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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Residents’ ‘Town Hall’ Meeting Generates Numerous Park Swap Plan Questions

• Project Critics Say Landslide Review Published in 1992 Indicates Bluffs Property May Be a Liability Instead of an Asset

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

More than 70 Malibu residents participated in a meeting sponsored by Preserve Malibu to discuss the proposed Charmlee Wilderness Park-Bluffs Park swap proposal currently begin discussed by the city. The meeting began at 2:30 p.m. and lasted until almost 5 p.m., as speakers and residents discussed their concerns and questions regarding the proposed land deal.
“We’re here to look for solutions,” Preserve Malibu spokesperson J.Flora Katz said at the beginning of the meeting. She asked the audience to “stay respectful.”
The land swap proposal, initiated by Mayor Lou La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House, involves trading the City of malibu’s 532-acre Charmlee Wilderness Park in Encinal Canyon, for the 83-acre portion of Malibu Bluff's Park that is owned by the state and overseen by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/ Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority..
The City of Malibu acquired 10 acres adjacent to the Conservancy's Bluff's Park property from the county in 1998, which is developed as an urban park comprised of the Michael Landon Community Center, two playing fields that are used by AYSO and Malibu Little League, lawns, play equipment and picnic and whale watching areas.
La Monte and House state at the Jan. 14, city council meeting that they proposed the exchange to Conservancy Executive Director Joe Edmiston as a way of acquiring space for additional ball fields and a skate park. The Conservancy’s Bluffs Park property comprises an extensive area of protected environmentally sensitive habitat area, including a large canyon, which bisects the property, and an extensive landslide complex known as the Amarillo Beach landslide, but a portion of approximately 10 acres located in the far west corner of the property could potentially be used by the city for recreational purposes, according to the city staff report on the proposal.
Many speakers at the meeting on Sunday expressed concern that the first notice they received of the proposal came from the agenda for the Conservancy's Jan. 7 meeting, which appeared to indicate that the swap was  “a done deal.”
City Councilmember John Sibert was not at the meeting, but he sent an email to the organizers stating that the swap was not a done deal and that he supports a city-sponsored town hall meeting on the proposal.
Many in the audience were concerned about fire risk. Others expressed anger that the city council would even consider trading Charmlee for what was described as “junk land.”
Most speakers at the Preserve Malibu meeting questioned whether any portion of the bluffs property could be used for more than passive recreation; how much actual benefit the city would be receive from trading 532 acres for a maximum of 10 usable acres; and whether the state would be willing to indemnify the city for landslide liability for the approximately 16 slide zones on the site.
Longtime Malibu resident and Malibu Township Council officer Lucile Keller brought a copy of the 1992 report that identified the site's geologic hazards. 
A map released in 1990 by the Los Angeles County Safety Element placed the property a “generalized inventory of landslides,” and found that it was one of 15 major Malibu sites that “display[ed] a high propensity for landsliding.” The 1992 review of landslides conducted by Philip Williams & Associates and Peter Warshall & Associates confirmed the earlier LACSE findings. The geology at the Bluffs property is officially called the Amarillo Beach Landslides, according to the report.
“Out of 83 acres, only 7-10 are not ESHA,” John Mazza, who sits on the Malibu planning commission, told the audience.
Mazza, who stated that he had walked the site with fellow planning commissioner Mikke Pierson and former city councilmember Jefferson Wagner, said that he was concerned that the corner that was not ESHA was separated from the rest of the property by the canyon and several slide zones and is difficult to access. He indicated that the one potentially buildable area is not level and may require extensive grading and retaining walls to accommodate playing fields and parking.
“How hard will it be to develop?” asked Pierson. I'm not an engineer at all. I was caught off guard, a lot of earth would have to be moved, if [playing fields or a skate park] are to be considered.”
Wagner suggested that a better option for the city to acquire property for an additional urban park would be to seek a developer agreement for parcels in the Civic Center area that are expected to seek permits for projects in the near future. Wagner said that the housing development, which he called the Gold project, located next to the city's existing Bluffs Park property is slated to donate two acres to the city. Parking, a soccer field, a skate park, [the city] could start building in a year.” Wagner said. “We need to ask the council to reconsider.”
Wagner suggested that plans for the La Paz development could include a park for the city that would be sited on relatively flat land.
He also presented a “bitch list,” which concludes with the question: “what and where are the guarantees from the Coastal Commission to approve this city plan to develop this area for sport parks?”
Other suggestions included approaching Pepperdine University to discuss a joint use agreement and finding a way for the city to purchase the nine-acre Wave property located behind the library, which is currently listed at $12 million, according to Malibu West resident Brian Eamer.
Several members of the audience questioned the need for additional ballfields. They cited census results and a 2012 school district analysis that indicate that the population of Malibu is aging and the number of children declining, and the city's recent recreation survey results, which they said placed and senior facilities and passive recreation parks like Charmlee at the top of the list of city recreation needs.
“It’s a passionate issue,” activist Lynn Norton said, adding that ballfields were “16th or 17th in need” on the city's recreation assessment survey. “We don’t see any analysis. It’s infinite. There’s no supply or demand.”
Others said they were dismayed by plains that appeared in the Conservancy’s Jan. 7 staff report, for eight campsites at Charmlee and for additional camping outside city limits in Coral Canyon and other areas that was outlined in an interoffice memo written by Edmiston that was reported “leaked” to the public.
“We aren’t against camping, just do it in a place that is safe,” Corral resident Lori Jacobus told The News. “Corral is a box canyon. One cigarette could change everything.” Jacobus is active in the Corral Canyon Fire Safety Alliance, has started a petition at change.org opposing the plan. It had received 794 signatures by Tuesday.
 “My primary question is how is this a win for Malibu and the people of Malibu,” Lori Jacobus' husband Will Jacobus said at the meeting. Clearly it's not. Our rate of return is less than three percent. We can't use most of this land. It does not serve the immediate and longterm needs of coaches and kids. There is no winning perspective. Edmiston benefits 100 percent. It needs to be more than 100 to three.”
“Charmlee is 500 acres that we love,” one speaker said. “This is one more step into making this Beverly Hills.”
Preserve Malibu activist summed up the opinion of many at the meeting when she said “It's the most ridiculous deal ever. I don’t see why Charmlee is even on the table.”


•  Written Objections Have to Arrive by March 12 to Be Counted by Supervisors

BY ANNE SOBLE

The Los Angeles County Flood Control District is now accepting protests submitted by email from property owners who oppose the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure under consideration by the county Board of Supervisors in their capacity as directors of the FCD.
As proposed, the measure could raise $295 million a year for cities and unincorporated areas in L.A. County to use “to clean the region’s rivers, lakes and beaches, protect public health and safeguard local sources of drinking water.”
To be counted, protests must be received by the end of the public hearing period on March 12, and include the parcel’s site address, assessor’s parcel number, the name of the parcel owner, as well as the signature of the parcel owner or an authorized representative.
Owners may use the protest form provided at LACountyCleanWater.org or submit a letter and email it to WQFI.Info@dpw.lacounty.gov
Only scanned or photographed email protests with a handwritten signature will be accepted.
Protests also still can be sent by mail through the protest period to the Executive Officer of the Board of Supervisors, P.O. Box 866006, Los Angeles, CA 90086.
A ballot box for hand-delivered protests is located on the third floor of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple Street, Room 383.
According to a county media statement, if a protest has already been submitted by mail, or hand-delivered, there is no need to resubmit via email. Only one protest will be counted for each parcel.
For more information on the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure, visit LACountyClean Water.org or call 800-218-0018. Follow the measure on Twitter at @LACleanWater.

