Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

City Council Members Wax Poetic over Budgetary Picture for FY 2013-2014

• Cost of Law Enforcement Generates Questions as Public Safety Issues Loom Larger for Many in Community

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council took its first look at the proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget at a meeting this week.
The proposed document includes general fund revenues of $21.9 million and general fund expenditures of $21.88 million,” said Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman in her remarks to council members.
Feldman added another plus is the projected undesignated general fund by June 30, 2014 is expected to be $12 million. She added, “This amount exceeds the city’s goal of maintaining a minimum of 50% of the operating budget.”
The total projected general fund balance (including designated and undesignated reserves) on June 30, 2014, is $14 million, according to Feldman.
Council members were pleased to hear the city continues to experience growth in almost all tax revenue sources. Property tax revenue is projected to increase $325,000 to $7.2 million from the 2012-13 tax year.
Councilmember John Sibert said officials from other cities are amazed when they are told the income revenue from the acquisition of Legacy Park and other commercial buildings is paying the debt of that purchase. “When I describe this their jaws drop,” he said.
Feldman reminded Sibert and the other council members the income revenue not only pays to retire the debt service, but also covers the costs for the operation and maintenance of the park plus its water quality facilities
Sibert and Feldman were referring to the $1.4 million of rental income from three commercial properties and $400,000 of percentage rental income from the Malibu Lumber Yard site for a total of $1.8 million.
The assistant city manager informed council members  that the increase in revenues from various sources amounts to nearly a $1 million increase in revenue from the last fiscal year.
Special revenues total $8.1 million, including $5.7 million of grant funds for capital improvement projects. Gas tax revenue is projected at $405,000. Traffic safety revenue is expected to be $450,000. Proposition A revenue is $200,000 and Prop C revenue is projected at $160,000.
However, Councilmember Joan House wanted to know how much other cities are paying for public safety most notably the conract for law enforcement services.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said other cities such as Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and Calabasas are about half of what Malibu pays, $3 to $4 million, while Malibu pays $6.5 million. “We are paying about double or triple. Santa Monica pays $91 million,” Thorsen said.
Sibert noted it is something the city has been concerned about.
House also wanted to know about the new City Hall debt service. Feldman said it will be the first year the city will start to make payments for the debt service which will be about $1.7 million.
“We were paying $800,000 for rent. In about 10 years we will be paying the same amount as if we had decided to keep paying rent. Except now we will own the building,” Feldman added.
House also questioned the health costs of the city’s retirement package. Feldman answered health care costs have gone up across the board and it is not specific to the city.
Other council members praised Feldman and the proposed budget. Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she was pleased to see the extra money for what she called the participation rent from the city-owned Lumber Yard stores.
Mayor Lou La Monte called the work on the proposed budget “a spectacular job”  and said he was grateful.
Councilmember Skylar Peak said he was impressed to see $1 million budgeted for a skate park.
The overall budget for public safety has increased $127,000 from the prior fiscal year due to a 2.4 percent increase in cost charged by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to the budget. The city continues to use what are known as COPS grant funding of $100,000 to supplement law enforcement activities.
The budget for administrative service has increased by $379, 000 due to the $489,000 for debt service for City Hall. “These increases are offset by a $222,000 decrease in Legacy Park operations and a $24,000 decrease in Finance,” Feldman wrote in her staff report.
The parks and recreation budget has decreased $65,000 mostly as a result of the closure of the skate park in 2011.
The budget for the environmental sustainability department has decreased a total of $271,000.
The reasons include a $273,000 reduction in building and safety because of the completion of a permit software project.
The planning department’s budget has increased a total of $193,000 due to a $176,000 increase in planning for a contract planner and consulting services to assist with long-range planning projects, code updates and conditional use permits and updates to the Housing Element, according to the assistant city manager.
The public works department has decreased a total of $46,000,
There is a total of $10.8 million of capital expenditures, $5.7 million is being funded from grants, $3.1 million from the Civic Center wastewater treatment facility CFD; $670,000 from special revenue funds and $1.3 million from the general fund capital improvements projects designated reserve fund.

Fifth Cause of Action Added to Malibu Township Council Lawsuit against City

• Legality of Municipal Email Deletion Policy Also Targeted

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu Township Council legal counsel Frank Angel filed a first amended petition for writ of mandate and complaint. in court this week.
“The amended pleading is now the operative pleading in court. It adds a new fifth cause of action for a judicial declaration,” said Angel.
The MTC attorney charges the city’s email deletion/destruction policy “allows most emails to be deleted when read [and] is illegal.”
Angel asserts the practice violates the California Public Records Act, a state statute that requires all records of local governments to be kept for at least two years and “violates the basic provision of the California Constitution providing that ‘the people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business and therefore the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.’”
“The CPRA specifically includes emails into the definition of ‘writings,’” added Angel.
The attorney said a ruling in the public’s favor on the issue is not limited to the parkland swap.
“It will protect the integrity of the city records in the future in other matters of city business,” he said.
Angel indicated municipal officials and staff did not produce all the electronically stored information and other writings responsive to the public records request and the emails “belatedly made available” were provided as PDF file printouts.
Consequently, Angel is asking the court that city officials must make available “all records that constitute electronically stored information in the electronic format in which they hold this information, as we requested and as the public is entitled to.”

