Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Second Bluffs Walk Attracts Bigger Audience and Raises More Questions

• City Officials Refute Coastal Commission Staff Assertion that Development Plans for Site Can Be Appealed


More than 40 people joined Malibu City Council members John Sibert and Laura Rosenthal and City Manager Jim Thorsen on Saturday morning for an informal plein air meeting followed by a walk in a portion of the 83-acre Bluffs Park property that city officials hope to obtain by swapping Charmlee Wilderness Park for the land that is owned by the state and administered by  the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
“We wanted to do this today, to have a little town hall [meeting], to get information, to give information about this potential swap,” Rosenthal said.
“In two weeks, on March 9, at 10 a.m. we’re going to meet at Charmlee to do the same thing,” Rosenthal said. “There will be more city council meetings, and more things a city hall for people, for the whole city council to discuss, and for additional time for people who can't be here today or can't be there in two weeks to be able to give their input. A lot of people have already called us, emailed us. We've gotten a lot of feedback already.”
“I certainly haven't made a decision about this yet,” Sibert said. “We are here to gather information about what might or might not be doable. Whether or not this is ever going to happen, I have no idea. So, no decision has been made, no matter what you might have read or heard, no decision has been made by the council.”
Thorsen displayed a map showing the SMMC’s most recent plan for Bluffs Park, which included approximately 40 campsites clustered in three areas of the property, and then the same map with preliminary plans drawn in for a sports complex consisting of two baseball diamonds, three soccer fields, a skate park and a BMX course and 150-space parking lot in the main section of the 83-acre park, with an additional 75-space parking lot with seven tennis courts, or two playing fields in the far west corner of the park, separated from the main park by Marie Canyon.
Thorsen explained that the maps were “not a final design, but to give everyone the perspective for the size of a baseball field, the size of a soccer field, what would be required for a skate park, a tennis court or something of that nature, if in fact the swap went through.”
“This is a diagram of what could happen in the non-ESHA area, and to give everybody just a general sight of just what it would take to develop anything on it,” Thorsen said.
“This is [the Conservancy’s] proposal to develop this site because they own it. Camping is an allowed use at [this] site. It's open space. What you also see is also a biological assessment map, as part of the assessment you see different colors, the light green, they've said these are areas that are not considered ESHA [Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area]. The darker areas are what they've gone through with their biologist and identified as ESHA areas.
Many participants had questions and concerns about the ESHA and non-ESHA designations indicated on the map.
 “I would not depend on anything SMMC says,” longtime Malibu Township Council member Lucile Keller said. “We need a current [biological survey]. There was a fire that destroyed ESHA but ESHA grows back.” Keller said the city could find that they have traded Charmlee away and are unable to do anything with Bluffs.
“We don’t want to move ahead and find we can’t do anything,” Sibert said.
“The swap itself requires CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act review] because it would intensify the use [at both parks] Keller said.
“According to the California Coastal Commission, this is public open space, community centers, art venues are unpermitted here., ” Preserve Malibu organizer Janet Katz said, referencing comments made by Thorsen at the previous Bluffs Park walkthrough, when he suggested that the city could consider building new facilities in what is currently the playing fields at the city-owned portion of the park if the swap takes place and there is room to build more fields.
“I hope you go to the press and tell them that none of this is going to be allowed here. And maybe you could have done your homework. None of this is going to happen,” Katz said. “All of this is appealable to the Coastal Commission. I have a message on my phone from the Coastal Commission stating that baseball fields are appealable to the Coastal Commission. All of this is appealable.”
“Then that’s why we are doing our due diligence,” Thorsen replied. “We are trying to find out all of the facts.”
“It’s zoned open space and recreation,” Rosenthal said. “So we can put in everything that falls under that.”
“We don't feel that it’s appealable,” Rosenthal added. “We have it from other people [that it is not], but I’m glad that you brought it up. It’s something that we have to look at.”
Another participant wanted to know about the geologic history of the site.
“We're researching and looking into all of the geology,” Thorsen said. “We had the city geologist do a preliminary review. We do know, based on all the maps, all the information that's been put forward that there is within Marie Canyon definitely small to moderately large landslides. At the face of the bluff down by Malibu Road there are other landslides, and certainly you’ve got to be aware of those.”
“We only have one Charmlee,” Malibu resident Barbara Short said.“Why can’t we keep Charmlee? There’s an exploding senior population, a declining student population.”
Rosenthal responded that the city currently has 750-800 AYSO players. She said that there are also adult teams who would like to get fields and that families currently have to get up early for weekend games that start at 8 a.m.
”People have to arrive at 7:30 a.m.,” she said. “It’s very cold. They have to start really early in the morning. Often they have to share fields.” 
“Are these valid reasons to trade Charmlee Park?” Short responded. “Because some people are inconvenienced? Because they’re cold and have to wear a jacket in the morning?”
”I don’t know,” Rosenthal said. But Charmlee Park is deed restricted, you can never build anything there.”
“The Conservancy doesn’t own [Bluffs Park],” said Walt Keller, who was Malibu's first mayor and was on the council when the city first had an opportunity to acquire Charmlee from the county. “The state owns [Bluffs]. The city could take over.”
“Maybe the city could go to the state and become the operator [of Bluffs]. I don’t see that happening ever,” Thorsen said. “We haven’t asked. I didn’t say we wouldn’t ask,” he added.
Malibu Mayor Lou La Mont and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House proposed swapping the City of Malibu's 535-acre Charmlee Wilderness Park, located in Encinal Canyon, for the Conservancy’s 83-acre portion of Bluffs Park, in December, but it wasn’t the first time the swap was proposed.
A 2003 effort to trade the wilderness park for six acres of Bluffs Park was unsuccessful because State Parks was not interested in Charmlee, indicating that is was too far away from other state properties to be adequately maintained and patrolled.
As early as 2001, athletics activists were expressing anger that a portion of Charmlee could not be used for sports courts and playing fields.
“To think that a lawyer can come into Malibu and make it so that the only park the city owns has handcuffs on it, is disturbing and disgusting to me,” said activist Laureen Sills in an interview in the local media in 2001, when she was a commissioner for Malibu Parks and Recreation. “They couldn’t even put a hoop up there,” Sills said.
Many walk participants questioned the Conservancy's ability to maintain and patrol Charmlee, which is not located near any of the other SMMC properties in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Fire fears were a key part of that concern.
Lucile Keller described Encinal Canyon as a historic fire corridor and stated that Charmlee has burned several times.
She said that she is concerned that increased use of Charmlee with the potential for less supervision by the SMMC than is currently provided by the city, will increase fire danger.
“You are asking a third of the Malibu population to increase their fire hazard,” Keller said, adding that the 1978 fire that destroyed her home burned Charmlee minutes before it reached the coast.
“There has never been a fire started in an official campground,” Rosenthal replied.
“I lost my home, I don’t want to see that happen to anyone else,” Keller told the Malibu Surfside News. She added that Charmlee is in a documented fire corridor and has burned in the 1930, 1956 and 1978 fires.
Corral Canyon residents who experienced devastating losses in the 2007 fire started by an illegal campfire, have been circulating a petition seeking to prohibit camping in the canyons.
“Malibu residents are rallying the people of Los Angeles County to join in signing a petition to protect visitors to Malibu canyons and state parks from the danger of campfires in unsupervised terrains, as similar discussions ensue between the Malibu City Council and The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy,” a press release announcing that the petition has reached 1000 signatures, states.
“I was inspired to start this petition out of concern for those who would be coming to these proposed campsites from out of town,” said Corral resident Lori Jacobus.
“Allowing overnight camping in these hills could be potentially devastating and even life-threatening for both residents and campers alike,” added Jacobus. “The terrain and conditions do not lend themselves to the better structured, regulated and monitored camping experiences available in our state and national parks—and in the hills of Malibu, ‘fire season’ has become a year around event as is evidenced by the fire danger signs the have read ‘high’ many times this winter.”