Council Members and City Attorney Respond to Growing Ranks Who See

Charmlee/Bluffs Deal as ‘Giveaway’
•  SM Mtns Conservancy Said to Agree to Extended Timeline

BY BILL KOENEKER

Fresh from a town hall meeting the day before (see story on page two), a cadre of activists questioning the Charmlee Wilderness Park land swap, what critics are beginning to call a “giveaway,” descended on council chambers Monday night this week to vent their frustrations to the Malibu City Council.
City Attorney Christi Hogin explained to members of the audience and the council that the item was not on the agenda and, while the Brown Act allowed the public to talk about the issue, the council was prohibited from doing so because the matter was not formally noticed.
The city attorney then went on to reveal the municipal staff had again spoken to Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy officials after the previous council meeting and had at least one of the council’s criteria agreed upon.
“I feel the frustration about being rushed. Part of the frustration is the Conservancy wanted an expedited discussion. You [the city council] said you could not live with that deadline. The SMMC said, ‘OK, we can wait a little longer.’”
The city attorney went on to say there has been no Brown Act violation by any of the council members. She said members did not talk about the land swap among themselves.
 “[The Brown Act] does not preclude ideas. It does not preclude Councilmember Joan House telling the mayor. It does not preclude the city manager as executive from [examining the matter.] It was literally on the first meeting in January. Yes, the Charmlee deed restriction has to be addressed. There are a lot of parties that have to weigh in. That’s how it works.”
Hogin went on to say that it is incorrect to believe camping has been stopped.
“It is wrong to think that if we don’t have the swap, there won’t be camping. The lawsuit we won did not preclude camping at Bluffs Park. Camping is already a created use,” she added.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she did go to the town hall meeting only to find out she and other council members were not invited.
“I did not understand why we were not invited. There was a lot of misinformation. The facts are the facts. We welcome people’s opinion. The city was accused of working behind closed doors, trying to rush things and of not having enough information. Which is it?” the council member asked. “We want to make an informed decision.”
Rosenthal explained that council members frequently get asked questions or are provided with ideas or suggestions. She gave an example.
“Many, many times we are asked about the mobile home parks. This happens all the time. People approach us and we go to the city attorney. I’m sorry if we don’t communicate that,” Rosenthal added.
Councilmember John Sibert, who said he really could not talk about it, noted he had said, “We don’t go fast. There will be plenty of public input. It was on the agenda. It is not a done deal. It involves not only the city council.”
Councilmember Joan House, who did not back down from public testimony that asserted the need for playing fields is number 16 on the city’s Master Plan for Parks and Recreation and the census numbers, which project far fewer children in the near future, insisted, “the swap is based on the need for active sports playing fields.”
House reminded everyone that the executive director of the SMMC, Joe Edmiston, has been favored for many of his actions.
“We all loved Joe for stopping Ahmanson Ranch. We loved Joe for stopping Soka,” House said. Developers don’t like him.”
House said at this point, “It is just an idea. So far it is only an opinion. I have seen nothing in writing.”
Critics told the council they did not see the need for playing fields based on the city’s own documents.
Malibu West resident Brian Eamer said there has been little shown to the public about the need for more fields.”
“There is nothing shown to the public about the aging population of the community,” Eamer said. The schools are not fully populated. There is no basis to go forward. Pepperdine is expanding, but has not been approached about joint use. What we are faced with is a gift of public funds,” he said.
Lucile Keller speaking on behalf of the Malibu Township Council said, “Joe [Edmiston] must have thought that all of the council was with them. The Census shows less children. The city’s Master Plan does not show playing fields [at the top]. There is this perception this is all being done in secret,” she said.
Steve Uhring, speaking on behalf of the Malibu Community Alliance, said the process has to be more transparent. “This has been jammed down us. There is no chance to talk about it. This is wrong. You are swapping an asset that belongs to the city. We need another town hall meeting,” he said.
Malibu Park resident Carla McCloskey said she did not think this is a land swap. “It is a giveaway. If I had a choice of camping at the Bluffs or Charmlee, I would choose the Bluffs. The difference is astronomical. Charmlee is such a jewel. Don’t stop the swap, stop the giveaway,” she said.
The initial offering that evolved out of a meeting between Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmember Joan House, who visited SMMC executive director Joe Edmiston, consists of the city handing over the title to 534 acres of Charmlee Wilderness Park to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in exchange for the state agency turning over the remaining 83 acres of Bluffs Park.
The Conservancy immediately made plans for over night camping at Charmlee much to the chagrin of residents who live around and below the park.

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Elects 2013 Officers to Steer the Course

• Chair Is Strong Advocate of Importance of Public Access to Outdoor Holdings for Healthy Families

BY ANNE SOBLE

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy announced the election last week of environmental activist Irma Muñoz, the board member appointed by the City of Los Angeles, as chair. Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks was elected vice chair. Both posts have one-year terms.
Muñoz is the founder and president of Mujeres de la Tierra‚ an environmental nonprofit whose goal is to “inspire and teach women and their children to take ownership and leadership of neighborhood issues and challenges.”
MDLT, translated as “Women of the Earth,” was started 10 years ago to aggressively tackle environmental issues facing Latino and other Los Angeles communities that thought they were disproportionately underserved in these areas.
Mujeres’ mission is “to support women and families interested in becoming active participants and decision makers in environmental issues impacting their neighborhoods [and] to create a network of trained community leaders to lead, speak and act with a collective and influential voice.”
Muñoz has served as chief of staff to a state legislator, worked in public relations, been a presidential appointee with the Clinton Administration for seven years at the Small Business Administration, and a member of the City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Commission.
Parks, noted for strong land preservation views, represents the second district on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. She previously served as a planning commissioner, city council member, and mayor for the City of Thousand Oaks.
She founded the Ventura County Discovery Center, and wrote T.O.’s first campaign reform law. 
As an open space advocate,  Supervisor Parks was a champion in the 16-year effort to preserve what is now Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, which was purchased by the SMMC in 2003.
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy itself was established by the state legislature in 1980. It is composed of nine voting members and three ex officio members.
The nine voting members represent local, state, and federal government, including the superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, a member appointed by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles, a public member appointed by the Governor, a public member appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, one public member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, a member appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a member appointed by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, the designee of the secretary of the Natural Resources Agency of California, and the Superintendent of the Angeles District of California State Parks.
The ex officio members include the supervisor of the Angeles National Forest and appointees of the California Coastal Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission.
A 26-member advisory committee, consisting of representatives of local jurisdictions, and members appointed by the governor, the senate rules committee, and the speaker of the assembly, advise the conservancy.
Since it was founded, the person at the helm of the SMMC has been Joseph Edmiston. As its executive director, Edmiston’s name has become synonymous with public acquisition and preservation of over 69,000 acres of parkland in wilderness and urban settings.
The SMMC’s stated mission is to “strategically buy back, preserve, protect, restore and enhance treasured pieces of Southern California to form an interlinking system of urban, rural and river parks, open space, trails, and wildlife habitats that are easily accessible to the general public.”

$14 Million in Traffic Grants to City

• Official Says Money ‘Will Go a Long Way’

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen announced Monday night that Malibu has received substantial grant funding for Pacific Coast Highway safety improvements.
“I have some good news. It is great news. The city will be receiving $14 million in [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] grants from Measure R. It will go a long way,” said Thorsen.
The city manager said $2.2 million is expected to be available for the city by July 2013 and the rest will be allocated over the next four years.
Thorsen indicated some of the funds will go for improvements that include bike lanes, for a left turn center lane at Big Rock and PCH, the Kanan-Dume ar-restor bed that will start construction, improvements for Civic Center Way, raised medians on portions of PCH, lane reconfiguration, and even a regional traffic messaging system.
Measure R was approved in November 2008 by a two-thirds majority of the Los Angeles County voters committing $40 billion to traffic and transportation upgrades in the county.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Is Malibu Communicating? •

BY ANNE SOBLE

We all have become such appendages of things electronic that it is easy to lose sight of the reality that the flow of information to each of us requires action on our part. We have to be turned on, plugged in, and a willing seeker or recipient of information if it is to reach us. A description of the news gathering process can be found as far back as the writings of Plato. One has to go out and look for news in order to find it.
How does a community respond to the occasional need for rapid widespread communication, such as this week’s law enforcement incident at Corral Canyon? Although there are numerous warning systems, such as those for tsunamis and avalanches, they are limited. No one means of transmission guarantees instantaneous saturation.
It may not be possible to transmit simultaneous customized messages until we are all individually hard-wired and can be interrupted by those with access to the information pathways of our brains and the ability to awaken us or otherwise redirect our thought processes.
I’m not ready or willing for anyone or anything to have that kind of power. While still allowing the retention of some semblance of individual thought self-control, sufficient simultaneous text-email-voicemail alert options are available when the public needs to be apprised of something out of the ordinary.
Malibu should and can afford to be in the forefront of these technological options. Because of the tremendous differences between some areas of the community—including population, access, climate, etc.—there is the need for centralized and localized community information relay.
Contact of the city manager and key officials, many of whom do not live in Malibu (an issue in its own right) is paramount, but there should be neighborhood contacts—Broad Beach is different from Corral Canyon is different from Big Rock. There is a need for there to be someone who knows each area well, and that person isn’t always the one at the top of the chain of command.
The email alert system now in use may have sufficed in the current episode, but how much of that was random chance? It is easy to forget there are circumstances under law enforcement agency scrutiny surrounding us all the time that we don’t know about, but that doesn’t negate the need to be able to get word out when public awareness is warranted.
There should be a formal public protocol. Who makes the decision to implement what? How few times a year might a city or county official have to respond to a law enforcement issue at two in the morning? Crises are not limited to traditional office hours, how do we ensure 24-7 coverage so there is a clear prioritization of public safety?
The Nixle community announcement this morning for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was that Chief Roberta Abner would be “Freezin’ for a Reason” and submerging in the chilly waters of Gangneung at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea this week.
If someone was believed still to be hiding in the brush in Corral Canyon trying to evade arrest, that would have been a better local news update for 90265 recipients. But, even so, they would have to take the initiative to check what was happening on the news front.
Issues of poor communication are often due more to perception than reality, but a clear communications protocol should preclude that. Who learns what when and is expected to act in which way means there is a prescribed information flow between all of the entities involved in a public crisis.
This may be one of the few instances when redundancy is cost-effective. There are assurances that alternatives will kick into gear if the first notice is not acknowledged. There always is an element of chance in everything in life, but the right communications protocol will improve the odds.