CCC Director Says LCPA ‘Legally Adequate’

• Amendment Includes School Outdoor Lighting Standards

BY BILL KOENEKER

The City of Malibu’s Local Coastal Program Amendment on institutional zone development standards jumped its final hoop when the coastal agency’s executive director recently made a determination that the action by the city and agreement with the commission’s certification with suggested modifications is “legally adequate.”
A special provision of the new zoning law added by a subcommittee of the city council allows outdoor lighting at public high schools with a conditional use permit.
In February 2013, the commission approved LCPA with suggested modifications. The city council had approved what the municipality is calling Ordinance No. 373 in March 2013.
Municipal planners had indicated both the Malibu municipal code and the LCP provide specific development standards for development projects located in the residential and commercial zoning districts, however, neither provides a set of standards for projects located in the institutional zone.
“These projects can include fire stations, towing yards, religious institutions, private and public educational institutions  and outdoor activities/facilities such as sporting events and farmers markets,” a staff report states.
While both codes provide general requirements for setbacks, height and floor area ratio, all remaining components default to the residential development standards listed in the municipal code, according to planners.
“The current set of permitted and conditionally permitted uses within the institutional zone are limited and inadequately regulate the scope of existing and potential uses within this zoning district,” the report goes on to assert.
The planning staff anticipates that there will be an improvement in the planning review process and better regulation governing complex institutional projects and transparent guidelines for applicants to follow during project design.
It was during a review of the ordinance by the Zoning Revisions and Code Enforcement subcommittee or ZORACES that language was inserted to add the outdoor lighting for public high schools.  ZORACES recommended staff to return with a revised version of the amendment package that was exclusive to adding outdoor lights at public high schools as a conditionally permitted use within the institutional zone.

Malibu Joins Ranks with Other Cities in Legal Action Against County over Property Tax Fees

• State High Court Rules Method of Calculation Violated Law

BY BILL KOENEKER

At the start of the Malibu City Council meeting this week, City Attorney Christi Hogin announced Malibu has joined other cities in litigation that may force Los Angeles County to turn over millions of dollars that were earmarked as fees for property tax administration.
Last November, the state Supreme Court ruled that the county had improperly withheld million of dollars in property tax administration fees from dozens of cities within the county, a decision that has spurred cities across the state to go after other counties that used the same accounting practices.
In an unanimous ruling, the state high court affirmed a lower court opinion that the county’s method of calculating property tax administration fees violated state law because it imposed the fees on local property taxes.
After the meeting, Hogin said the successful litigation applied to a specific fiscal year. She said other cities now including Malibu are going to court for other specific fiscal years. “It is new litigation. We are suing for different fiscal years,” she said.
The city council and its staff had some quick answers for folks, who came to the council dais to talk about their concerns.
GUERNSEY CONCERNS
A Malibu Park mom said she and others have wanted to go to Zuma Beach by walking down to Pacific Coast Highway and crossing at Guernsey and PCH.
 “There is no crosswalk,” she said. “The kids beg me to drive them. I love that they are that paranoid. But we should be able to walk to the beach. There needs to be a crosswalk, a blinking crosswalk signal or even a bridge.”
She also remarked how there is no sidewalk to PCH along Guernsey. She said Guernsey is the natural way for beachgoers to get across PCH to walk to Zuma. “You could earmark some of the $14 million of that PCH safety money,” she added.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said the city is aware of how beach visitors use that area for crossing over PCH.
He said it does not meet Caltrans standards for developing a cross walk, especially given its proximity to the Trancas Canyon Road and PCH intersection. “It does not meet the warrants for signalization,” he added.
“It’s tough,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, commenting about the Caltrans requirements. Councilmember Joan House said while a crosswalk might be nice, it might also put people in harm’s way.
REHAB ISSUES
A Sycamore Park man said he encountered a naked man who was notably dazed and lacerated shuffling about near his home.
“I gave him some shorts. He acknowledged he was from Passages Malibu treatment center. I called the sheriff. Two CHP cars arrived and then the sheriff’s deputies arrived,” he said.
The Sycamore Park resident recalled how it was a school day and his children were not exposed to the incident.
“Nothing or no one was harmed to my knowledge,” he said. “It could have been a travesty.”
Thorsen said the city was aware of the incident through the sheriff’s office. “We are looking at all incidents and issues pertaining to them,” the city manager said.
Rosenthal said the city does not regulate the rehabilitation centers. “That is done at the state level. We thought if they enforced the code that would take care of the problem.” she said.
She acknowledged some of the information the city has was incorrect. “We thought the rehabs could not cluster. They can cluster. The state encourages clustering. They can cluster the eating areas, the meeting areas, while neighborhoods can be turned over to clustered rehabs,” she added.
Councilmember John Sibert talked about how nearly five years ago he and other council members had attempted to deal with the issue of rehabs. “It is a tough row to hoe. We have been talking to Newport Beach which has the same problems,” he said.
Mayor Lou La Monte said, “The city is still working hard to find a way for the rehabs to follow the law. We are starting there. It is not just Malibu. There are other cities. We are not going to give up,” he said.
 Hogin said it is a matter of momentum. That is cities join together and take the issue to Sacramento, the pendulum will swing the other way. “I think there will be a critical time. We will watch them carefully,” she said.