PCH Task Force Info Tops the Agenda at One of the Briefer City Council Meetings

• Mayor Urges Community to Practice More Public Civility

Councilmember Laura Rosenthal brought some good news and bad news to the council dais this week about construction on Pacific Coast Highway after attending a PCH Task Force meeting.
The state-level task force focuses on PCH from the McClure Tunnel to the county line, according to Rosenthal. The longstanding state legislative PCH taskforce has successfully worked on key local traffic issues.
The California Incline, which has been delayed several times is now expected to start sometime at the beginning of 2014 and should take 12 to 18 months, according to Rosenthal, who added the rest of the Coastal Interceptor project’s next phase in Santa Monica is scheduled to start up and take 14 months.
Both proposals are expected to impact traffic. “Unfortunately, they are going to overlap,” said Rosenthal.
She said the task force also talked about changeable message signs and was told the county has purchased four. “The CHP is trying to get them for PCH,” she added.
Rosenthal said the city is expected to purchase signs using the  $14 million grant money. “It is good the county is paying for some,” she said.
Task force members also discussed the impact on PCH because of the closing of the Malibu courthouse. She said CHP officials said they will not travel to the Airport Courthouse.
She said officials are trying to transfer such cases to Chatsworth. “The tentative closing is in May. There will still be a traffic clerk in Malibu,” she said.
Mayor Lou La Monte said he wanted to talk about some of the public speakers, who he said are now impacting others who want to speak, but are afraid to do so.
“A woman told me, she is afraid to bring her child to the council chambers. She said there is a bad tone and anger [projected by the speakers].”
He noted that find those same people in the grocery store or somewhere else, and they are as nice as can be. “Let’s keep it civil,” he said.
Activist and longtime resident Lucile Keller, with her husband, the former first mayor of the City of Malibu, Walt Keller, at her side got upfront and personal when she recalled the fire that burned their home to the ground.
She said she was prompted to do so after she and others were accused of using fire as  political rhetoric to critique the land swap between Charmlee Wilderness Park and Bluffs Park.
She said she remembered that day. “Walt was at work. It was 1:30 and black smoke filled the sky, it was like a hurricane, but it was fire and not water. It was dark,” she recalled.
By two, she was in her car and leaving the house. A half-hour later the house had burned to the ground.
“We had lived there 17 years. Everything was gone, our wedding pictures, my wedding dress. Two days latter we found the cat. That was a daytime fire,” she said, urging the council to not do anything to reduce the safety of Charmlee and the neighborhood.

School District’s New Hearing Date for Proposed High School Campus Plans Is Delayed for Another Month

• District Jockeys for Best Options on Unpopular Elements


Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District officials have successfully sought another delay for a planning commission hearing, postponing the Feb. 19 hearing until March 18, according to city officials.
The public hearing to secure permits for remodeling the high school campus was successfully sought to delay the tentative approval of the commission’s decision of the makeover plan until this year and convinced municipal officials to have the commission conduct a new, fully noticed public hearing.
“This was requested so final revisions to the right-hand turn land and associated pedestrian and vehicle improvements could be made by he district’s engineer prior to review by the planning commission. Staff will be recommending continuance of this item to the March 18 meeting,” wrote city planner Joseph Smith in an email notice.
What had happened is the commission had voted on the school district application including denying lights for a parking lot at the Aug, 7 2012 meeting.
“The resolution was scheduled on the consent calendar for the Sept. 4, 2012 meeting, however, approval of the item as conditioned, was continued to the Oct. 1, 2012, planning commission meeting to allow sufficient time for district representatives to meet with the California Division of the State architect to discuss lighting requirements for parking lots.
However, in order to consider new information and re-evaluate the project, the planning commission was advised by the city attorney that a new, fully-noticed public hearing for the item would be required.” Further delays were sought by the applicant.
It has been months since the matter has been considered without a final vote.
The new application is to redevelop portions of the MMHS campus with a proposed classroom/library/administration building totaling 20,274 square feet of net new building area; approximately 12,509 square feet of interior renovation and modernization of existing classrooms.
The application also calls for a new 150-space lighted parking lot; a reconfigured 119-space lighted parking lot with an onsite roundabout; a reconfigured 61-space lighted parking lot and outdoor lighting, according to the city’s public notice.
The school district also seeks approval for a new student drop-off and pick-up lane; a right-hand turn lane for about 700 feet along Morning View Drive; two new unlit tennis courts; new outdoor common areas; new fencing, landscaping, retaining walls and grading; relocated equestrian trail and the renovation of other existing facilities.
When City Attorney Christi Hogin was asked about the unusual set of circumstances she said, “There is no final action. From the city’s point of view, there is no hurry. It will even give the opponents another chance to speak.”
The city attorney said the school district is asking the city’s permission for a new hearing and there is nothing to prevent the city from granting that request.
During the previous hearing many public comments endorsed the staff recommendation about reduced lighting.
However, district officials reiterated their concern about the unlit parking lot and told commissioners they were also bound by code and safety requirements.
The big issue, commissioners were told, is the parking lot lighting and walkway lighting.
The standards, according to school officials, are not established by the district but are adopted by other agencies requiring the district to meet those mandated safety and liability standards.
The Environmental Impact Report, which was approved by the school district, acknowledges that the project would not be able to avoid adverse impacts related to increased sky-glow because of night lights.

Rindge Dam Removal Surfaces as Next Major Local Controversy Involving State Parks Department

 • Agency Appearing to Cherry-Pick Input


Another project that has been hovering over Malibu, the feasibility of removing the Rindge Dam, has resurfaced as more controversy was stirred when a prominent longtime Malibu resident was tossed out of one of the State Park’s technical meetings on the issue. The study, in the making for over 10 years, could be released this summer.
“I know the person who was kept out of that meeting. She is one of the most well respected members of the community. She is a stakeholder,” said Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte, who made the comment at this week’s city council meeting, in front of Craig Sap, supervisor for California State Parks Angeles District, who came to the meeting to address the council.
Sap said the Technical Advisory Committee meetings do not have to open to the public.
“It is a feasibility study. There is no ultimate decision on what we are going to do. We have had public meetings on the feasibility study,” Sap said.
Council members were told a website will be put up for interested individuals to keep track of the progress of the study and public meetings might take place this summer if the feasibility study is released.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal wanted assurances that it was not a done deal and that a no action alternative would be sincerely studied.
The study has gone on for years on ways to remove the dam, to increase the upstream habitat for steelhead trout, or to save it as a piece of history.
If it is removed, issues include how to take it  down, as one piece, by allowing the creek water to erode it over time,, truck it out, helicopter it out and let it flood down stream, which is the concern of many Serra Retreat homeowners.
“To do nothing is an option,” said Councilmember John Sibert. “We may not want to do it.”

Official Contends Public Kept Apprised on Formula Retail

• Website Will Monitor Draft Ordinance


A planning official indicates there has been more information on the city’s website about formula retail than was previously reported last week.
“The transcript of the December 12, 2013 community formula retail is now available on the city’s website at the link:,” wrote project planner Joseph Smith in an email blast that went out on Dec. 20 to interested parties.
On Jan. 10, there was another email blast that went out to parties who had signed up for the email updates.
Additional information was made available that the tentative date announced for consideration of the draft ordinance by the city’s planning commission in January 2013 would be pushed up a bit.
“As we evaluate the extent to which the draft ordinance will be in conformation with the CEQA, further updates regarding meeting dates and the draft ordinance will be sent as we have more information,” another email reported.
Smith said there would be further information sent out, regarding meeting updates and the draft ordinance, including CEQA documentation.
Two weeks ago, City Manager Jim Thorsen announced municipal officials expect the draft retail formula ordinance will be available for public scrutiny by the end of this month.
“The draft is nearly complete,” he said.
The city manager added that the proposed draft ordinance plus the CEQA documents would be included in the packet of materials.
The news account incorrectly reported there had been little information about the progress of the legislation since a town hall meeting last year in December when participants used electronic devices to “help the staff” draft certain particulars of the proposed ordinance.
Smith explained that most folks found out about the progress of the proposed formula retail ordinance by being on the emailing list.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Marionette Show? •


Public Records Act requests are a way to obtain access to information that government may want to keep from the public because it could cast an unflattering, or even illegal, light on policy formulation and implementation.
A number of requests have been filed recently related to roles played by the state Department of Parks and Recreation and other official entities, as well as non-governmental organizations with direct financial stakes in specific DPR projects, in the Malibu public policy arena.
Communications between key players in various State Parks projects in the community, some of which can involve government largess in the form of hefty grants and contracts, are being sought to determine whether the lines between public interest and special interest have become so blurred that special interests can reign unchecked.
The requesters are being vehemently blocked by DPR, which fosters even more concern on the citizens’ part that the agency does not want them to know who is communicating with whom and who is influencing whom.
With the potential to be more insidious is the supposition that residents are cultivated to serve as informal—and possibly compensated—spokespersons for these entities.
A dossier of emails and other communications is starting to accrue, and the DPR critics assert there appears to be recurrence of content format and language from State Parks personnel, quasi-public groups, NGO representatives and residents who parrot the doggerel. Some exchanges might even be construed as coaching the residents and providing what could be perceived as scripts.
Perhaps this is coincidence? But what if there is a concerted effort to manipulate possibly well-meaning citizens who are flattered by the public attention and access to agency brass? Questions continue to grow in number as more emails and other disclosures become available. Requesters are obtaining backup material from disparate sources to cross-reference with the DPR documentation.
State Parks officials have been repeatedly apprised of the PRA requests for the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project, and critics now contend that the agency is in violation of state law and litigation may be the next option.
The current lagoon project volleys are seen by some as a harbinger of tactics expected from State Parks during what is expected to be the next local public policy brouhaha—a proposed Rindge Dam removal project.
The Rindge Dam decision-making process is already under fire for blocking a public stakeholder from a recent Technical Advisory Committee meeting on the issue.
Preliminary review of some of the State Parks emails obtained by public records requests appear to reflect a DPR stance that only proponents of the agency’s projects are going to be welcome to attend these meetings.
While TAC meetings technically may not have to be open to the public at large, critics contend that attendees are being hand picked because they follow the party line.
Media that have the audacity to present all points of view also face the threat of a DPR firing line. The agency wants the press to be its personal propagandist. It wants journos to sing DPR’s praises, not quote its critics.
As the Public Records Act requests are complied with, answers to some very difficult questions may follow. One thing is certain. If there are any strings attached to local marionettes, they will be increasingly difficult to hide.