City Council Does Major Shake-Up of Municipal Commissions and Committees

• Some Members Had Held Posts for Many Years—Extent of Advance Notice about Changes Seemed to Vary

BY BILL KOENEKER

In one of the biggest shake-ups in municipal history on commissions and committees, the Malibu City Council took the first steps this week to disband some of the panels and terminate members when it agreed to a major overhaul at a special meeting of the council Tuesday night.
The council agreed to a plan disbanding the Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee, the Trails Master Plan Advisory Committee and the Economic Advisory Committee.
Even the Harry Barovsky Memorial Youth Commission did not remain unscathed as the council agreed to modify the membership of the youth panel.
The council’s Commission/ Committee Organization Ad Hoc Committee, comprised of Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmember John Sibert, had already given the nod to the shake-up.
Another upheaval calls for the Public Works Commission to combine functions with the Telecommunications Commission and remove panelists from both commissions, the existing Public Works Commission members and Telecommunications commissioners and direct the staff to bring back an item for each council member to appoint a commissioner to the new panel.
There were no fireworks in council chambers. Harold Greene, whose wife. Francine Greene, chairs NACRAC, said the matter came as no surprise to committee members. “Everything has been transparent for the last six months. This was not a surprise,” he said.
Greene said that some of the group would organize as a non-Brown Act project. “We can provide a stronger base. We can still be available as a volunteer consultant,” he added.
Ryan Embree, the chair of the Telecommunications Commission said he did not have the same experience. “I was not notified. We were not consulted. I suggest you put this off. It should be done at a regular meeting. A lot of commissioners do not know about this.”
“Why wasn’t this done at the regular meeting Monday night? This could be labeled as doing something sneaky. It looks unusual. The city attorney is not here,” Embree added.
The Public Works Commission makes recommendations concerning capital projects, including roads, solid waste, transportation, congestion management, stormwater management, landslide abatement, public utilities and other public works services.
The council also agreed to restructure the Wastewater Advisory Committee by removing the current members of the committee and modifying the number of members on the panel and means of appointment. Currently, the 10 members are each appointed by the council at large.
Staff will bring back an item for each council member to make an appointment to the restructured panel. Norm Haynie, the chair of the wastewater panel, agreed that a five-member panel would not be a problem.
The council agreed to reduce the members of what is called WACO from 10 to five members with one appointment by each council member. The committee makes recommendations concerning wastewater management, treatment and disposal.
The ad hoc committee recommended the Economic Advisory Committee be disbanded. The committee was appointed on April 6, 2000, to assist city staff in developing recommendations in the development of an Economic Element to the Malibu General Plan.
On Oct, 27, 2010, the city council considered dissolving the committee. The council directed staff to bring back an item to reestablish the committee and redetermine its goals and workload. The ad hoc committee, according to a staff report, considered the utility of this committee and concluded it was time to disband it.
Another committee given the ax is the Trails Master Plan Advisory Committee, which oversaw creation of the Trails Plan. The council adopted the updated Parkland and Trails system map on April 25, 2011 and placed the committee on hold to assist staff on an as-needed basis while the California Coastal Commission reviewed the map, according to a staff report.
Subsequently, staff received comments from the CCC and worked with the committee to address the coastal panel’s request. The committee has assisted with the questions raised by the state agency. Having completed its purpose, the ad hoc committee concluded it was time to disband the committee.
NACRAC, the Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee makes recommendations concerning Native American Cultural Resources, heritage, preservation and education programs.
“Planning staff advised the ad hoc committee that it could meet the objectives of the Local Coastal Program and the zoning ordinance by relying on experts within the staff Environmental Review Board,” the staff report stated.
“At this point, the ad hoc committee concluded that these purposes can be more effectively and efficiently achieved by staff efforts and consultation and experts. The ad hoc committee recommended disbanding the advisory committee,” the report further stated.
The Architects and Engineers Technical Advisory Committee serves as a technical advisory committee to the planning director to review, comment and make recommendations on proposed revisions to the General Plan, zoning ordinance, LCP and the development process. The committee last met in 2009 and the ad hoc panel recommended disbanding it.
The Harry Barovsky Memorial Youth Commission makes recommendations concerning city programs and projects targeted to serve young people.
The city council has modified the membership several times over the years. The city wants to encourage participation, but at the same time wants a manageable commission that is able to function, according to the staff report.
The council agreed to create a five-member executive board comprised from current commissioners to serve a one-year term. The members of the executive board are to be selected by the commission as a whole.
The remaining 11 members will participate in discussions and provide recommendations to the executive board. The executive board would have final approval of all actions by majority vote.
The council also agreed to establish a council policy limiting an individual’s service to one commission, committee or board at a time.

Subcommittee Reviews Report on the Completion of Malibu City Hall

• Administration and Finance Picture Is Complicated One

BY BILL KOENEKER

The city’s Administration and Finance Subcommittee comprised of Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmember John Sibert met on Monday this week to discuss the completion of Malibu City Hall improvements.
The city acquired the building in 2009 at a price of $15 million and proceeded to use what are called certificates of participation, or COPs, to purchase the property and make improvements.
Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, in her staff report, indicated that during the course of construction many deferred maintenance items with the building were discovered that were unknown at the time of the approval of the construction contract.
“Items included the replacement of the main sewer line, the need to replace the electrical conduit in the theater, the addition of electrical safety switches, the addition of fire-rated ceilings in the theater, the removal of vines and the panting of the exterior of the building,” wrote Feldman in her staff report.
The city took occupancy in May 2011, with additional expenditures necessary in order for the building to operate as a city hall, according to the assistant city manager.
The final project cost is $6.2 million, which includes $580,000 in unanticipated costs. There is another $170,000 of additional items that need to be completed.
Of the $7.4 million appropriated, the amount spent is $6.2 million, leaving a balance of $1.2 million.
Feldman is recommending that $384,751 be applied to debt service for City Hall; another $634,698 kept in the undesignated general fund; $170,214 be used to complete additional items of repair; while keeping an another $18,000 in the undesignated general fund.
The price tag for ongoing maintenance of City Hall is                                                               $50,000 per year for custodial, $3000 a year for elevator maintenance, $5000 a year for generator maintenance and propane, $25,000 a year for HVAC maintenance, $6000 a year for landscaping maintenance and $5000 a year for onsite wastewater maintenance, according to Feldman.                                  
The financing was complicated. The city authorized the issuance of $22 million of COPs that provided $15 million for the acquisition.
“Due to the timing of the 2009 COPs issuance, the payment for the acquisition and the combined public and private uses of the building, the city deposited funds into escrow, including $1.7 million from the City Hall designated reserve. The city received a reimbursement of $15 million when the COPs were sold and the $1.7 million from the City Hall Designated Reserve was deposited into a construction fund with Deutsche Bank, the city’s trustee, for improvement to the building,” wrote the assistant city manager.
At the same time, the city entered into a contract with LPA, Inc on August 2009 for the design of the improvements of City Hall and appropriated general funds for the design of the project.
The total general fund appropriation for the agreement with LPA, Inc including a subsequent amendment was $640.415.
By February 2010, the city authorized the issuance of $7 million of COPs that provided $5 million in proceeds for improvements to City Hall.
The $5 million was deposited into the construction fund with the Deutsche Bank, the trustee for improvements to the building bringing the total of the construction fund to $6.7 million “when combined with the General Fund contribution of $640,415, the total project was $7.4 million.”