Input Sought on Crummer DEIR

• Planning Panel Invites Open Comment

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on May 6 at Malibu City Hall to hear comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report prepared for the Crummer Site Subdivision.
Planners stress the public hearing is to allow public comments on the DEIR only.
“The development application itself and associated amendments to the zoning code and Local Coastal Program will not be discussed and no action will be taken on the Draft EIR or the development application. The public review period for the Draft EIR extends until May 20, 2013,” states a public notice.
The comments received at the public hearing or in writing wil be responded to in writing and included in the Final EIR, according to the city’s planning department. At this time, a planning commission public hearing date has not been scheduled to consider the Final EIR, entitlements and associated amendments, planners said.
The DEIR is being circulated for a 45-day review period, which started April 3 and ends May 20.
The project site is a 24-acre parcel atop a bluff with steep slopes descending to the south and east. Malibu Bluffs Park borders the project site to the west. PCH borders the site to the north and a privately owned parcel borders the site to the east. Winter Mesa Drive, a small road connecting PCH to Malibu Bluffs Park, provides access to the project site.
The developer wants to build five homes with lot six developed as a private gated street, gatehouse, onsite wastewater treatment package plant, landscaping, open space to be owned and maintained by the homeowners association. Lot seven would be dedicated to the city for active and passive recreation use.
“At this time the city believes that the recreational area may be used as a baseball field or a skate park. Therefore, these uses are evaluated in this Draft EIR,” the document states.
Three project alternatives were identified and analyzed in detail for the relative impacts to the proposed project. The two-story with skate park only alternative, one- story homes with skate park or baseball field, and no project foreseeable development alternative.
The two-story homes with skate park only alternative “would eliminate the significant and unavoidable traffic impact. It would also reduce parking demand impacts and operational noise impacts,” the DEIR concludes.
The one-story homes with skate park or baseball field alternative “would reduce the maximum building height of the residential structures from 28 feet to 18 feet. The building square footages would remain the approximately the same for each unit, as would the lot sizes.”
Plans call for each of the five single-family residences to be two stories tall with a maximum height of 28 feet, and would include a basement, attached garage, swimming pool and spa, fountains, vehicle entry gate, fencing, landscaping and hardscape.
Lot one includes a detached guesthouse. Lot two includes a detached gym.  Lots three and five include a detached cabana and guesthouse and lot four includes a detached cabana, according to planners.
Each home would have a wastewater septic tank, which would route wastewater to the OWTS plant.
The proposed private street provides access to the single-family homes. The private gated street is planned to be 34 feet wide and terminate in a cul-de-sac, which would serve as a fire department turnaround and would be accessible from Winter Mesa Drive.

PCH Safety Study at Next Stage

• Two Community Meetings Scheduled

The City of Malibu has announced two new public meetings, on May 7 and May 9, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., as part of the city’s ongoing Pacific Coast Highway Safety Study.
“The city, in collaboration with the Southern California Association of Governments, is conducting a safety study along PCH to examine current road conditions, determine accident patterns and identify and assess traffic conflicts,” a press release states. “The study will conclude with recommendations for prioritized improvements along the highway for all modes of travel. Public input will help the City define the  issues and create feasible and effective solutions.”
The public meetings will be held at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, “and will include a review of the Safety Assessment Report, next steps and project schedule,” the press release states.
“The corridor wide safety assessment will serve to identify key safety issues and prioritize them in preparation for the upcoming alternatives analysis phase of the study.”
According to the release, the meeting content will be identical on both May 7 and 9. “The public is encouraged to attend the meeting that is most convenient for them.”