Singer-Songwriter and Activist Returns to Malibu for Concert at Pepperdine

• Shares Message That Folk Music Is Still Written, Performed and Used as Tool to Combat Injustice


Former Malibu resident, folksinger, song writer and civil rights activist Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, is returning to Malibu for the first time in many years. He will be performing on Sunday, March 3, 7 p.m., at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre.
The Malibu Surfside News had an opportunity to talk with Yarrow this week.
“Life has become complex,” Yarrow told The News.
“I was recently in New Town singing for the first responders,” Yarrow said. “It was very emotional, there were lots of tears, lots of love.” Yarrow said that the pro bono concert honors the Sandy Hook promise, “that the town is remembered as the place that ignited the nation to prioritize, to change,” he said.
Yarrow has spent much of his energy in recent years promoting a program that he founded called Operation Respect, a non-profit education advocacy organization focused on providing “children and youth a respectful, safe and compassionate climate of learning where their academic, social and emotional development can take place free of bullying, ridicule and violence.” The program reaches children worldwide, according to Yarrow.
Operation Respect has also developed a “Don’t Laugh at Me” program for students that use music and video together with conflict resolution curricula developed by educators.
“These days, I’m mainly focused on Operation Respect,” Yarrow said, “It’s in high gear.
“I started Operation Respect 14 years ago. It combines curricula with educators, it addresses surviving conflict, how to provide a caring, loving, environment.”
“Although Mary’s gone, I still perform a bunch, but not without content, purpose.
We didn’t invent this perspective, we inherited it. It’s a great tradition, combining music with advocacy. Folk music is still relevant, still sung. There’s too much to history to share. It’s not yesterday, it’s today.”
Yarrow performs often with his daughter, Bethany Yarrow and her musical partner, cellist Rufus Cappadocia. He also performs with his son Christopher, who plays washtub base, a traditional American jug band percussion instrument made from a washtub and a piece of line. Both children went to Malibu schools in the 1970s.
“It’s a joy to be able to perform with them, see them making music,”  Yarrow said.
“Christopher is amazing on the washtub bass. He hits the pitch, hits the notes.”
“Bethany’s a great anti-fracking activist,” Yarrow said. “But she dropped everything to head to the Rockaways after [superstorm] Sandy.
“It was really neglected,” he said. “The job wasn’t being done. She went out there every day for a month. Helping people is central.”
Recently, Yarrow has also produced a series of music picture books for children. “I’ve published four books of folk music for children,” Yarrow said. “Favorite Folk Songs,” “Sleepytime Songs,” “Day Is Done,” and “Let’s Sing Together,” followed the success of an illustrated “Puff the Magic Dragon” book.
 “I was startled when Puff sold over a million copies,” Yarrow said. “I’m the first folksinger over the age of 70 to have sold a million of anything. This is the music of the people. It’s still being written and performed. It’s in homes, at folk music festivals. It needs a bigger audience.”
This month, Yarrow published an illustrated picture book of the Peter, Paul and Mary song “I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog.” “It’s about tolerance,” he said.
All of the material in the books is available at no cost for teachers and educators through Operation Respect.
When Yarrow lived in Malibu in the late 1970s, he was an enthusiastic supporter of local causes.
This reporter remembers that he came to meetings at her family home when she was a small child to support the fight, spearheaded by her father, John Guldimann, to save the Point Dume Headlands from development.
Yarrow also was active in the local schools, performing free concerts and sharing his philosophy with the children.
“Do you still have the Santa Ana winds?” Yarrow asked. “We almost lost our house on Broad Beach in the 1978 fire,” he said.
“I remember when rockslides closed Pacific Coast Highway. We would park a car on the other side of the slide and walk across the slide area.”
“Life in Malibu was pretty rugged,” Yarrow said.
Yarrow said he was glad to hear the the Headlands are now part of Point Dume State Park and that the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was successfully established to protect parts of the Malibu coast and mountains.
“You’re still fighting a good fight,” he said.
More information on operation respect is available at  Tickets and additional information on Peter Yarrow’s Pepperdine University concert on March 2, can be found at

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bluffs Park Walk Puts Proposal for Sports Complex in Perspective

• City Manager and Council Proponents See Space for More Development than First Announced

Community members had an opportunity to visit Malibu Bluffs Park to learn more about the city’s plan to develop sports facilities on the 83-acre property in the event that the proposed Charmlee Wilderness Park-Malibu Bluffs Park swap will take place.
City Manager Jim Thorsen, Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmember Joan House were met at the park by representatives of Malibu Little League and AYSO, Planning Commissioner John Mazza, safety commission member Merrill May, and former Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, for an informal visit to the Bluffs Park site last Wednesday.
“I’ve never been here before,” House said, saying about the vista of ocean view coastal bluffs and canyons that comprise the park now under the aegis of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. “It’s beautiful.”
Two maps were distributed on the walk, with alternative proposals for athletic facilities in the main portion of the park.
“These are just some ideas that were thrown around,” Thorsen said. “They’re just sketches.” Thorsen suggested that the ability to build athletic fields on the property could free up space at the existing city portion of Bluffs Park for other projects.
“It’s really unlimited,” he said. “You might decide that you don’t want any of these [existing] fields. You could expand Landon Center, [build a] senior center, teen center, performing arts center. Building three or four soccer fields out here would be a game changer.”
However, observers are already cautioning that the preliminary plan proposed by the city to construct as many as three soccer fields, two baseball diamonds, 150 parking spaces, a skatepark and possibly a BMX course in the main section of Malibu Bluffs Park, as well as a second potential athletic facility comprised of a mix of tennis courts and ball fields with 75 parking spaces in the western portion of the park, may be more difficult to achieve than initially perceived, due to environmental constraints.
The swap with the SMMC proposed by La Monte and House involves trading the City of Malibu’s 535-acre Charmlee Wilderness Park to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for 83-acre Bluffs Park, which is adjacent to the city’s 10-acre portion of the Bluffs.
While the SMMC will reportedly be able to add eight campsites to Charmlee, it is still unclear whether the city will be entitled to build all or any of the athletic facilities proposed for Bluffs Park
The exchange proposal marks the second time in the past 10 years that the city has attempted to trade away Charmlee for a portion of Bluffs. In the earlier attempt in 2003, the city offered Charmlee to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in exchange for a six-acre area of Bluffs Park. The state declined the offer on the basis that Charmlee was too far away from other state properties to be adequately maintained and patrolled.
Ruth Coleman, who was the agency’s director at the time, stated that the trade “presents many substantial obstacles.”
“The property is not contiguous to any of our existing State Park units in the Santa Monica Mountains, and given our current budgetary restraints it would therefore be impossible to maintain the current level of operation at the park,” Coleman said.
Both portions of Bluffs Park were acquired as a single unit by the DPR with state bonds money in 1979. In 2006, the agency transferred the property to the Conservancy, which then transferred what is now the developed 10-acre Malibu Bluffs Park parcel to the city.
Almost the entire property, with the exception of a triangular section in the far west corner, is mapped as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area in the City of Malibu Local Coastal Program.
The Coastal Act provides a definition of “environmentally sensitive area” as: “Any area in which plant or animal life or their habitats are either rare or especially valuable because of their special nature or role in an ecosystem and which could be easily disturbed or degraded by human activities and developments.”
Both maps showing proposed development at the Feb. 13 walk were adapted from a Conservancy map showing areas of California grassland that proponents of the swap claim are exempt from ESHA designation.
However, while the Conservancy map describes the area where campsites were previously proposed as CGL—California grassland, the Draft EIR that accompanied the Malibu Parks Public Access Enhancement Plan indicates that portions of the grassland are perennial grassland, a habitat that generally receives the highest level of protection.
On the original map, campsites appear not to have been placed in the areas where this type of grassland is present. The plans discussed at last Wednesday’s walk would entail bulldozing the area and leveling it for playing fields.
According to the results of SMMC’s biologic survey, conducted by the firm DUDEK as part of the EIR for the parks plan,  “...areas containing a mix of native and non-native grassland occur in various areas of the park.”
Native, or perennial, grassland was observed in the area discussed at the walk for sport field construction. Several extensive areas of the plant community, characterized by the presence of purple needlegrass, are reportedly present throughout the higher portion of the center of the park, bordered by annual grassland and coastal sage scrub.
In a 2003 memorandum to Coastal Commission Staff on ESHA in the Santa Monica Mountains, ecologist John Dixon noted: “Native perennial grasslands are now exceedingly rare. In California, native grasslands once covered nearly 20 percent of the land area, but today are reduced to less than 0.1 percent. The California Natural Diversity Database lists purple needlegrass habitat as a community needing priority monitoring and restoration.”
Dixon continued, “The CNDDB considers grasslands with 10 percent or more cover by purple needlegrass to be significant, and recommends that these be protected as remnants of original California prairie. Patches of this sensitive habitat occur throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.”
The SMMC EIR also identified four species of special concern at the site that have not yet been addressed by the city: the Catalina mariposa lily, Calochortus catalinae; Blainville’s horned lizard, Phrynosoma coronatum; the yellow-breasted chat, Icteria virens, and the yellow warbler, Dendroica petechia brewsteri.
The report notes that a fifth endangered species, Coulter’s saltbrush, had previously been observed at the site and that a sixth species—the coastal California gnatcatcher “cannot be ruled out,” although neither was observed during the SMMC survey conducted by biologist Kathleen Dayton on April 26–28, 2010.
Longtime observers say that the extensive sports field development plan marks a dramatic change in former attitudes expressed by city officials.
“We have no idea what impacts on the environment are caused by the proposal and it’s my understanding that all property owned by the Conservancy on Bluffs Park is ESHA,” Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin told the local media in 2009, when the conservancy proposed camping on their portion of Bluffs Park.
The California Coastal Commission and the Conservancy are expected to weigh in on any major alterations to the Bluffs property.
“If the exchange takes place and sports field development is proposed, then the Conservancy will probably respond to the environmental document, but until then it is way too premature to comment,” SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston stated in an email to the Malibu Surfside News.
Malibu residents will have a second opportunity to participate in a Bluffs Park walk-through, this time with council members Laura Rosenthal and John Sibert, on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 10 a.m.