Lighting Expert Slated to Air Dark Sky Issues at Meeting

• Engineer and Designer to Tell Planning n Panel about Model Lighting Ordinance

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission has agreed to hear a presentation on night lighting from lighting expert Jim Benya at its meeting on Tuesday, February 4 at the end of the session.
Benya is a professional engineer and lighting designer and was one of the authors of the International Dark Sky Association/Illuminating Engineering Society Model Lighting Ordinance.
Benya is scheduled to speak on what other cities have done to address night lighting, as well as components of the model ordinance, according to the city’s public notice.
Benya has been a lighting designer for 39 years with experience in architectural lighting design, including daylighting, theatrical and performance lighting, urban streetscapes, light as art, zero net energy and building design, according to his biography.
He is the author of two books, “Lighting Design Basics” and “Retrofitting and Relighting.”
At a recent UC Davis conference, Benya spoke about the latest research in circadian science and implications for the growing field of sustainable design.
Benya agreed that the preservation of the night and of the day is very important to the maintenance of human health and well-being. An increasing lack of daylight during daytime hours and the growing prevalence of blue-rich light at night from glowing screens and other sources disrupts metabolic function, immune response, cognitive performance, even genetic expression, according to the experts.
Benya and others maintain the monetary and human costs of circadian desynchronization from lowered productivity and increased workplace accidents caused by fatigue can be linked to depressed melatonin levels and increased cancer risk.
Benya and his colleagues see this as a growing industry for his field, noting that lighting designers can be equipped with a body of research in photobiology that poses both challenges and opportunities to go beyond aesthetics and use their skills to enhance human health and function.
The possibilities, according to Benya and others, range from the simple to the technologically advanced, such as lowering wayfinding lights (so as to avoid exciting certain cells in the eyes that cue wakefulness) to creating dynamic fenestration technologies that integrate daylighting with electrical lighting, automatically adjusting brightness and color balance in harmony with circadian fluctuations.
The applications vary from helping patients reduce hospital stays to optimizing student learning to minimizing the photobiological impact of outdoor lighting to help restore ecosystems.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Initial Meetings about Controversial City Land Swap Raise Questions

• Municipal Officials Apparently Do Not Recall Session Reportedly Held at Malibu City Hall

BY BILL KOENEKER

An email written by Joe Edmiston, the executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, on the details of the negotiations between conservancy officials and Malibu municipal officials over a parkland exchange is viewed by critics of the swap as somewhat of a smoking gun.
“Yes, it is a copy of the email,” Edmiston emailed to the Malibu Surfside News, confirming he wrote the email.
It appears that what Edmiston’s email states about the initial meetings between himself and city officials is different than what critics say they heard at the last city council meeting from council members.
The email has been repeated in various private party email threads where it is being referred to as “the cart before the horse.”
The subject heading metaphor is a reference to Edmiston’s recollection of two initial meetings where two council members met and then a subsequent meeting at City Hall where the staffs of the SMMC and MRCA met with municipal management long before the matter reached the full council for deliberations.
“Mayor [Lou] La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem [Joan] House asked to meet with me at my office, which we did,” Edmiston emailed The News, confirming the first part of his oft-shared email.
Both La Monte and House told a nearly full house at council chambers last week that is just what they did. “It was not Joe’s idea, it was mine,” said House. “I told the mayor.”
Edmiston’s original email goes on to assert, “By the end of the meeting, we had the framework for a comprehensive solution to many of the issues between Malibu and the SMMC.”
Last week, House was quick to point out to the public that apparently Joe had gotten ahead of himself and the city with that statement.
But what appears to be a completely different recollection than that of the two council members is what Edmiston wrote next in his original email, “Yesterday [Thursday, Dec. 20] our full legal team (Attorney General plus our two outside counsel firms and Mountain Recreation Conservation Authority staff counsel) and that of the city plus the city manager met for two and half hours to hammer out the details. I am happy to report that this meeting was successful.”
In Edmiston’s email to The News, he recalled, “The subsequent meeting was held at City Hall.”
The public heard nothing of this meeting from city officials last week, though privately there was already talk from critics about how the staff could have moved so quickly or at all if no decisions had been made by more than two council members.
Former Mayor Walt Keller, one of the founding city council members of the city, in a letter to the editor asks, “Why was this [subsequent] meeting not mentioned or discussed in the agenda report, and when was the city manager  and staff (presumably the city attorney) attendance at this meeting authorized by the city council?”
Keller goes on to say that two and half hours represent considerable city staff time and expense and that city policy and state law require direction to staff to be authorized by at least three council members.
Because of the state’s Brown Act law, cities, county and state officials must decide in open deliberations and in an open forum about the direction of their policies and decisions, except in a limited number of circumstances such as personnel and litigation.
City officials have taken pains to insist that only La Monte and House were with Edmiston when the city’s idea for a land swap was first offered and that they were the only ones to know.
The other three council members took even greater pains to deny they knew anything about the land swap, except what they read in the press, and had not discussed the matter among themselves, despite the Malibu City Hall session.

Regional H2O Quality Control Board and Stakeholders Respond to City Sewer Report


• Number of Unknowns Increases as Additional Factors that May Impact Project Results Are Identified

The Regional Water Quality Control Board indicated last week its review and public comments from environmental groups, homeowners and the public about the City of Malibu’s reports on recycled water use and storage, the results of phase one work on the disposal of wastewater by injection well and the conceptual groundwater injection plan are available for review.
“The Regional Board staff has performed a detailed review on all three reports. The recycled water study has identified the existing and potential wastewater reuses and possible storage alternatives,” a RWQCB letter to the city states.
“The well test report has provided additional hydrogeological information in the Malibu Civic Center area. And the conceptual plan has modeled the hydrogeological responses to estimate the possible groundwater storage capacity by using the well test results,” the letter goes on to state.
“The information contained in the conceptual reports is sufficient for initial evaluation. The city also demonstrated its intent in continuing to achieve toward the goal of constructing a centralized wastewater treatment plant,” the RWQCB letter continued.
Those RWQCB comments are accompanied by pages of requests for clarifications that should be addressed by Malibu officials in the final reports.
However, Heal the Bay and The Waterkeeper and several Malibu residents recommended the water board reject the conceptual plans until much further study has been done.
Groundwater injection for wastewater disposal has become the preferred method, encouraged by the water boards, when the city began its 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 tests were to determine if up to 500,000 gallons of effluent can be injected on a daily basis. The current number used today is 347,000 gallons per day.
Heal the Bay has urged the water board to reject the city’s injection plan technical memo. They assert that groundwater injection is not a viable option until the unknown impacts to Malibu Lagoon are known.
“The plan lacks the necessary details to support [the city’s] conclusion. We are concerned that the injection plan as written does not adequately address potential impacts the project may have on the soon-to-be restored Malibu Lagoon,” the Heal the Bay letter states.
Three exploratory test wells were installed to bedrock. Pumping tests were conducted to each of the wells to measure local aquifer hydraulic properties. If the tests show that the Civic Center gravels are reasonably transmissive, more in-depth investigative work may be conducted.
Heal the Bay’s comments note that the injection plan memo states that about 20 percent of the injected water is predicted to travel through the groundwater flow system and ultimately discharge to Malibu Lagoon if all three phases of the septic prohibition are implemented.
“This is of particular concern because the anticipated quality of the effluent to be injected will be high in nutrients.”
  Another concern of the enviro groups is the lack of information about seismic impacts to existing groundwater aquifers and beneficial uses within these aquifers.
 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.
“One important consideration in assessing the feasibility of groundwater injection into an area is the seismic and potential geohazards in the vicinity of the injection project. The injection plan technical memo should therefore analyze the impact of a potential seismic event on the city’s plans to inject groundwater near the Civic Center. The plan should evaluate the possibility of the injection of water to aggravate the earthquake fault. The plan should include a desktop analysis to identify and assess potential significant earthquake-induced ground shaking or fault rupture risks and the associated consequences to other Civic Center areas that could either impact or result from the wastewater injection into the geologic formations underlying Malibu. Could [it[ lead to increased potential for soil liquefaction, which could impact structures in the Civic Center area?” wrote Heal the Bay’s environmental engineer W. Susie Santilena.
It is the same theme hammered on by Malibu activist Hans Laetz, who said there was too scant information in the city’s report  to inform the city or the water board.
Malibu Road attorney Joan Lavine, who is doing battle in the courtroom with the water board over the legality of the septic ban. notes that she and other homeowners have the deeded rights to the underground water, mineral, oil and gas rights.
 “Interference with those rights is subject to ‘takings’ and compensation by the governmental entities engaged in the interference under [state] law,” she wrote.
The reports by the city are in response to the Memo of Understanding entered into by Malibu and the water boards regarding  phased implementation in the Malibu Civic Center.
In the MOU, the city agreed to achieve several milestones including submitting the reports to the Regional Board for comment on the several studies the board currently has under review.
The city is expected to address the technical comments discussed by March 18, 2013.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Council Agrees to Explore Plan to Swap Charmlee for 83 Acres at Bluffs Park