EPA Offers TMDL Workshop on Creek Water

• Public Participation Sought for Malibu Watershed Proposal

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Malibu residents who are willing to travel to Agoura Hills will have an opportunity to participate in a public workshop on the EPA’s controversial Total Daily Maximum Load proposal from the Malibu Creek watershed.
“U.S. EPA Region IX will be holding a public workshop to provide information and address questions regarding the proposed pollution blueprint, Malibu Creek and Lagoon TMDL for Sedimentation and Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community, to be established by USEPA,” a press release for the event states.
“Representatives from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board will also be present to provide information on the state process of the TMDL.”
The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at Agoura Hills City Hall, 30001 Ladyface Court, off Agoura Rd.
According to the press release, the workshop will include discussion on “the proposed plan to improve water quality and restore ecology in Malibu Creek and Lagoon, and  [the] long-term implementation process to achieve water quality standards in the future Improvements and updates from local stakeholders and entities.”
Critics have expressed the concern that the EPA's TMDL proposal does not adequately address the impact of naturally occurring nutrient loads, including phosphatic shales at the base of the Miocene-era Modelo formation, which reportedly leach higher than normal levels of phosphates and nitrates into portions the watershed.
More information on the workshop is available by contacting USEPA Region IX representative Cindy Lin, 213-244-1803, or Jenny Newman, at Los Angeles RWQCB, 213-576-6691

Publisher’s Notebook

• Government Transparency •

BY ANNE SOBLE

The City of Malibu has now joined the list of a number of other local governments in the state of California that are grappling with some of the thorny legal issues related to putting the requirements of the open government legislation generally referred to as the Brown Act and the Public Records Act in the context of rapidly evolving communication technology and an ongoing philosophical debate over the extent of the public’s right to know what goes into the making of government policy.
That the members of any particular public at a specific point in time have not always been as diligent in asserting the rights created by this legislation as they should be, and have allowed the press—disregarding that the ownership of media may have its own special interests and agenda—to serve as their surrogate, does not diminish the extent of these rights when they are challenged.
If the operating premise of the democratic process is that knowledge and access are key determinants of political power, the resolution of the differences of opinion on Brown and Public Records legislation issues is critical to the underpinnings of an equitable political system.
One doesn’t need Machiavellian insight to intuit that those who wield political power prefer to do so without interference and denying access to information and an opportunity to weigh in at every stage of the policymaking process creates a major impediment to opposition.
Discussions of ways that a majority of a legislative body can explore or initiate action on business under its jurisdiction run the gamut from abstract philosophy to mathematical modeling with terms such as “hub-and-spoke” and “daisy chain” being used to describe actions by legislators that purposely, or inadvertently, violate the requirement that these actions be open to the public.
If one person acts as the center and communicates with other members of the legislative body by telephone or email, does a hub-and-spoke serial meeting result? Does daisy-chain communication become a serial meeting if one council member contacts another to discuss city business, and the second council member discusses it with a third? Is this beginning to sound like some of the email debate in the City of Malibu?
In addition to Brown Act violation allegations, the MTC has challenged the City of Malibu’s email deletion/destruction policy, which appears to allow most emails to be deleted after they have been read. Does this violate the California Public Records Act, which requires that all records of local governments, including emails, be kept for two years because “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state?”
Citizens now have the electronic tools to not only monitor all government meetings but also to comb through documentation in ways that would have been impossible only a few years ago. With this technological revolution comes an unparalleled opportunity for public oversight of government. Although it may take the courts a while to catch up with what is happening on the government transparency battle lines, the current Malibu skirmish may have the potential to turn the tide.

Malibu Animal Welfare Activist and Veterinarian Campaigns for Statewide Ban on Declawing

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Malibuite and Paw Project founder Jennifer Conrad is committed to legislating an end to the practice of declawing cats. When she isn't campaigning for the cause she's volunteering her time to help surgically repair some of the damage she says is caused to big cats by the controversial surgery.
 “I grew up in Malibu,” Conrad told the Malibu Surfside News in a recent interview. ”I became a vet to protect animals from harm. I was horrified when I learned about the common practice of onychectomy,” the amputation of a cat's toe bones commonly referred to as declawing.
“This is not what vets should be doing,” Conrad said.
Conrad compares the surgery to amputating a human's finger bones to the first joint. She says that vets often use a nail clipper to perform the surgery, leaving bone fragments behind to fester in the cat's paws.
Conrad's concern over the procedure continued after she became a vet.
“I started repairing the feet of big cats that that had been declawed,” she said. They couldn't walk. Now they could.”
The repair process is time-consuming microsurgery that involves removing bone fragments, cleaning out infected material and reattaching tendons severed during the declawing surgery. It can take as long as three hours per paw.
“These cats will never have the full, normal function, but reattaching the tendons restores some extension and flexion of the paws,” Conrad said.
“I began looking at domestic cats,” Conrad said. She explained that 25 percent of house cats, 22 million or more, have been declawed. “It's a huge problem but it goes under the radar.”
Conrad said that the surgery can cause pain from bone fragments, scaring, tendon damage, infections and behavioral issues that include biting, inability to use its litter box,
“There is no reason to do this,” Conrad said. “Much of the rest of the world has banned declawing”
Malibu residents have twice attempted to pass a local declawing ordinance. Conrad said she is disappointed that the same small number of Malibu politicians prevented the passage of a Malibu declawing ban.
In 2003, the Malibu City Council, at the request of councilmember Joan House, voted to approve a resolution condemning the practice of declawing, but did not agree to an ordinance.
In 2009, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich proposed a declawing ordinance.
Councilmembers John Sibert and Sharon Barovsky expressed vehement opposition to the measure.
 Sibert described the an as “purely symbolic,” and “without rationale.”
 Declawing has now been banned  in much of the European Union, as well as Switzerland, Brazil and Australia.
In California, the cities of Los Angeles, Culver City, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Berkeley have passed declawing bans.
West Hollywood is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its declawing ordinance on Monday, April 29, with a special, free screening of a documentary on the Paw Project.
More information on the Paw Project and the upcoming screening event is available at  www.pawproject.com