Official Audit Appears to Indicate State Park Finances Are in Disarray

• Analysis Raises Questions of Oversight of Malibu Units and Procedures for Monitoring of Projects


An audit prepared by California State Auditor Elaine Howle at the request of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, confirms that for many years the state Department of Parks and Recreation reported “different fund balance amounts” to the Department of Finance than it reported to the State Controller’s Office for both the State Parks and Recreation and the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund.
“In most cases, the fund balance amounts that the department’s budget office reported to Finance for use in preparing the governor’s budget were less than the amounts its accounting office reported to the State Controller,” the report states.
“Although the department has known about these differences for years, neither current staff nor documentation we reviewed in the department’s accounting and budget files could explain what originally caused the differences or why the issue was not resolved until the fall of 2012.
“The department correctly used its year-end financial statements for reporting that it received $117.5 million in transfers for the off-highway vehicle fund in fiscal year 2010–11, Finance made an adjustment reducing the transfer amount to $62.6 million based on proposed legislation. This reduction—totaling nearly $55 million—contributed to the understatement of the department’s ending fund balance when compared to the State Controller’s budgetary report.
“The department lacked policies and procedures to handle such changes by Finance and to ensure that the department’s highest levels of management were informed of the change and the effects on its fund balance.”
The audit also revealed that SPR has been using outdated and incomplete data to determine operating expenses and has no idea how much it costs to run each unit.
 “The department does not budget or track expenditures at the park level,” the report states.
“As part of its analysis to select parks for closure, the department estimated the cost of each park. However, these estimates were outdated and incomplete, making it difficult to measure the impact of its efforts to keep parks open through its partnership agreements.”
Although no Malibu-area parks were among the list of 70 parks slated for closure, Angeles District State Park units, including Point Mugu, Leo Carrillo, Point Dume, Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Creek, and Topanga State Parks and other local parks have been impacted by years of cuts to staffing and maintenance during the state budget crisis.
The report finds that “the department’s announcement of its plan to close up to 70 parks may have been premature. State law that became effective March 2011 requires the department to determine the amount of a required budget reduction in future budget acts by using as its baseline the amount necessary to fully operate its 278 parks at the 2010 level.
“However, the department has not yet determined that baseline amount nor has it compared the baseline to its appropriation to determine whether the results created a condition that would trigger required park service reductions or closures.”
The report concludes: “To ensure that it adheres to the statutory requirement to reduce services or close parks to achieve any required budget reductions in the future, the department should determine the amount necessary to fully operate its 278 parks at the 2010 level. Moreover, the department should document its calculations and ensure that they include all costs associated with the operation of parks in 2010.
“To address the possibility of any future park service reductions or closures, the department should develop a detailed process for evaluating the criteria that it must consider in selecting parks for reduced services or park closures. To ensure transparency to the public and to demonstrate that it followed its process, the department should also document the details of its analyses that support its selection of parks for reduced services or closures.
“To assure the Legislature and the public that future proposed park service reductions and closures are appropriate to achieve any required budget reduction, the department should develop individual park operating costs and update these costs periodically.
“These individual park costs should include all direct and indirect costs associated with operating the park, and the aggregated costs of all the individual parks should correspond with the related fiscal year’s actual expenditures needed to operate the department’s park system.
“Additionally, when proposing park service reductions or closures in the future, the department should compare the most recent cost estimates to the amount the department determines is necessary to fully operate its 278 parks at the 2010 level to determine the actual amount of the reductions or closures needed.”
The State Senate Natural Resources and Water and Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committees will host a joint hearing on Feb. 20, to review the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The committees will review the recent audits of undisclosed funds and the State Parks compliance with 2012 legislation.
No criminal charges have been filed as a result of the investigation, but many questions remain about the departments operation and policies.

City Council Members Slated to Make New Appointments after Completing Reorganization of Its Commissions

• Public Appears to Be Indifferent to Structural Changes


In the final stages of the Malibu City Council’s alteration of its commission, committee and board lineup, the council is poised to appoint new panelists at its regular meeting next week.
At that session, each council member is expected to appoint one public works commissioner and also appoint one wastewater advisory committee member.
In a related matter, the council is anticipated to approve a municipal policy limiting an individual’s service to one commission, committee or board at a time.
The city council’s Commission/ Committee Organization Ad Hoc Committee, comprised of current Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmember John Sibert, previously recommended that the council adopt Council Policy No. 48.
It reads, “In order to give all residents the opportunity to serve, the council agreed with the ad hoc committee’s recommendation to adopt a policy limiting an individual’s service to one commission, committee or board at a time,” a staff report states.
The policy further states: “Should a council member wish to appoint an individual who is currently serving as a member of another commission, committee or board, the individual would be required to resign their current position prior to being considered for the new appointment.”
Last month, the city council unanimously approved disbanding some of the panels and terminating members as part of a major overhaul of those commissions and committees.
The council agreed to a plan calling for disbanding the Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee, the Trails Master Plan Advisory Committee and the Economic Advisory Committee.
The council’s Commission/ Committee Organization Ad Hoc Committee 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.
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.
No changes were made to the most important and powerful panel, the municipal planning commission.
Similarly, all other city panels were to continue operation in their current format.