• ‘Clean Swap’ Proposed by SMMC Executive Director Changes as Conditions Are Added to Proposal

BY BILL KOENEKER

Despite pleas from residents and others to kill it, the Malibu City Council on Monday night this week unanimously agreed to explore going forward with a proposed land swap that would give the city 83 acres of Bluffs Park in exchange for giving the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy 534 acres of Charmlee Wilderness Park.
Council chambers were filled by proponents and opponents of the land swap, who urged the council to take action one way or the other.
In a broad outline dictated by questions from City Attorney Christi Hogin, who said she wanted to know how the council wanted to proceed with the current negotiations, Hogin quizzed the council, after they had heard from the public, about what members wanted included in negotiations and what they did not want.
When the questioning was finished, the council voted on an outline that called for making the swap, but with provisos.
Prompted by Mayor Lou La Monte, the council agreed to some preliminary geotechnical and geology studies to see if more ball fields at Bluffs Park are feasible. La Monte said if the city council could not put ball fields on the Bluffs, “I would walk away.”
All the council members agreed that they should not be rushed into any decisions. The Conservancy wanted action by the end of this month.
Council members agreed to include a Ramirez Canyon settlement in the talks and by prompting from Councilmember Laura Rosenthal agreed to include attempts to resolve disputes in Escondido and Corral canyons.
The city attorney noted that the “clean swap” was a now more complicated deal and there were no guarantees the Conservancy would go for the city's many other points.
Hogin told council members since the Conservancy had already shown such a high propensity for overnight camping in Charmlee Park, it would probably be a non starter to enter discussion with the SMMC after an attempt to put further restrictions on overnight camping.
“The only way to prevent camping in Charmlee is to own it,” said the city attorney. “We know the Conservancy wants camping.”
The flip side of that if there is no trade, according to the mayor, is that the SMMC could continue to pursue building campsites on the Bluffs.
The upside being if the city owned the Bluffs land they could control what happens at the Bluffs and prohibit camping.
“We do need more information,” said Councilmember John Sibert.
Councilmember Joan House said it was her idea to offer a land swap to the Conservancy and its executive director Joe Edmiston. “It was not Joe’s idea. I went up to the mayor and said, ‘What do you think of a land swap?’ I gave the mayor all my reasons. There is no conspiracy. It was not initiated by Joe. Where did I get this idea?” said House.
She explained it was a need for sports fields in parks that got her to thinking about it. She said Malibu’s newest parks for the most part are, in effect, passive parks and offer little in the way for organized sports.
She cited Legacy Park, Las Flores Park, Trancas Park, which has a ball field, but does not allow league play and Charmlee Park, which is not suitable for ball fields, as all passive parks.
“How can we do it [acquire more parkland with ball fields for active recreation]? I was thinking of just a swap. Joe kind of maybe is working overtime. We did not know where it would go. Tonight, all we need is three votes to work on the details. There are not backroom deals.” House said.
La Monte, also recalling the early days of the discussions, said House mentioned the idea to him. “We talked briefly. There was no deal. No nothing. We sat down and said we were thinking of this. All the details since then are from Joe. He was asking for a special meeting. This meeting this evening is just that,” the mayor recalled.
“There is no done deal. If I did not live in Malibu, I would be insulted by how [the audience] talks to us. But that's how you roll,” La Monte added.
Sibert said he had not discussed the matter beforehand. “We have not discussed this until tonight. There is no backroom deal,” he said.
Sibert said he agrees there is a need for more ball fields. “The Conservancy has done a pretty good job of putting in parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains. If we did a trade we are not closing down Charmlee. There is not going to be development. We should slowly, carefully get plenty of input. However, I do support moving foreword and putting conditions on it.”
Councilmember Skylar Peak said Charmlee is “one of our best assets. I also think that it is important to have fields for sports. We can entertain this idea,” he said.
Rosenthal wanted to know how many campsites were proposed for Bluffs Park, what role camping and fire play in wildfires in Malibu and if Charmlee could be deed restricted to stop overnight camping if the city traded the land.
She said she thought it was ironic that a previous council allowed camping in the General Plan. “We wouldn't be dealing with this,” she added. “We don't need to take two or three years. We need fields now. But make sure we don't give away the farm.”
There was a wide spectrum of opinion from the public. Frank Rich, who heads the docent program at Charmlee, said he did not know if his docent group could work with the Conservancy. “We believe this trade threatens our program. There is a reluctance working with the SMMC.”
Both activist Hans Laetz and planning commissioner John Mazza issued caution in rushing the issue through the process.
Former Mayor Walt Keller, considered one of the founding members of the city, said “Charmlee was the first rite of the city. I hope you don’t go down in history as giving away the park,” he said. Keller also talked about the increased fire danger. So did wife, Lucile.
Activist Susan Tellem said it was like a train that had jumped out of control. She said the entire matter may be political since a former council member lives directly below the Bluffs Park.
She said that since those council members were helped by her political expertise during the council election, the action taken might be considered a payback for her helping during the election. “This might be different than we thought. Joe is no friend of Malibu,” Tellem said.
Parents also showed up, some with youngsters in tow, to tell the council more sports fields are needed.

EPA Workshop Discusses Complex Criteria for Malibu Watershed TDML Requirements

•  The Public Has Until Jan. 22 Deadline to Submit Written Comments Addressing Issues in the Draft Document

