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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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.

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