Draft Formula Retail Measure Gets Ready for First Close-Up

• Ordinance Has Been Moving in Slo-Mo


City Manager Jim Thorsen recently announced municipal officials expect the draft formula retail ordinance will be available for public scrutiny by the end of this month.
“The draft is nearly complete,” he said.
The city manager added that the proposed draft ordinance plus the California Environmental Quality Act documents would be included in the packet of materials.
There had been little information about the progress of the legislation since a town hall meeting last year in December when participants used electronic devices to “help the staff” draft certain particulars of the proposed ordinance.
City Planner Joseph Smith said the staff would prepare what he called the preamble for the ordinance and the description of what formula retail is.
Smith said they wanted to narrow down the findings to six and had already built a skeleton of ideas, but acknowledged, “the devil is in the details.”
“Now we want to hear from the public. What would you say?” asked Smith.
Polling officials said a full report of the tabulations would be available at the end of the week of the meeting, which was held in December, but that never happened.
Municipal planners said those results would be posted on the city’s website as soon as they were made available. That never happened either because the results were never made available to the general public.
Smith, at that time, said they hoped to have a draft ordinance in front of the planning commission by Jan. 22 with the proposed measure going before the city council by Feb. 25.
However, the timetable has been much slower than apparently anticipated given it will be the end of the month before even the documents are released.
City officials have been accused of stalling or delaying the legislation in an attempt to cool the temperature down on a very controversial piece of legislation.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Xenophobia Anyone? •


The word xenophobia doesn’t trip lightly off the tongue. Its usage is now broadening to mean dislike or fear of anyone from outside one’s immediate circle, instead of just applying to people from other countries.
It’s not exactly a word that would be expected to be at the crux of a chance meeting when making a brief stop to pick up comestibles at the Point Dume Village supermarket.
The encounter—really a conversation of no more than 5 to 8 minutes—followed an inquiry by an elderly couple about whether I knew in which aisle a specific item was located.
Since I was headed in that direction, I suggested that they follow me, which they did, while simultaneously explaining they were staying at the Leo Carrillo campground.
Their distinct accents, matching Burberry scarves and the rest of their attire bespoke their background. Chatting and pushing a cart, they said their children are now grown and they are reliving their “country” childhoods with camping expeditions.
The pair enthused that “Leo,” as the rangers call the west Malibu State Park, is a wonderful campground, but added it is disappointing that, with all of Malibu’s public open space, there are not “more wilderness” campsites that aren’t so close to each other.
I was curious about their use of the term wilderness until they explained that they had researched camping in Malibu online last month and saw news articles about the Charmlee transfer debate.
They reacted in unison to the issue, “Why are the residents so negative about campers? We really care about the outdoors. Sometimes we think that people who live with something extraordinary do not appreciate it as much as visitors do. Could this have something to do with us being outsiders—xenophobia?”
Aside from a cursory explanation, a supermarket foray was neither the time nor the place to discuss the strong resident fears of fire, even though legal camping has never been connected to a wildfire in the history of the state of California, let alone Malibu.
The couple said they witnessed wildfires from a distance a few years ago on a trip to Australia, and then added, while they understand the residents’ concern, they don’t understand demonizing those who care so much about the outdoors.
The pair found what they came in to purchase and offered a courteous thank-you for directions and the brief conversation. As they turned down the aisle out of sight, I recorded some thoughts about the encounter.
Malibu is too special not to be shared. That is why public effort and funding are expended to obtain and protect as much as possible before it is covered by an extension of the urban blanket that new residents ostensibly leave behind only to try to recreate it here.
There is no shortage of people who strive to transform Malibu into a carbon copy of somewhere else. It just may take a few outsiders to remind the rest of the community that sharing Malibu might be the best way to protect what is still salvageable.

Recently Formed Cultural Arts Commission Slated to Hold Its First Official Public Meeting


Malibu city officials announced recently the first official meeting of the newly formed Malibu Cultural Arts Commission has been scheduled.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who along with Mayor Lou La Monte was instrumental in the creation of the panel, said the commission is scheduled to meet on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in the community room at City Hall.
Commissioners were recently appointed by council members. The panel includes Richard Gibbs, Eric Myer, Suzanne Zimmer, Daniel Stern and Scott Hosfeld.
The council at large chose Graeme Clifford as ex-officio member of the panel.
The top eight candidates for the 5-voting member commission, included Gibbs, Hosfeld, Mary Ann Keshen, Myer, Robin Perkins, Stern, Scott Talal, Zimmer and Clifford.
“It has been a long journey,” said Rosenthal, who said she hoped those who had expressed interest in the commission continued to stay involved.
In April, the council accepted the final cultural arts report prepared by the Arts Task Force. At that meeting, council members directed staff to bring back an ordinance establishing the arts commission.
By May, the council approved an interview process and began taking applications for the appointment process, according to a staff report.
By June, the city council had adopted the ordinance creating the commission, which is charged with making recommendations to the council relating to cultural arts policy, facility rental fee policies for local cultural arts organizations, cultural arts related general fund grant applications, use of city parks for cultural arts related events, purchase of art by the city cultural arts programs sponsored by the city, outreach to Malibu arts and cultural arts organizations, use of cultural spaces at Malibu City Hall, according to the report.
The five-member panel consists of residents of the city. The council appointed one ex-officio member, who lives outside the city limits within the 90265 zip code area, but does not have a vote on the commission and is appointed at large by the council.
A total of 23 applications were received. Of those submitted, 15 applicants qualified for the full position, six applicants qualified for the ex-officio position and two applicants were ineligible because they did not live within the 90265 zip code, according to a staff report.

CCC May Amend Ackerberg Order

• Subsequent Rulings Affirm State Agency Actions


The California Coastal Commission is slated to hold a public hearing in San Diego next month and take action on a proposed amendment to a previously issued cease and desist order to modify existing language of the order to address Coastal Act related claims, including the removal of unpermitted development directed to Lisette Ackerberg in her individual capacity and as trustee of the Lissete Ackerberg Trust for property located at 22466 Pacific Coast Highway and 22500 PCH.
The cease and desist order was previously issued and upheld by the courts for attempts to block vertical and lateral public access easements and ordered the easements to be opened up by removal of unpermitted development on them.
An appellate court upheld the legality of the Coastal Commission’s cease and desist order of Ackerberg’s alleged attempt to forestall the Carbon Beach Coastal Accessway
Ackerberg, a Carbon Beach homeowner, lost her appeal to stop the opening of the accessway adjacent to her property when a state Court of Appeal upheld the action by the Coastal Commission that will ultimately “provide new public access to Carbon Beach.”
The Second District Court of Appeals had affirmed a Superior Court decision that the coastal agency properly ordered the Lisette Ackerberg Trust to remove unpermitted development blocking a public access easement on Ackerberg’s property including a nine-foot-high wall across the accessway, large boulders, a concrete slab and generator, fence and more.
The permits issued for building the Ackerberg mansion required the property owner to record two public access easements across the property.
For years, the coastal agency contends it attempted to work with Ackerberg to resolve the alleged violations, but those efforts never produced the results sought by the state agency.
CCC officials say when the beach pathway is opened, it will provide the third accessway to a 1.5 mile stretch of sand halfway between Zonker Harris Accessway and the Carbon Beach East Accessway. Both of those accessways resulted from earlier coastal agency permit conditions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Malibu Mountains Golf Course Redesign and Expansion Is Planned

• Proposal Involves 40 Units for Overnight Accommodations and No Permanent Residences