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

On Jan. 14, the United States Environmental Protection Agency held a public workshop to describe the draft Total Daily Maximum Load requirement, or TDMLs, for the Malibu Creek watershed. The purpose of the workshop was “to give information and provide an opportunity for the public to get clarification on the proposed TMDLs currently out for public comment.” The event was not a public hearing and testimony was not recorded, according to the EPA staff report.
The opportunity to ask questions was welcomed by water quality activists, who have indicated that the massive draft document, which compiles numerous water quality studies and makes the case for more stringent water quality criteria, is challenging to wade through.
However, the  time and location—3 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles—made the event a challenge for Malibu residents to attend.
Determining the TMDLs is a complex process that involves assessment of toxicity, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, algae, sediment, and other related constituents-natural and industrial-that impact water quality.
“The United States Environmental Protection Agency  Region IX is establishing TMDLs for Malibu Creek and Lagoon in the Los Angeles Region,” the draft document begins. “USEPA
was assisted in this effort by the Los Angeles Water Quality Control Board.
“A variety of water quality impairments have been identified in the watershed. This report specifically addresses the impaired benthic biota in the Malibu Creek main stem and Malibu Lagoon, while discussing conditions throughout the watershed that may impact these impairments. The remainder of this section presents the regulatory background, a description of the elements of a TMDL, and a brief discussion of the physical setting.”
According to the draft document, “the Malibu Lagoon was originally included in the 1998 listing for benthic community effects impairment. According to California State Water Resources Board, Los Angeles Region (Personal Comm. LB Nye, Aug. 9, 2012), the basis of the impairment listing for benthic community impacts in Malibu Lagoon was due to one of the few documented survey of the benthic community, in Chapter 6 of “Enhanced Environmental Monitoring Program at Malibu Lagoon and Malibu Creek” (Ambrose et al., 1995). This discussion provides a summary of the benthic invertebrate results and analyses provided in the report; the sampling method and other details are not provided in this TMDL, and instead further interest should be directed to the Chapter 6 of the report itself.
A total of three different invertebrate groups were surveyed in the 1993-1994 sampling effort, including zooplankton (small floating species in the water), infauna (species living in the Lagoon sediment), and large invertebrates (e.g.,shrimp,crabs).
According to the draft report, “The observations and results of the 1993-1994 sampling effort for benthic invertebrates suggest that Malibu Lagoon ranks ‘poorly at this trophic level when compared to less disturbed southern California estuaries.’”
The controversial State Parks’ Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project appears to be a key part of the TDML finding, according to the report: “Supporting information for the 2010 integrated report against delisting this listing for Malibu Lagoon stated that readily available data and information, and weight of evidence, conclude there is ‘sufficient justification against removing this water segment-pollutant combination from the section 303(d) list.’”
The report states that “this conclusion is based on the staff findings that: The Malibu Lagoon Restoration Feasibility Study Final Alternatives Analysis describes restoration measures for Malibu Lagoon.”
“These proposed restoration efforts, if fully implemented, are anticipated to correct the conditions, which allow the negative indicator species to thrive.
The Regional Board “decided against moving the benthic community effects listing in Malibu Lagoon from the TMDL required portion of the 303(d) list to the [sic] being addressed by action other than TMDL portion of the 303(d) list.”
The source of impairment is indicated as “hydromodification.”
“Comprehensive evaluation of the available data confirm impairments for benthic macroinvertebrates and benthic community effects in Malibu Creek and Malibu Lagoon, respectively,” the draft states.
“The sedimentation listing in Malibu Creek is confirmed by both the turbidity data analyses in which results were an order of magnitude above reference sites as well as the calculated 38 percent change in sedimentation rate from natural conditions.
“Multiple stressors were evaluated related to these impairments. The key stressors impacting the biota (both directly and indirectly) are sedimentation and nutrient loading. In addition, nutrient data from the last 10 years suggest that the nutrient concentration numeric limits from the 2003 TMDL are not quite stringent enough to attain beneficial uses and that new targets should be set year-round and reduced to address the benthic-macroinvertebrate and benthic community effects impairments in Malibu Creek and Lagoon, respectively.
Other portions of the massive document include discussions of Tapia winter discharges that increase nitrate levels; the impact of anthropogenic pollution, including illegal dumping, pesticides and herbicides; issues like unstable banks; sedimentation; ammonia concentrations; algae that forms during the summer months, and naturally generated nutrients from the Modelo formation, which leaches nitrates and phosphates into the watershed.
“Malibu Creek watershed has unique geology with many areas of marine sediments with the Modelo formation,” the report states. 
“For nitrate-N, median concentrations at potential reference sites without significant anthropogenic disturbance appear to be less than 0.03 mg/L and mostly less than 0.01 mg/L for many sites both in and outside the Modelo formation…”
Malibu water quality activists have recently begun calling for naturally occurring bacteria and nutrients to be taken into account in the equation used to determine TMDL.
 They argue that  zero-level bacteria is an unachievable goal and that nutrients and bacteria from birds, kelp wrack and other natural sources is an integral part of the ecosystem that cannot and should not be eliminated.
The entire draft document for the EPA’s TMDL  requirements for the Malibu Creek watershed is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/tmdl/pdf/EpaMalibuCrkLagoonTMDL2012-12-12MainReport.pdf
The deadline for public comments is Jan. 22, at or before 5 p.m. Comments should be addressed to Cindy Lin at lin.cindy@epa.gov

Council Member Is Implicated in Solo Car Hit and Run Incident

BY BILL KOENEKER

The big issue of a city land swap with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the tumult surfacing at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s station over an alleged sex scandal at the top (see separate stories) seems to have helped Malibu Councilmember Skylar Peak weather another apparent brush with the law.
Peak appeared calm and relaxed at his first public appearance at a city council meeting Monday night and made no attempt to address the issue.
His comments and deliberations on the issues this week were cogent and on point in contrast to his first public appearance in the aftermath of an earlier incident.
 At that previous council meeting rebuke was swift at the council dais where he was denied the Mayor pro tem position and attacked by an unfriendly public. His public demeanor that night was unsteady and his comments were filled with non-sequiturs.
After this week’s meeting, Peak was asked to comment on allegations of a hit and run accident on Christmas Day morning on Pacific Coast Highway, involving alleged damage to reflective paddles installed in the center divider, and later the discovery of his parked truck a short distance away.
In contrast to his “confession-like” interviews with the media in the aftermath of the Point Dume Village allegations, which were ultimately dropped by authorities, Peak has been resolute in not talking this time.
Repeated queries have been turned down by the freshman council member. “No comment” has been his standard reply.
He has referred media queries to his attorney, who has talked to reporters with standard answers saying that nothing can be shared until a full investigation is concluded.

Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Captain Investigated

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Captain Joseph Stephen, the commander of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, and two other Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials, are currently under investigation on allegations of sexual misconduct that were levied by a female deputy.
The deputy, whose name is being withheld due to the nature of the allegations, is scheduled to appear in San Bernardino Superior Court in February on unrelated felony charges that include vandalism and battery.
Lt. Matthew Squire will temporarily replace Stephen as captain of the station, Squire confirmed on Friday.
Stephen’s status has not been publicly clarified. However he reportedly turned in his company car on Monday. All inquiries receive the same response: the matter is under investigation.
Stephen assumed command of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, which provides law enforcement services for Malibu, Agoura Hills, and Calabasas, in 2010.
He replaced former station captain Tom Martin, who was promoted and transferred to the LASD’s Monterey Park after a six-year stint at the station.
Stephen is described as a 30-year veteran of the LASD. Prior to serving at Lost Hills, Stephen was assigned as a deputy sheriff at the Marina Del Rey Station, where he was a field training officer, detective, watch deputy and community affairs deputy, according to his biography  on the LASD website.
In 2000, Stephen was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was assigned to the Century and Compton stations. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2005, and to captain by Sheriff Lee Baca in March of 2010, prior to assuming command of the Lost Hills Station.
Stephen has denied that he was involved in any misconduct, but declined to make any additional statement.
“I can’t make any comments at this time,” he told the Malibu Surfside News on Tuesday.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Power, Sex and Violence •

BY ANNE SOBLE

If Malibuites aren’t more discerning, or at least more discreet, the talk of the town is beginning to sound more like seemingly improbable, if not moderately tawdry, episodes of a reality show exploiting the name of the community in a desperate bid for an uncritical audience that has no idea what Malibu is really like.
Ironically, the individual transferred to the Lost Hills Station by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in March 2010 to try to calm roiled waters related to the nearly year-long disappearance of a young woman who was last seen in the area is now in the middle of his own miasma involving the same concerns about power, sex and violence that might have been factors in that woman’s death.
In doing so, the LASD exhibited the subtlety of dropping a quarter-ton anvil from a rooftop as the new commander was viewed by many as a pleasant albeit less-than prepared administrative official who many feared was chosen as much for his ethnicity as his professional credentials. Even an African-American who might have otherwise lauded the promotion was heard to ask aloud whether “this wasn’t about his being a brother, but his being an Uncle Tom.”
The 30-year veteran with family ties to the sheriff’s department replaced a commander who was promoted despite the fact, or possibly because of the fact, his veracity was subject to challenge. That the new station captain would also soon be subject to the same challenges about accuracy and openness was cause for dismay by those in the community who want local law enforcement to be beyond reproach.
One of our first journalistic concerns was that this new official downplayed misogyny and racism aspects of a pornographic mural related to the missing woman. The Lost Hills captain did not perceive that the concept of hate crimes could be applied to women, especially women of color. 
Any organization as large as the LASD is going to reflect social concerns, including sexism, racism, domestic violence, promiscuity, substance abuse and other issues. No one expects law enforcement personnel to be paragons of virtue, but when individuals are given power in the form of badges and are armed with weapons, society has the right to expect greater levels of self-control and personal ethics.
Reason and fairness should be expected to prevail in this case if the matter stays in the court system. The greater likelihood is quiet settlements will be negotiated and the matters will fade away. Still, the rumor mills are churning. It now appears that there are new allegations involving the LASD’s favorite haunt for “professional” events—Las Vegas—as it seems that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
The LASD creed states that its core values are: “As a leader in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, I commit myself to honorably perform my duties with respect for the dignity of all people, integrity to do right and fight wrongs, wisdom to apply common sense and fairness in all I do and courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry in all its forms.”
Citizens have the right to expect that these values will dictate LASD behavior, and the men and women who sign on should be held accountable.

