cease and desist order and a consent restoration order were taken off the calendar.
The proposed order was for authorizing and ordering Eric and Barbara Linder to cease and desist from maintaining existing unpermitted development including removal of major vegetation, development within a deed-restricted area inconsistent with an existing coastal permit, retaining walls, side-cast material, landscaping planters and non-native plants within the deed-restricted 25-foot setback, wooden retaining structures, a path in violation with deed restrictions, stairs, irrigation, horse corral with altered flattened areas, fences and drainage devices.
The proposed consent order and restoration order also includes provisions for resolving claims for injunctive relief and civil liability for undertaking development in violation of the Coastal Act, according to a public notice.

Coastal Commission Rejects Permit Revocation Request

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The California Coastal Commission, with commissioner Richard Bloom-who is also a member of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission-recused, voted unanimously to deny a revocation request to revoke the permits for State Parks’ Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project.
The commission dismissed testimony provided by Wetlands Defense Fund representative Marcia Hanscom and Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network spokesperson Robert Roy van de Hoek
The commission concluded the hearing by affirming that there was no evidence to support the revocation request.
An attempt by State Parks attorney David Wiseman to seek financial damages to cover the cost of legal and staff fees was rejected by the commission. Commission staff explained that the panel does not have the authority to grant a request for financial reenumeration.
Grounds for revocation are entirely procedural, and include intentional inclusion of inaccurate, erroneous or incomplete information in connection to a coastal development application where the commission finds that accurate and complete information would have caused the commission to require additional or different conditions on a permit or deny an application.
The revocation request was based on a number of points, including assertions that the environmental impact report was certified by staff but was never approved by any deliberative body, assertions that a project general plan update was required but never sought.
Additional documents included in the revocation request included a series of emails between Urban Wildlands Group scientist Travis Longcore and commission biologist Jonna Engel regarding the presence of a population of South Coast meadow vole, a species of special concern, at the construction site.
According to the exchange, State Parks’ biologists failed to identify the tiny mammal during pre-construction surveys.
Two of the voles were reportedly killed during construction and subsequently IDed. An additional 50 voles were relocated, according to the documents.
The project has a special condition that specifies that State Parks “Initiate a salvage and relocation program prior to any excavation/maintenance activities to move sensitive species by hand to safe locations elsewhere along the project reach or,  as appropriate, implement a resource avoidance program with sufficient buffer areas to ensure adverse impacts to such resources are avoided.
“As I’m sure you know, relocating wildlife in this manner essentially lets people feel better about  not killing them directly, but in fact results in their eventual death,” Longcore wrote.
“We have reason to believe the  [vole] is still hanging on in the eastern meadow, on the eastern edge of Malibu Creek, where the state contractors are not yet working,” Hanscom told the Malibu Surfside News after the hearing.
“We are still hopeful we can convince [State Parks to not excavate.”

NPS Announces Name of New Superintendent for SMMNRA

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

David Szymanski has been selected as the new superintendent of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.  Szymanski will be replacing Woody Smeck, who recently transferred to Yosemite National Park after serving as the park's superintendent for ten years.
“David is an excellent leader, manager and supervisor,” said Pacific West
Regional Director Chris Lehnertz in a press release. “David excels in maintaining and developing sophisticated partnerships with all entities, which will be instrumental in continuing to shape the future of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.”
Szymanski has experience dealing with a patchwork park system. He currently serves as the superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, which consists of 1824 acres in Washington and 1421 acres in Oregon, with the two extremity sites a two-hour drive from each other. The SMMNRA is a 150,000 acre patchwork of state, federal and local public land intermixed with private property extending through Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
According to the press release, Szymanski has 19 years of experience working with communities, parks and protected areas, including 14 years with the National Park Service.  Szymanski has served at Everglades National Park,
Voyageurs National Park and as a Bevinetto Congressional Fellow, where he
spent a year working on the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks.  In the
1990s, Szymanski spent two years working in the newly established national
park system of Madagascar.
“I am very excited about working with our neighbors, partners and park staff in the Santa Monica Mountains,” Szymanski said. “I look forward to joining them in their mission to sustain the mountains and serve all residents of greater Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.”
Szymanski and his wife Elaine have two elementary school children who love
being active outdoors.  When time allows, he enjoys competing in masters cycling events. His duties as superintendent will begin in the fall of 2012.
The SMMNRA is described as the largest urban national park in the country. It is one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, and preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities.  FI:  www.nps.gov/samo