An Environmental Impact Report being prepared to assess planned development at the Malibu Golf Club high in the hills above Malibu include a remodeled 18-hole golf course on a 107 acres of a 650-acre property and 200,000 square feet of new development, according to county documents.
The development in the Santa Monica Mountains consists of 48,164 square feet of educational and meeting facilities, along with 109,164 square feet of a hotel/resort/ recreation facility including overnight accommodations that are not residential units as previously reported.
“They have no kitchens. They are not for sale. They would be for overnight accommodations,” said Tom Hix, managing member of the golf course owner, Malibu Associates, LLC, calling the project the Malibu Institute, which will have an affiliation with the University of Southern California.
Hix said the buildings house 37 units clustered in a 20-acre area, and not on the hillsides of the golf course.
The “bungalows,” as Hix calls them, are 2500 to 3200 square feet in size and would be open to the public if USC is not utilizing them.
Part of the confusion that was circulated about the proposal in an earlier article in the Malibu Surfside News stems from a website for an entity also called Malibu Institute, which is not the website of the developers.
“Some of your information in your [previous] article is incorrect and was obtained from a website erroneously calling their project the ‘Malibu Institute.’ The rendering and floor plan elevations utilized in the article are also incorrect and have nothing to do with our project. Our website for the project is under construction and the domain address is We expect to have our website up in the next week or so,” wrote Hix in an email. 
Hix emphasized the changes sought to redo the golf course will make for an environmentally friendly facility.
He said the fairways will be “sandcapped,” meaning sand will be used as the planting medium allowing plant roots to directly absorb fertilizers and pesticides. “That takes less of those,” Hix added. He said a new generation of drought tolerant grasses will be used. 
The redesigned golf course would continue to operate as a public golf facility, as well as being available to USC and guests of the Malibu Institute, according to county documents.
The 18-hole course layout would be reconfigured using the acreage of 17 of the existing holes on about 107 acres of the existing 118-acre golf course with the turf area reduced to approximately 62 acres.
By clustering development of the buildings and accommodations on approximately 20 acres and the remodeled golf course on 107 acres in the southern portion of the 650-acre property, it is maintained that over 450 acres of native coastal scrub and chaparral, including oak woodland forest would be left undisturbed and become permanently dedicated open space, according to Hix.
Grading for the buildout would consist of approximately 120,000 cubic yards of cut and 120,000 cubic yards of fill. No import or export of fill material would be required.
The multiple septic tanks throughout the property would be removed and replaced by an on-site wastewater treatment and recycling system providing effluent treatment meeting Title 22 standards for reuse as irrigation for the remodeled course, according to county documents.
Hix said the treatment plant would be designed for processing about 50,000 gallons per day, according to Hix.
The project would need approval from Los Angeles County and the California Coastal Commission for a coastal permit.
The facility was purchased in September, 2006, when Malibu Associates, a then newly formed LLC, acquired the property from Fuji International, Inc.
At that time, investors indicated they had plans for improving the course and said they were still reviewing a number of options.
A previous owner of the course, the Church of Liberty, a Japan-based organization, caused an uproar in western Malibu when it announced plans in the mid-1980s to develop homes around the golf course.
Malibu West homeowners felt particularly threatened because of the threat of stormwater runoff, potential flooding and other problems they believed could find its way downstream via Trancas Canyon Creek, past their homes—some of which are located on the banks of the stream.
The golf course in located in the Trancas-Zuma Canyon watershed, an area that is a top acquisition priority for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
In 2012, the Obama Administration included $2.4 million in its Fiscal Year 2013 Budget to acquire and protect up to 238 acres of  land in Zuma and Trancas canyons
The land was one of just six nationwide land acquisition priorities in the budget and the only project in California.

1980s Malibu Beach Esplanade Proposal Makes Repeat Appearance

•  Is the Transitional Malibu of 2012 Predisposed to Consider Alteration of Another Historic Viewscape


The Malibu Beach Esplanade, which has been shepherded by local designer Ann Ryan for several decades, first made a contemporary appearance when a request was made by Ryan in 2011 for the City of Malibu’s grant fund program. Ryan applied for $85,000 for the esplanade.
The project abstract characterized the project thusly: “The Esplanade will create pedestrian walkways, bikeways, viewing deck, open space environments, trail linkages and beach access.
The Esplanade will provide a safe linkage of the recreational, cultural and historical resources of the area with the commercial core and Civic Center of the City of Malibu.
“The Esplanade will enhance the visual character of Malibu with the utilization of the design elements of landscape, streetscape, physical linage and design linkage.” The entire budget of the grants program was $75,000 that year and Ryan was not granted any funding.
In 1986, a news story about the project announced that it was ready to start and was being financed, according to Ryan, the president of the private, nonprofit corporation that was formed to build it.
Ryan told the newspaper the corporation had enough money to build the walkway, after receiving a $407,000 grant from the state Coastal Conservancy and Los Angeles County had also authorized $440,000 for placing utilities underground in the walkway area.
It was also reported that the state Department of Parks and Recreation had contributed $80,000 for stairs to the sand at Malibu Pier.
At the time, Ryan indicated another $150,000 was needed for amenities such as benches, lamp posts and landscaping.
Ryan told the newspaper the esplanade could be extended across Malibu Creek to Malibu Lagoon State Park at a later time, but that more money would be required.
The report indicated the county planned to build the esplanade along Cross Creek Road to Civic Center Way.
Again in 2012, Ryan sought funding from the city’s general fund grant program for $5000. “They did not receive any money from the city,” said Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman.
In a brief interview, Ryan acknowledged applying to the city along with other local nonprofits for its grant program funding.
The designer, who said she spent decades on designing the facility, recalled the long history of trying to get the design built.
She said it was the usual red tape and bureaucratic wrangling that has stalled the project for so many years.
Ryan indicated the state and county funding once awarded to the esplanade plans is no longer attached to the project.
The Esplanade project has generated recent interest and is expected to be discussed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
When the project was first proposed, it generated considerable controversy and met with opposition from the surf community.
Until the proposal is presented at a public forum, it is too early to tell if it will receive a more favorable reception.

City Manager Gives a Current Progress Report on Municipal View Restoration Program

• 300 Primary View Applications Made


Last September, Malibu city officials issued a deadline for property owners to submit an application for the city’s View Restoration Program, or VRP.
After the deadline passed, no further information was forthcoming from planning officials and it seemed the matter had quietly gone away.
However, this week, City Manager Jim Thorsen gave an update on the program. “There were 300 primary view applications submitted,” said Thorsen, who indicated half of those applications have been completed. “We still have 150 to do. We hope to have another 100 done by the end of February.”
The city manager said the staff hopes to have everything back to the city council by springtime.
On March 2012, the city council adopted the view restoration ordinance, which allows preservation of primary views as they existed on Feb., 13, 2012, or a date thereafter.
Property owners who were interested in preserving their primary views were required to request a primary view determination from the planning department staff by submitting an application.
Thorsen said the staff has been going out to homes whose owners submitted an application to take photos and determine the primary view. He said the procedure is taking time because the weather can be a determinant, or deterrence, and staff must plan accordingly.
The city does not currently have an ordinance that allows for restoration of a pre-existing view obstructed by landscaping.
The view restoration program provides property owners, according to city officials, the opportunity to inform decision-makers of their interest in restoration of views if an ordinance were to be adopted in the future.
Future view restoration regulations may be adopted that apply only to those who submitted VRP applications.
Results from the six-month program, which began in March, will be reported to the city council.

Bluffs Park May Have 35 More Acres that Can Be Developed

• Grasslands Areas Not Designated as Requiring Protection


City Manager Jim Thorsen announced at the Malibu City Council meeting this week that there may be 30 to 35 additional acres that could be developed at Bluffs Park.
“It opens up the whole center of the park that could have potential uses for a skate park, tennis court, BMX facility or combination of facilities,” he said.
The information may be important to municipal officials since they are considering taking possession of the remaining 83 acres at Bluffs Park in exchange for the 532-acre city-owned Charmlee Wilderness Park.
Thorsen said during a biology assessment of the site that it was discovered that a 30-plus acre grassland area is not an Environmental Sensitive Habitat Area and is in a flat centrally located area of the park.
“We can incorporate it into the Environmental Impact Report and we don’t have to have it dezoned,” he added.
At the same time council members announced they were holding town hall meetings and hikes on the Bluffs property.
Councilmembers Joan House and Mayor Lou La Monte were conducting one on Wednesday after the Malibu Surfside News went to press.
Councilmembers Laura Rosenthal and John Sibert have scheduled a town hall meeting at the Bluffs Park deal on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 10 a.m. Rain cancels.
“John Sibert and I talked about the land swap and thought we would do a town hall meeting. We will walk the park. Wear good shoes [for walking],” she said.
Critics of the land swap contend the exchange does not make sense since there is so little developable land at Bluffs Park.
The most recent announcement adds an additional factor to the equation while the merits of the land swap are debated.

Publisher’s Notebook

• CWI: The Stealth Initiative •


In light of the lack of public fanfare and attention to the mail-in form to protest the Los Angeles County Clean Water, Clean Beaches Water Quality Funding Initiative, better known as the Clean Water Initiative, or CWI, no one will be surprised if the matter goes to a vote in a similarly inconspicuous manner.
If county politicos are correct, the Board of Supervisors in a few weeks will move ahead with a mail-only ballot on the fee that will apply to all county property owners, even the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and other public organizations and government entities that could face hefty tabs under the measure.
Barring a protest surge or scheduling changes, the mail-only balloting could begin in mid-March and run until early May. Although Malibu does not have any other electoral issues, other cities in the county do, and there is concern that CWI will fall through the cracks in those areas and be approved by a minority turnout.
The initiative is the largest protest hearing process the county has ever undertaken. We agree with its critics that “it should have been as convenient, transparent and open as possible, but unfortunately it did not live up to that,”
Even a key proponent of the initiative is quoted as saying the action is being taken “in an off year when people are asleep, instead of putting it on the general election when people are aware of ballot initiatives.”
It’s not that people object to the ostensible premise of the measure—the L.A. County Flood Control District says fees will be used to treat stormwater runoff and increase groundwater supplies for water consumption.
The fee on single-family homes is supposed to be from $54 to $84 a year based on property size, its use, and the percentage of property that creates water runoff. But some local property owners say they have assessments of several hundred dollars and up. Commercial properties could be hit with several thousand dollars, and government and public entities are looking at six-figure bills that approach a million dollars.
Although the board extension of the protest motion directed the county Department of Public Works to provide a process for placing the CWI on a general election ballot, do up a list of specific clean water projects, explore a sunset date for the measure and develop an alternative way of funding water quality projects, no one is expecting alternatives to materialize.
In addition to the process issues, rumbling is growing that the initiative’s list of projects is becoming a textbook example of pork barrel politics as the measure becomes a catchall for localized projects solicited by groups who could access the funding.
For example, at the CWI website, a sample proposal for Malibu cites a Point Dume Area Land Acquisition described as: “The City of Malibu plans to acquire vacant properties from willing sellers in the Point Dume area in order to further regional water quality objectives.” What is this and where are those properties?
Malibuites are invited to see this week’s article on the Clean Water Initiative in The News and begin to decide for themselves whether this is about improving the environment or a vehicle for local political favors. Additional county information is available at 800-218-0018 or