City Council Given Update on Trancas Country Market Remodeling

• Shopping Complex’s Night Lighting Request Pulled from Planning Commission Meeting Agenda

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu West activist Cindy Vandor came to council chambers at the regular meeting of the Malibu City Council Monday night to complain about the lack of safety features incorporated into the Trancas Country Market shopping center.
“The shopping center is still 50 percent short on parking. The plan was approved without knowing how much retail is coming in. An exit road is needed. We don’t know about the bus turnarounds. We were told they would be given beepers. There is no deceleration lane on Pacific Coast Highway. There is no right hand turn. Caltrans killed that plan.” she said.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski was asked to report to the council on the shopping center’s remodeling project.
She said the shopping center is parked to code, plus an additional 36 spaces beyond code.
The bus turnaround is planned in the employee parking lot, which is gated, so there is still an issue about bus drivers gaining access.
An evacuation route was planned between the applicant, who offered a dedicated easement and the HOA, but that there has been some discussion about the language used in the agreement between the HOA and the shopping center owner.
The planning director was asked what was the current estimate for a completion date and said six months.
Activist Hans Laetz said his settlement agreement with the center’s owners contains a contract for a right hand turn lane. “They submitted the plan to Caltrans and was told there are 12 deficiencies in the plan. I have no indication they are acting in bad faith. I sure wish the City of Malibu would look at this. The owners thought the right hand turn is in their best interests,” he said.          
The on again, off again Malibu Planning Commission hearing for nightlights at the Trancas Country Market is off again for a Tuesday, Jan. 22, hearing date, according to the city’s public notice.
The staff recommendation is to remove the item from the agenda, “which is at the request of the applicant. The item will be rescheduled for a public hearing at a later date.”
The request also seeks changes to the landscape plan, the native trees plan and the master sign program.
The matter was originally scheduled for an Oct. 1 hearing, but was postponed after the applicant wanted to meet with neighbors, who were beginning to raise concerns about what the developer wanted to do.
The staff recommendation for a scheduled meeting last month was to continue the public hearing to a date uncertain by pulling it off the calendar.
It was then put back on the agenda for the Jan. 22 hearing.
The original request for the shopping center, which is currently under construction, included changes to the previously approved lighting plan to allow the addition of 43 pole mounted lights that vary in height from 12 to 20 feet located throughout the parking lot and pedestrian areas, as well as other site lighting and building mounted lighting.
However, the current agenda notice and the previous one does not stipulate how many light poles are sought, but indicates an amendment “for proposed changes to the conditions of approval, including changes to the previously approved lighting plan, which includes the addition of pole mounted lights that vary in height from 12 to 16 feet located throughout the parking lot and pedestrian areas, as well as other site lighting and building mounted lighting.”          
This is the second set of changes or amendments to the coastal permit that have been requested.
Night lighting has become an issue, especially in Malibu Park, because of lights approved for the high school sports fields and a new proposed parking lot.
The planning commission turned down night lighting for the planned 150-car high school parking lot.
Last week, the planning commission approved a request by Trancas Starbucks Coffee for a Conditional Use Permit to allow for a 441-square-foot expansion and operation of the existing coffee shop located in the shopping center.
According to the planning department, the applicant successfully sought a permit to remodel and expand the coffee shop tenant space by removing the wall that separates it from an adjoining 441-square-foot storefront that is currently occupied by a surf shop.
Once the project is completed, the total area dedicated to Starbucks will be 1545 square feet, according to a city planner.

King Tide Reveals Scientific Semantics and Seldom Seen Sea Sights

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

King tides have been in the news lately, as some of the highest tides of the year arrived last week. The term, which originated in Australia and New Zealand, only recently made its way into California vernacular.
In Australia, the king tide originally referred to the single highest daytime tide of the year that frequently coincides with the weeks around Christmas. In the U.S. the term appears to be synonymous with all of the highest spring tides.
Spring is the traditional term for the highest tide of every month, named not for the season, but for the verb, in the sense of springing forth.
King tides can be dramatic and even potentially dangerous when the tide coincides with winter storm-generated surf and swells. The January king tide in Malibu was uneventful, due to an almost complete lack of wave activity but it did offer Malibu beachgoers a spectacular afternoon low tide and an opportunity to learn more about how tides work.
Approximately twice a month, during the new moon and the full moon, when the Sun, Moon and Earth align—a phenomenon known by the vowel-free term syzygy, the tidal force generated by the sun and moon reaches its peak, causing a spring tide, defined by NOAA as “waters that are higher than average, low waters that are lower than average, ''slack water' time that is shorter than average and stronger tidal currents than average.”
The opposite of a spring tide is called a “neap tide,” or neaps, from the Old English word “nopflod.” The origins of the word are unknown, but it may share its root with the ancient Greek loan-word napus, thought to mean “rounded” and still in use today in the Latin name for the turnips, a vegetable that is still known in Scotland as “neeps.”
A neap tide occurs after the first or third quarter of the moon when there is the least difference between high and low water.
The word tide reportedly also has its roots in old English, where it once was synonymous with time. The word still lingers in archaic terms like “noontide” and “yuletide.”
There is approximately a seven-day interval between springs and neaps—the highest and lowest tides of the lunar month.
The difference in height between high and low waters over about half a day varies in a two-week cycle, according to NOAA. Tides can be predicted with accuracy and charted in advance, but the height and time of the tide varies slightly along the the length of the coast.
For Malibu beachgoers, a Santa Monica Bay tide calendar is essential. Calendars for the Santa Monica Bay with the high and low tide shown as a graph are widely available at bookstores and bait shops. Websites like the National Weather Service, forecast.weather.gov, and www.watchthewater.org offer easy access to daily tide times.There are also a number of apps that offer local tide charts.
Malibuites who like to keep tabs on the tides may be interested in a citizen science project that seeks to document the impact from the highest tides.
The recently formed California King Tides Initiative encourages members of the public to document the highest seasonal tides (or king tides) that occur along the state’s coast.
“These photographs help us visualize the impact of rising waters on the California coast, the California King Tides Initiative website states. “Our shores are constantly being altered by human and natural processes and projections indicate that sea level rise will exacerbate these changes. The images offer a living record of the changes to our coasts and shorelines and a glimpse of what our daily tides may look like in the future as a result of sea level rise.”
“While tides themselves are not affected by climate change, the climate and weather do influence coastal sea levels through storm surges, the El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation cycles and other factors, the CKTI website states. “Resulting high tides from a c combination of these conditions can cause widespread damage from flooding and erosion.” More information on the initiative is available at californiakingtides.org
The next spring tide occurs Feb. 7-9, and almost qualifies to be a king tide, with a 6.5-foot high tide at 7:18 a.m. on Feb. 8 and 8:04 a.m. on Feb. 9, and a -1.4 low tide at 2:16 p.m. on Feb. 8 and 2:54 p.m. on Feb. 9, coinciding with the new moon. Beachgoers who miss the February tides will have to wait for May for the next “king tide.”

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

SMM Conservancy Board OKs Swap of Bluffs Park for Charmlee

• City Council Expected to Try to Move Quickly to Prevent ‘Lagoonization’ of Proposal