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

MTC Files Brown Act Lawsuit after City Council Flaunts Park Swap Stance

• Civic Group Wants Access to Full Public Record to Reconstruct Process that Jumpstarted Controversial Plan

BY BILL KOENEKER

In response to the Malibu City Council’s actions last week, the Malibu Township Council, through its attorney Frank Angel, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking a judicial review of the allegations of Brown Act violations.
However, the legal document also seeks to have a judge mandate the city council “not only set aside and void its action of Jan. 14, but also adopt all cure-and-correct measures necessary to ensure that any renewed parkland swap proposal is being reviewed de novo at a properly noticed public meeting.”
The civic organization also wants a public release of “all swap-related public records and appropriate studies and a timely public release of all swap-related public records and appropriate studies,” and requests that the “council cure and correct its actions regarding the parkland swap; the city attorney’s dismissal of MTC’s demand to cure-and-correct as ‘noise’ and a ‘distraction’ the fact that the council’s violation of the Brown Act’s open meeting requirement is not an isolated incident and the practices such past conduct evinces or portends, petitioners also seek injunctive relief to stop and prevent future threatened violations of the Brown Act’s open meeting requirement.”
Initially, City Attorney Christi Hogin advised the council to rebuff MTC’s request that an alleged series of Brown Act violations be “cured and corrected.”
Subsequently, Hogin reversed herself and suggested the council do so.
Tempers flared at last week’s council meeting, when Hogin convinced  the council to reverse itself and reconsider its response to MTC’s allegations of state Brown Act violations “to possibly avoid litigation expense [and] appease MTC.”
In what has been described as a legal maneuver even by the city attorney herself, Hogin recommended the council members rescind the action taken at its previous meeting on Jan. 14 directing her to negotiate agreements and implement documents for the land swap by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy of acquiring city-owned Charmlee Wilderness Park for 83 acres of state-owned Bluffs Park.
The city attorney’s recommendation also included the council rescinding its action at the meeting of Jan 25 in connection with declining to cure or correct in response to MTC’s allegations of Brown Act violation.
However, another resolution was, by unanimous vote, promptly reinstated again directing  “the city attorney to negotiate agreements and implementing documents to effect land swap of Charmlee Wilderness Park for approximately 83 acres of Bluffs Park resulting in complete city control over all 93 acres of Bluffs Park. contingent on establishing that ball fields can be added to state-owned portion of Bluffs Park and confirming that the county imposes fire safety measures on camping that would be applicable to Charmlee Wilderness Park.” There were also several other directives including  directing the city attorney to negotiate a resolution in the lawsuit over the uses in Ramirez Park. Establishing the Charmlee Wilderness Park/Bluff Park Land Swap Ad Hoc Committee of Mayor [Lou] La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem [Joan] House to work with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to resolve differences over the appropriate uses and development proposed at Corral and Escondido canyons.
Hogin earlier explained what she was doing. “I'm not trying to play games. I am creating another defense to a lawsuit. That is my job,” she said.
Some critics were outraged, suggesting that Hogin was only playing games to “appease” MTC with nothing else in mind.
An MTC counsel, Jessica Cheng, who is an associate attorney from Frank Angel’s office, replied that night, “The cure is a sham. It does not let the sunshine in. The flippant tone of the city attorney is disappointing. This is important for the city. The least we can expect is the respect of the community,” she said.
After the meeting, Angel’s office challenged the council’s actions on Monday night and continued to demand the council to cure and correct violations of the Brown Act.
MTC had objected to Hogin’s recommendations saying the proposed correct and cure was only directed at one item of the letter MTC sent to the city. “The letter also requested five additional items,” said Angel that the city attorney had ignored.
It was a short time later that the lawsuit against the city was filed by Angel for MTC.