UCLA and NPS Partner to Open Science Field Station in the SMMNRA

• Conservation and Environmental Research Will Be Focus of New Facility Funded by Philanthropist


UCLA and the National Park Service have opened a field station just above Malibu at Rocky Oaks Park in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The new facility will provide headquarters and a center of operations for the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation,  Science Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
For longtime SMMNRA advocates, the UCLA program is yet another validation of the area’s biological and environmental significance.
“[The station is] dedicated to improving conservation science in the greater Los Angeles area,” a press release on the new facility states. “It was renovated through the generosity of philanthropist Morton La Kretz to serve as an off-campus location for meetings, small classes, workshops, overnight guests and research support. The station forms the headquarters for the La Kretz Center’s activities with its three primary partners, the National Park Service, California State Parks, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.”
The field station is located in a former ranch house that is located on National Park Service property adjacent to Rocky Oaks Park on Mulholland Highway. The Malibu Surfside News had an opportunity to tour the facility with executive director Felicia Federico.
“We wanted a physical location, a base of operations in the Santa Monica Mountains,” Federico said. “This station will facilitate field work. The intent is to bridge the gap between ecology and land use.”
Renovations at the facility are almost compete. The former ranch house can be used for conferences, classes, workshops and as a home base for research.
“We have people coming in a few days for a week of rodent research,” Federico said. “We have a genomics workshop that will be led by our director, Brad Shaffer.”
The workshop will offer “an informal training environment for a small group of motivated graduate students to explore how conservation problems can best be addressed with genomic-level data,” a website for the event states.
Federico says the station will open new opportunities for the Park Service to communicate with academics on issues like resource management and climate change.
“Balancing recreational uses with conservation is one of the key objectives,” she said.
“[The field station] will encourage more people to do conservation research in the Los Angeles area,” said UCLA conservation biologist Brad Shaffer, who is the director of the La Kretz Center and a professor with joint appointments in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
“Having a home base in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains makes it much more attractive to do research,” Shaffer said in a press release. “For the first time, we have a building where students, researchers and our agency partners can work, brainstorm, and stay in the mountains.”
The field station offers easy access to the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Federico says that future plans may include a small laboratory at the station, to aid with fieldwork.
“We are just getting started,” she said.
Federico added that the field station, which is home to live oaks, manzanita and other chaparrel plants and a newly planted native plant garden, offers a prime opportunity for focused research.
More information on the La Kretz Center is available online at

Property Owners Have Until March 12 to Oppose Permanent Property Fee

• Critics Claim Costly County Clean Water and Beaches Measure Could Fund Non-Essential Projects


The public has until March 12 to protest the Los Angeles County Flood Control District’s Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure that will assess a permanent annual fee on property owners to fund a wide range of projects.
“As the governing body of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles held a public hearing on Jan. 15, a county announcement states.
The Board of Supervisors voted to continue the public hearing until March 12, which means the deadline to submit a protest is also extended to March 12, an announcement states.
Protests were received from 95,000 property owners—4.3 percent. The county must receive protests from at least 51 percent of affected property owners for the measure to fail.
According to the minutes, almost 200 members of the public and representatives of municipalities and organizations spoke at the Jan. 15 meeting. Many indicated that they did not receive or did not read the original notice, which critics say resembled “junk mail.”
Although the county has issued assurances that single-family residences will not be billed more than $85 per year, many property owners in the Malibu area receive notice that their annual fee would be in excess of $125. Owners of multi-acre parcels received higher fee estimates.
A number of fee protesters complained that the fee is the same regardless of   whether the property is developed or undeveloped. Some property owners with large parcels are calling for exemptions. Others have requested that the supervisors include a “sunset” clause, to limit the number of years the fee can be collected.
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has requested an exemption on the fee on the basis that it would cost the district approximately $180,000 per year.
Due to the numerous concerns raised by the majority of the speakers, Supervisor Don Knabe introduced a motion and the Board of Supervisors voted to continue the public hearing until March 12, to provide more time for public input and implement possible revisions.
Knabe's motion included: Immediately provide an online/e-mail protest option to the public; Provide a process for placing this initiative on a General Election Ballot, if there is no majority protest; Determine a possible sunset date for this initiative; Define a specific list of projects that this initiative would fund; Address the concern of double taxation for those that are already capturing and treating stormwater; and develop potential alternative mechanisms to fund stormwater quality projects.
The board may choose to close the public hearing and proceed to the second step in the process—an election to approve the proposed Clean Water Fee, or continue the item to a future meeting.
While the majority of the speakers at the Jan. 15 meeting were opposed to the fee, Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte was there to support the measure.
According to the measure’s website, the fee could be used for a variety of potential projects, including, “Installing storm drain screen inserts and filters, and keeping them clean, a cost-effective way of preventing trash from entering waterways at the source-street level; regular street sweeping; developing parks, wetlands and open space where water is held, filtered and naturally cleansed before it reaches coastal waters or percolates down into the ground; developing green streets, green parking lots and green roofs on public buildings, which retain rain and urban runoff and naturally cleanse it; Creating clean water education programs to emphasize the importance of keeping trash, used motor oil and other toxic liquids out of the storm drain system.”
Malibu-specific potential projects include “Trancas Creek and Lagoon Restoration,” which proposes creating “an engineered wetland” at the outflow of Trancas Creek, and construction of a “Trancas Creek and Lagoon Trail” extending “from Malibu West's residential areas to Malibu Coastal trails and Morningview Drive [sic].”
According to the project description, “The trail will be equipped with water green infrastructure that will naturally filter, store, and treat stormwater.
“Green infrastructure includes structures such as bio-swales, rain gardens, and permeable pavers: Bio-swales are vegetated channels that slow runoff, reduce pollutants, increase groundwater recharge, and improve air quality.
“Rain gardens contain sandy soil, organic material, and native plants that intake water, reduce runoff, increase groundwater, and are aesthetically pleasing. Permeable pavers provide pathways that allow water to infiltrate into the ground, reducing runoff and increasing groundwater.”
Also on the list is a “Malibu Equestrian Center Runoff Program,” described as: “Install green infrastructure to capture and treat runoff from the riding rings and parking lot. Horse owners would also be educated on how to maintain confined animal spaces and improve water quality in coastal streams.”
Plans for the “Malibu Civic Center Linear Park Expansion” include: “Construct a safe, permeable walking path from Webb Way to Malibu Canyon Road.
“The path will be flanked by green infrastructure, which will capture and treat stormwater before it reaches existing storm drain systems and flows into the ocean.”
 The project webpage states: “Green infrastructure not only conveys water, but can also allow infiltration, filter and clean water, provide habitat, and reduce urban heat island effects. Path-side installations could include: Plant-filled swales, detention ponds, rain gardens, and water infiltration areas, vegetative buffer areas, street trees.” Expansion of Legacy Park is also proposed.
Other proposed projects include a plan for “Point Dume Area Land Acquisition,” which states “City of Malibu plans to acquire vacant properties from willing sellers in the Point Dume area in order to further regional water quality objectives.” The website does not specify what property, or what the city's water quality objectives are.
“Historical Ecology of Malibu Coastal Watersheds,” states, “Educators will research and report on the historical ecology of the Malibu Coastal Watersheds to evaluate past human impacts, and bring the past to life.”
This project’s goals are not specified, beyond stating that it will “help both residents and visitors appreciate the importance of protecting natural resources in Malibu and beyond.” A similar proposal recommends: “Bringing the Clean Water message close to home through the classroom. Adapt a program to meet the new state Environmental Education Initiatives for K-12 by creating a curriculum that focuses on what children can observe in their own neighborhood.”
A Malibu Area of Special Biological Significance Implementation Project is also proposed.
The description states, “[ASBS] are protected coastal areas created to preserve local marine ecosystems. ASBS regulations prohibit pollutants from entering the ocean through direct private drains, municipal storm drains and natural streams.
“Malibu is home to a portion of an ASBS, which stretches 24 miles from Latigo Point beyond the County Line to Laguna Point (in the Point Mugu area).  This project will support marine assessments required to meet ASBS objectives.
“The city will also implement strategies to reduce or eliminate urban runoff pollution, acquire buffer land from willing sellers, and monitor the effectiveness of pollution control measures.”
The map listing all potential projects, including those in Malibu, is available online.
Parcel owners or their authorized representatives wishing to protest the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Fee can download the official form at, or write a letter and submit it to the Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
According to the website, to be counted as a protest, the letter must include: Assessor's Parcel Number (APN); parcel site address, or description of parcel’s location if parcel has no address; name and signature of the parcel owner, or an authorized representative. 
Protest forms must be received before March 12. Only one protest per parcel will be accepted and counted.
Project proponents do not need to take any action, according to the website.
Questions can be addressed to 800-218-0018 or
Only scanned or photographed protests with a handwritten signature will be accepted by email according to the website.
Protesters must ensure scans/photos are clear and legible, and must keep their signed protest and make it available to the Department of Public Works on request, according to the instructions.
Parcel owners may submit signed protest forms or letters via US Mail to:
Executive Officer of the Board of Supervisors, P.O. Box 866006, Los Angeles, CA 90086.