BY BILL KOENEKER

When the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy unanimously voted Monday night to swap the 93-acre Malibu Bluffs Park with the City of Malibu for 534-acre Charmlee Park, they also approved proposed plans for eight campsites and five parking spaces and a single ADA accessible campsite near the existing restroom facility at Charmlee.
“Based on a ground lease being in place, the proposed action would authorize staff to submit a joint application with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to the California Coastal Commission for a coastal development permit for construction of one, supervised ADA-accessible campsite, not more than seven supervised standard campsites and related improvements including adding five additional parking spaces,” wrote SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston in a staff report to the board.
The board also adopted a resolution approving development of two supervised ADA-accessible campsites to be open between Jan. 15 and Sept. 15 annually, building out the Coastal Slope Trail through the 21.8-acre Ramirez Canyon Park owned by the SMMC, which is the location of its headquarters.
“Public access to the proposed new improvements in unincorporated area will be split between Ramirez Canyon Road and the Coastal Slope Trail from Kanan Dume Road. Users of the ADA-accessible campsites would arrive via Ramirez Canyon Road unless they chose to use the Coastal Slope Trail via some workable means. Users of the day use facilities would arrive via the Coastal Slope Trail from Kanan Dume Road initially and then also from Murphy Way once the trail is extended eastward within the city’s jurisdiction,” wrote Edmiston in the report. That application was submitted to the CCC on Tuesday, according to SMMC spokesperson Dash Stolarz.
At the same time Monday night, though Conservancy officials insisted it is not related, the SMMC board also approved entering a ground lease agreement with the City of Malibu for Charmlee Wilderness Park and possible sublease to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and acceptance of fee title to Charmlee.
The board also approved a resolution authorizing entering into a ground lease agreement with the City of Malibu for the Malibu Bluffs open space and authorizing subsequent transfer of the fee title to the city.
Next week, the Malibu City Council is expected to discuss the matter with City Attorney Christi Hogin, who recommends in her staff report to “direct the city attorney to negotiate agreements and implementing documents to effect a land swap resulting in complete city control over all 93 acres of Bluffs Park and reach resolution in the lawsuit over the uses in Ramirez Park.”
Hogin noted the city acquired Charmlee from the county in 1998 and in 2006 acquired from the state 10 of the 93 acres of Bluffs Park.
“The lack of local control recently frustrated the city’s consideration of a plan [to build a skate park] that would re-configure and increase parking at Bluffs Park; the SMMC rejected the proposal to make any changes to the parking lot,” wrote Hogin in her staff report.
Hogin said the land swap would take time because it will require action by the state of California. “In order to provide each other immediate benefits of the eventual swap, Mr. Edmiston suggested that the city and the SMMC/MRCA enter into respective $1-per-year leases, which would confer possession of the respective parks while the longer process of transferring title is underway,” the city attorney wrote.
Hogin reported that with respect to the uses of Ramirez Canyon Park, the SMMC proposes to agree to the exact same restrictions that have been in place since 2007, which the city and SMMC negotiated as part of a stipulation to suspend a lawsuit while the SMMC applied for an LCP amendment which would address the uses in the park.
The restrictions have been in  place continuously for the past five years. The SMMC has abided by their terms and the city as not had any complaints from activities at Ramirez since these restrictions have been in place.
“SMMC and the MRCA have indicated that they are interested in proceeding with the land swap with the condition that the city also settle the dispute over the uses in  Ramirez Canyon Park. The settlement would include a requirement to restore the riparian habitat disturbed by the unpermitted development of the property and otherwise bring the property into compliance with the Coastal Act.”
The city attorney indicated Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmember Joan House approached Edmiston to see whether the SMMC and MRCA had any interest in a swap.
“The SMMC and the MRCA are interested in swapping Bluffs Park for Charmlee, if the transaction commences in January, but they also want to resolve the Ramirez Canyon Park [issue],” Hogin wrote.
Ironically, before all of the expensive litigation between the Conservancy and the city, the results of this latest deal making is somewhat similar to compromise efforts worked out by Edmiston and a previous council whereupon the Conservancy would offer overnight camping at Charmlee and withdraw camping plans in other coastal canyons such as Corral and Solstice. However, at that time the Bluffs Park was not in play.
The council was poised to approve the arrangement, but nearly 100 members in the audience, many of them critics and from the west end of Malibu, literally shouted down the council, accusing members of sacrificing the safety of west end homeowners for mid Malibu coastal canyon residents, who had previously vociferously rejected the coastal canyon overnight camping plan.
The council then rejected Edmiston’s deal leaving the executive director fuming at the council’s sudden turnabout.
Thus began series of lawsuits between the city, the SMMC and the Coastal Commission, which went along with Edmiston’s override attempt and camping plan including an 11th hour successful attempt by Edmiston to include overnight camping at Bluffs Park. Those CCC approvals and other SMMC mechanisms were later struck down by the courts in the city’s favor.
Hogin sums that up in her staff report. “With the Override and Public Works Plan lawsuits (including attorneys’ fees) resolved in the city’s favor, the remaining litigation involves just the second lawsuit over the uses at Ramirez Park,” Hogin wrote in her staff report.
The city attorney indicated there would still be a lot of legal and technical details to work out.

Planning Panel Approves Modest Trancas Coffee House Expansion Plans

•  Seating Issues Are Discussed as Part of the Permit Approval Process and Staff to Review More

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission this week approved a request by a Starbucks coffee official for a Conditional Use Permit to allow for a 441 square foot expansion and operation of the existing coffee shop located in the Trancas shopping center.
The commission was poised to approve the request when a planning panelist noticed on the plans there was no schematic for where all of the outdoor seating is located.
According to the planning department, the applicant wants to remodel and expand the coffee shop tenant space by removing the wall that separates it from an adjoining 441 square foot storefront that is currently occupied by a surf shop.
Once the project is completed the total area dedicated to Starbucks will be 1545 square feet, a planner explained to panelists.
The new 441-square-foot addition will be primarily used to add additional storage space and a restroom, commissioners were told.
The expansion would not result in additional seating or square footage to the existing building. The existing hours of operation would remain the same.
Some commissioners wanted to know what the seating for the coffee shop is and were told 25 seats.
Then another commissioner asked if the outdoor seats were counted and complications ensued. If the outdoor seating is considered additional seating, then the question arises whether  it should require additional parking and a permit.
“I don’t have a problem with approving the CUP, but is everything there to take care of the improvements?” asked Commissioner Mikke Pierson.
Planner Richard Mollica said seating is linked to wastewater requirements. Parking is derived from the permit granted to the shopping center.
“I’m not sure the service area has not increased,” said Chair John Mazza.
Malibu West resident and activist Cindy Vandor urged the commission to stop the piecemeal permitting of the shopping center and address what she said were the larger problems of safety.
“They have to fix how dangerous this is. We don’t need more coffee, we need more safety. Say no until they make the place more safe,” she said.
Mazza said he wanted the staff to come up with a precise number for the service area.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski said they could provide an exact number.
“There looks to me to be Starbucks seating outside,” said Pierson. “I think the shopping center could be a wonderful community asset, but I just don’t think this write-out is accurate.”
Mollica said, “This project does not propose outdoor seating. If the applicant wants to put seating there, they will have to show us. This is an expansion of the interior. There is no outdoor seating unless shown. They have to put that in the application. If there is dedicated seating, it would take away from the open space [requirements].”
Parker asked Mollica if that was approved as part of the shopping center application.
Mollica answered, “We did not approve dedicated seating for Starbucks.”
Another commissioner noted the plan before the commissioners clearly did not show the outdoor seating.
The Starbucks representative Elizabeth Valerio told commissioners that ambitious store managers may have put out tables and chairs. “We have no problem taking away any seating,” she said. “The lease is for 25 seats.”
“Does that preclude the landlord? I want to know what is happening,” said Commissioner David Brotman. “Starbucks is a hub for the community. It is a conundrum. We do not have the whole picture.”
“What is the legal ramifications of denying Starbucks?” asked Commissioner Roohi Stack
“As David pointed out, we don’t have the information. I am going to make a motion to bring this back,” said Mazza.
“The question is the seating outside—that is a fait accompli. Here we are with this thing before us if the CUP does allow seating, are we not going to approve this?” asked Brotman. “How does that affect what we do to Starbucks?”
“I just don’t want to approve something that is not reflected in reality,” said Pierson.
Some of the commissioners agreed that when they are considering requests from individual tenants it is equally important to know what the larger issues are given the shopping center approvals. “Give us the context,” said Brotman.
The commission is scheduled to hear a request by contractor Scott Rosier to amend a coastal permit for nightlights at the Trancas Country Market at a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The request also seeks changes to the landscape plan, the native trees plan and the master sign program.
The matter was originally scheduled for an Oct. 1 hearing, but was postponed after the applicant wanted to meet with neighbors, who were beginning to raise concerns about what the developer wanted to do.
The staff recommendation for a scheduled meeting last month was to continue the public hearing to a date uncertain by pulling it off the calendar.
The original request for the shopping center, which is currently under construction, included changes to the previously approved lighting plan to allow the addition of 43 pole mounted lights that vary in height from 12 to 20 feet located throughout the parking lot and pedestrian areas, as well as other site lighting and building mounted lighting, according to a public notice issued by the city’s planning department.
However, the current agenda notice does not stipulate how many poles are sought, but indicates an amendment “for proposed changes to the conditions of approval including changes to the previously approved lighting plan, which includes the addition of pole mounted lights that vary in height from 12 to 16 feet located throughout the parking lot and pedestrian areas, as well as other site lighting and building mounted lighting.”
In addition, the developers are seeking changes to the landscape plan, changes to the native tree plan, changes to screening requirements for on site wastewater treatment pods and approval of a master sign program.          
The shopping center is still currently being remodeled and this is the second set of changes or amendments to the coastal permit that have been requested.
Night lighting has become an issue, especially in Malibu Park, because of lights approved for the high school sports  field and a new proposed parking lot.
The planning commission turned down night lighting for the planned 150-car high school parking lot.
Even more controversial is the field lighting recently installed at the football field at the high school at nearby Malibu Park.
The MHS field lighting was not heard by the planning commission, but was approved by the city council, instead.
Critics of the night lighting plans point out that the requested lighting, when considered cumulatively, would result in significant negative impacts to the night sky that cannot be fully mitigated.