Consultant’s Feasibility Study Describes Possible Sites for Malibu Skate Park

• Two Dozen Criteria Were Applied to Location that Could Become Major Local Attraction for Skateboarders

BY BILL KOENEKER

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission met on Tuesday night this week after the Malibu Surfside News went to press.
Although on the agenda, it was simply billed as the director's update on skatepark projects, and with little fanfare it was apparently an opportunity for the commission to learn more about what is in the works.
The document is called the Malibu Bluffs Park Skate Park Facility Site Assessment produced by the consultant hired by the city, Wormhoudt Inc.
The feasibility study outlines six proposed sites, which are all located in the southernmost section in the park overlooking Malibu Road.
“This site assessment evaluates six potential locations for a skate park within Bluffs Park. Each site has been selected based on the concept that a skate park could be built at the site and the existing park uses could be substantially operated and maintained in their current configuration,” the report  states.
Using over two dozen criteria developed specifically for the Bluffs Park, the six sites were ranked in a matrix with each site described explaining the significant benefits and potential disadvantages.
Site number four was given the highest marks and site number three was ranked the second highest site.
Site number four has the most suitable configuration and topography for developing a permanent skate park facility, according to the study.
 It also has the greatest potential for being developed with the least amount of potential impacts to the nearby Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas and it is the least likely site to have potential impacts on the adjacent off-site uses, according to the report.
“The existing park uses adjacent to site number four the multi-use fields, pony baseball field and play structure are a ‘good fit’ for a skate park facility. The locations, surrounded by high activity use, integrate the skate park with these other activities without compromising valuable green space in the ‘bluffs’ area of the park.
“This site is also dynamic because visitors could enjoy various family oriented recreation activities in nearby park areas,” the report goes on to state.
The conclusion of the study is that site four could accommodate a permanent skate park facility up to 8000 square feet in size and is recommended for preliminary engineering and design development.
“Said work shall proceed contingent upon the design successfully providing a strong sense of place and a positive total site experience for all park users while meeting the design criteria that has been established for the project as defined,” the report concludes
For more than 12 years, the city maintained a land use agreement with private property owners for an above ground skate park.
In 2010, the city received a notice of termination requiring the skate park to be closed near the end of 2011.
Since then skaters have been without a park as city officials and various committees and commissions met to determine how and where to go for a replacement.
A temporary park was scratched and the city has continued with the idea of a permanent park at Bluffs Park. Last year, the city chose a consultant for design services for a permanent park for assessing the most suitable location for a skate park within Bluffs Park.

City’s Malibu High School Lighting Plan Approval Appealed to Coastal Commission

• Community Group Accuses School District of Reneging on Parking Lot Plan Compromise Agreement

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Community Alliance, a group that has previously legally tangled with the school district, has filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission seeking to overturn the Malibu Planning Commission’s approval of the Malibu High School remodeling plans.
MCA, which says it represents Malibu Park residents, cites in its appeal the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District's failure to incorporate the least damaging environmental alterative in the final plans for the proposed high school rebuilding project.
Members of the group indicated that on March 19, MCA and representatives of the SMMUSD spent four hours during the planning commission meeting hashing out a compromise agreement “that limited night lighting of the new parking lot proposed for the ridgeline and set standards for a longer term project calling for the installation of state of the art lighting in the school’s two additional parking lots.”
“Subsequent to the planning commission meeting we reached out to the school district on multiple occasions requesting they acknowledge their intent to honor our agreement,” said Alliance spokesperson Cami Winikoff.
“When that effort failed an appeal to the Coastal Commission was the only way for us to protect our neighborhood. We cannot continue to allow the district to say one thing and do another.”
MCA is accusing district officials of going back on their word.
 A press release issued by the group this week, states that subsequent to the planning commission vote that allowing for lighting on the parking lot the compromise agreement was altered.
The compromise agreement limited night lighting on two-thirds of the new parking lot to nights when late night athletic events were taking place or for other significant campus events.
“MCA understood that both sides agreed that this would be limited to 31 nights a year,” the press release states. 
“The new plan expands the use of night lighting and allows the entire parking lot to be lit up every night until 8 p.m.
The compromise agreement, according to MCA, also required that new light poles in the schools two additional parking lots be limited to a height of 12 feet.
“The school district no longer acknowledges this requirement,” the press release states.
The new application is to redevelop portions of the MMHS campus with a new 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 commission approved the 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.
The school district, which is the lead agency, issued a Final Environmental Impact Report last fall.
An FEIR describes the project as approximately 76,694 square feet of new construction, some of it replacement building since 15,041 square feet of old buildings are earmarked for demolition while other buildings will be upgraded.
The FEIR, which was approved by the school district prepared for the proposal, acknowledges that the project would not be able to avoid adverse impacts related to increased sky-glow because of nightlights.
Appellants can bypass the city council and take their appeals directly to the Coastal Commission.