In Memoriam: Alvin Kincaid Was Part of Malibu’s Pioneer Heritage

• Saga Leading Up to the Acquisition of the Kincaid Ranch Is Emblematic of Southern California History

Alvin Mills Kincaid was born on May 6, 1926, in Santa Monica, and passed away on February 2nd in Waikoloa, Hawaii at the age of 86. He was the last of his generation to have been raised on the Kincaid Ranch in Malibu.
The Kincaids and the Mills family are both descended from a long line of pioneers reaching back to the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Both families made their way to California following the gold rush of 1848.  
“Al” Kincaid’s grandfather, Eugenio, having sailed to and crossed the Panama Isthmus in 1857 to try his hand at gold mining, became a construction foreman helping to build the first Transcontinental Telegraph Line in 1861, which cemented the West Coast to the Union cause at the outbreak of the Civil War. 
Immediately thereafter he became the first manager of the Western Union office at the Sacramento telegraph terminus. A wild burr always under the Kincaid saddle, it was not long before Eugenio left for the Nevada silver mines and eventually homesteaded a ranch in the Monitor Valley in the north of that state. 
In 1875, he brought his growing family south to the then budding metropolis of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, total population 5500, and built a livery stable and general store on the “outskirts of the city” after acquiring a 15-acre parcel at the intersection of what today is Pico Boulevard and Figueroa Avenue and the site of the Los Angeles Convention Center. 
One year later on Sept. 5, 1876, the Southern Pacific Railroad linking Los Angeles for the first time to a transcontinental railway was completed and passed directly in front of Eugenio’s store, launching his career as an astute developer of downtown.
Eugenio’s eldest son, Freeman Kincaid, was born on the Nevada ranch in 1873 but grew up in the burgeoning new California mecca of L.A. He graduated in the class of 1894 at the University of Berkeley, and, as an educator and government employee, worked in the city of Los Angeles.
However, the same adventurous itch that struck his father infected Freeman, and in 1905 he filed a patent on his first 160 acres of federal land buried deep in the Santa Monica Mountains. The only problem was access. There was none. To get to his chosen land he had to take a stagecoach to the San Fernando Valley and then ride horseback from the back side of the trail-less mountains up to Triunfo Pass, crossing the crest of the range and thence down to Trancas Canyon along the coast. 
There on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he planted his flag and made his stand. It took a few years and more than 10 miles of road-building by leading a team of horses and a crude fresno to make his claim. The first cabin blew down in a ferocious Santa Ana windstorm in 1915. The second house, a single-story, large clap-board built in a “U” shape around a courtyard became the Kincaid Ranch headquarters, birthing three children, and husbanding manifold livestock.
Alvin was born into this idyll, along with his younger sister Evelyn, and brother Freeman Jr., and with half-brother Joe Valerie Kincaid. The elder Freeman eventually brought in his six brothers and sisters and the extended family patented a domain, eventually exceeding 5000 acres and covering most of the upper watershed of Encinal and Trancas Canyons. It was bounded on the south by the Spanish land grant Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, purchased in 1894 by Frederick Rindge.
The ranch house burned down in a 1935 range fire but that didn’t stop the family. While living in the bottom of Trancas Canyon in a line shack lent by May Rindge—the widow of Frederick Rindge, they completed a smaller house on the same site, which still stands today at the terminus of Trancas Canyon Road. 
The Kincaid family raised cattle and horses, kept pigs, chickens, and geese, and raised bees for honey. Alvin learned to hunt early and became an expert marksman.  He had a lifelong affection for his guns and hunting and always loaded his own ammunition. He was an accomplished horseman at a very young age, though once, being chastened by his older half-brother Joe, walked away from his mount and never rode again. 
When the elder Freeman Kincaid died in 1937 at the height of the depression, he left his wife Grace Kincaid with three young children and no source of income.  Gradually acreage was sold or bartered away, piece by piece. One particularly beautiful 40-acre parcel in the bottom of Trancas Canyon was traded in 1938 for a primitive washing machine and refrigerator. 
When World War II broke out, Alvin was 15 years old.  On his sixteenth birthday in the year of 1942, following in the footsteps of his brother Freeman Jr., Alvin signed up for the Merchant Marine and soon shipped out from Long Beach Harbor. He spent two years circumnavigating the world, making stops at exotic ports like Calcutta, Hobart/Tasmania, Zanzibar, Santiago, Mindanao, and Recife, supplying the Allied juggernaut. 
On his eighteenth birthday, finally old enough to enlist, he joined the Army. In the spring of 1945, he was shipped to Europe just in time for the German surrender, whereupon he became a member of the United States Honor Guard at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower.
He was stationed there in Frankfurt am Main, Germany for the next two years where he met his soon-to-be wife, Marion Winterstein, the daughter of a well-known business family, and the mother of his only two children. 
In early 1948, the newlyweds arrived in California and set up house at the ranch. He was only 22 and had already lived a life of adventure bridging a rugged pioneer upbringing and a brave new world. Though he had left Santa Monica High School in the eleventh grade to join the war effort, he was presented a high school diploma upon his return to the States. 
Alvin soon went to work as a construction laborer,  became a journeyman carpenter, a dedicated union man and began a lifelong passion of building with wood, working on the houses of the rich and famous from Malibu to Beverly Hills.
At the advanced age of 40, in order to overcome a consuming fear of water and the inability to swim, he took deep sea diving classes—brass helmets with rubber suits  and all—until he finally became a certified diver. Thereafter he never dove again, but he had conquered his terror of the sea. 
Longing to return to the South Pacific and the youthful dreams of romantic isles, he launched his newest passion for sailing. Over the next 20 years, he owned and rebuilt two oceangoing vessels and lived off-and-on in nearly every port in southern California. 
Whether it was at sea, or among high mountains or endless desert, Alvin loved nothing more than to grab his binoculars and scan the horizon. He was always on the lookout for adventure, and perhaps another idyll. He never found it.
Alvin’s other consuming passion was reading and more reading, having amassed a personal library of nearly a thousand books. Everywhere he went, he had a book in hand. There were books on sailing adventures, on history, philosophy, or politics. He was a voracious bibliophile with a prodigious memory.  
Alvin could recite perfectly poetry memorized from childhood, as well as accurately recall the names of people and places and dates. He was a man of extraordinary intellect. He was one of a kind. He will be sorely missed.
Alvin Kincaid is survived by his son Clive Alvin Kincaid—who submitted this memorial—of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and daughter-in-law Chris, and grandson Nick Kincaid. He is also survived by his daughter Carla Korda of Camarillo, California; his nephew Eric Kincaid Olsen of Kettle Falls, Washington, as well as Eric’s sons Jared and Ricky, his grand nephews; as well as his 20-year partner, Paula Kamiya of Waikoloa, Hawaii.
Alvin Mills Kincaid will be buried in the Kincaid Family plot alongside his grandparents Eugenio Hough Kincaid and Charity Sophronia Mills, and his parents Freeman Mills Kincaid and Theresa Grace Valerie, among his aunts and uncles and siblings.
Funeral services will be held at the Inglewood Memorial Cemetery in the Grace Chapel at 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 15.