Report Forecasts Steady Growth for City’s Budget

• Property Tax Revenue Projected to Increase by $325,000

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is expected to have its first look-see at the proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget at its meeting next week.
“City staff is pleased to present a balanced preliminary budget for fiscal year 2013-2014. This amount includes general fund revenues of $21.9 million and general fund expenditures of $21.88 million,” wrote Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman in a staff report.
Feldman added another plus is the projected undesignated general fund by June 30, 2014 is expected to be $12 million. She added, “This amount exceeds the city's goal of maintaining a minimum of 50 percent of the operating budget.”
The total projected general fund balance (including designated and undesignated reserves) on June 30, 2014 is $14 million, according to Feldman.
“The city continues to experience growth in almost all tax revenue sources,” continued Feldman. Property tax tax revenue is projected to increase $325,000 to $7.2 million from the 2012-13 tax year.
Documentary transfer tax is budgeted to increase $85,000 from the prior fiscal year “as a result of the increase of real estate sales in the past year.”
The city official noted that several new retail and restaurant outlets account for an increase in sale tax revenue with an increase of $225,000 from the 2012-2013 budgeted amount.
Transient occupancy tax, which includes both hotels and short-term residential rentals, is budgeted to increase by $85,000, according to Feldman, from the budgeted amount from the prior fiscal year.
Revenue from licenses and permits is projected to increase a total of $103,000 from the last fiscal year and revenue from service charges is budgeted to increase a total of $186,000.
That amounts is nearly a $1 million increase in revenue from the last fiscal year.
Special revenues total $8.1 million, including $5.7 million of grant funds for capital improvement projects. Gas tax revenue is projected at $405,000. Traffic safety revenue is expected to be $450,000. Proposition A revenue is $200,000 and Prop C revenue is projected at $160,000.
“These projections are consistent with revenue received in these funds in the prior fiscal year,” Feldman noted.
The proposed budget also includes $1.4 million of rental income from three commercial properties and $400,000 of percentage rental income from the Malibu Lumber Yard site for a total of $1.8 million, according to Feldman, who explained the revenue is used for debt service associated with the Legacy Park acquisition, operations and maintenance.
The assistant city manager indicated that in spite of the increase in general fund revenue, she is taking a “conservative [stance] with a continued emphasis on streamlining services in order to reduce costs. Special revenue funds have been budgeted in lieu of general funds where appropriate in an effort to reduce the use of general funds.”
She noted that the overall budget for management services has increased from the previous fiscal year by $142,000 and explained the reasons are $70,000 put aside for the April 2014 election and another $100,000 for document imaging services.
“The city continues to convert files into electronic records. These increases are offset b a $29,000 decrease in the legal counsel budget and a decrease in the city manager's budget,” the municipal official said.
The overall budget for public safety has increased $127,000 prom the prior fiscal year due to a 2.4 percent increase in cost charged by the Los Angeles county sheriff's Department, according to Feldman, who explained the city continues to use what are known as COPS grant funding of $100,000 to supplement law enforcement activities.
The budget for administrative service has increased by $379, 000 due to the $489,000 for debt service for City Hall. “This will be the first year of the full debt service payment amount associated with the acquisition and improvements of the City Hall facility,” noted Feldman. “These increases are offset by a $222,000 decrease in Legacy Park operations and a $24,000 decrease in Finance.”
The parks and recreation budget has decreased $65,000 mostly as a result of the closure of the skate park in 2011.
The budget for the environmental sustainability department has decreased a total of $271,000.
The reasons include a $273,000 reduction in building and safety because of the completion of a permit software project.
The planning department's budget has increased a total of $193,000 due to a $176,000 increase in planning for a contract planner and consulting services to assist with long-range planning projects, code updates and conditional use permits and updates to the Housing Element, according to the assistant city manager.
The public works department has decreased a total of $46,000,
There is a total of $10.8 million of capital expenditures, $5.7 million is being funded from grants, $3.1 million from the Civic Center wastewater treatment facility CFD; $670,000 from special revenue funds and $1.3 million from the general fund capital improvements projects designated reserve fund.






Publisher’s Notebook

• Magnetizing Malibu More •

BY ANNE SOBLE

As was evident from the turnout at Malibu’s recent Easter Hoppenings, there is a demand throughout not only Malibu but also the surrounding communities and Los Angeles County in general for free public recreation activities for families, especially those priced out of private options that come with triple-digit price tags for parents with several children.
   If Malibuites were taken aback by the crowds at Bluffs Park and are rightfully concerned about the traffic situation at Paradise Cove, they should be asking questions about the potential for even greater logjams at an athletic complex in eastern Malibu that can be expected to skyrocket to the top of every online “things-to-do” list as soon as the ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled.
   As the great pyramids so ably illustrate, humans love to create testimony to their existence-the bigger the better. Why build three of something, when there can be ten of them? Why have that something be in proportion to its surroundings, when it can eclipse everything within sight? Then, suddenly there is an attraction that runs the risk of becoming an attractive nuisance that is so popular that everything located around it feels the adverse impact.
   All of us who are parents can be afflicted with myopia when it comes to providing our children's wants. When we contemplate implementing wish lists, we don't always put them in the context of the community as a whole as well as extended areas with the same wants that would appreciate Malibu options, perhaps to an even greater degree than the local demographic that is not only aging but also able to afford diverse private recreation possibilities.
   There are those who think they can address this issue by floating the idea of preventing large turnouts of visitors from outside the community to Malibu's public facilities by limiting events at potential activity centers to locals. What part of the concept of “public” do the individuals proposing “locals only” events not understand? Does someone really imagine Malibu toddlers being required to have ID cards to gather Easter eggs? That thinking would quickly meet the fate it deserves on anything where tax dollars have been involved.
   Before ground is broken on any Malibu public projects, there should be an open and thorough assessment of recreation needs with short-term and long-term projections by consultants who don't have their sights set on developing projects that might benefit them and their professional cronies financially.
   Above all, everyone is reminded during the week of April 15 that the law of unintended consequences is as certain as death and taxes.

Ticks in Three Local Parks Test Positive for Lyme Disease

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Officials from Los Angeles county and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are advising visitors and area residents that ticks from Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills recently tested positive for Lyme disease. Three separate pools of western black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus) found along the Coyote Trail were found to be positive.
“This is a good reminder for visitors to stick to the trail and avoid the vegetated areas where ticks like to hang out,” said Evan Jones, SMMNRA chief ranger.
“Though Lyme disease can be very serious, simply following a few basic steps can greatly minimize exposure.”
Jones advises the public to check clothing and exposed skin. Wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants is also recommended.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium known as a a spirochete that is carried by deer ticks.
An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream.
According to the NPS press release, Lyme disease can begin as a mild flu-like illness and develop into severe chronic health problems over time.
“If identified in the early stages, it can be successfu ly treated with antibiotics, but the potential for long-term complications increases if the disease progresses untreated.”
Paramount Ranch was one of three Santa Monica Mountains park sites that came back positive for Lyme disease in tests conducted by Los Angeles County West Vector and Vector-Borne Disease Control District.
The other two locations were Tapia Park and Malibu Creek State Park, both located within a short distance of one another.
Robert Saviskas, executive director of the L.A. county agency responsible for conducting the tests, said this was the first year his agency tested for Lyme disease at Paramount Ranch, among approximately 12 sites tested within the Santa Monica Mountains.
The first tick known to carry Lyme disease was found in the mountains in 1998.
“We're finding that about 1 or 2 percent of western black-legged ticks in the area carry the Lyme disease bacteria, so it’s important for us to identify where the problem is occurring,” said Saviskas. “This particular tick is most active from late November through May.”
Malibu residents should also be aware of the potential for the black-legged tick to carry the disease.  Removing the tick within 24 hours can greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission, according to Vector Control.
The American Lyme Disease Foundation makes the following recommendations: “Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily; scan clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors; stay on cleared, well-traveled trails; use insect repellent containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown areas; avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts); keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening; and do a final, full-body tick-check at the end of the day.”
Household pets and livestock can also be at risk for lyme disease, According to Vector Control, “cats may show lameness, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, eye damage, unusual breathing, or heart involvement.”
Many cats do not show noticeable symptoms, despite being infected.
“Infected dogs may be lethargic, have a poor/loss of appetite, or a fever Dogs may also experience lameness shifting from one joint to another, fatigue, kidney damage or failure, heart disorders, or neurologic involvement (e.g. aggression, confusion, overeating, seizures). Dogs can be infected with the Lyme bacterium but not exhibit any noticeable symptoms.”
Vector Control recommends applying tick-control chemicals, like the product Frontline to animals in order to protect them from disease spreading ticks.
All attached ticks should be removed “properly and promptly” to reduce the chance of transmission of the LD bacterium. 
Vector Control recommends the following technique: “Place fine point tweezers around the tick’s mouthparts (the place where the tick is attached) and gently pull upwards until the tick detaches. Do not use your bare fingers.
“Disinfect the bite site and tweezers after removal. Wash your hands. Place the tick, along with several blades of grass, into a small container (e.g. a clean screw-cap pill bottle or a zip-lock bag) for later examination.
“Call your veterinarian to determine if there is a local place where the tick can be tested. Label the container with: the date, name of pet, type of animal, owner’s name, address and phone number.
“Have your animal(s) examined as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of disease; the sooner a disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Vaccines are available for dogs.”
More information is available at www.lawestvector.org, http://www.aldf.com, or nps.gov/samo

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Council Clashes with Protesters Over Language of Brown Act Resolution

• City Attorney Accused of Not Taking Complaint Alleging Land Swap Plan Legal Violations Seriously
BY BILL KOENEKER

Tempers flared at this week’s Malibu City Council meeting, when Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin convinced the city council to reverse itself and reconsider its response to Malibu Township Council’s allegations of state Brown Act violations “to possibly avoid litigation expense [and] appease MTC.”
Hogin recommended the council members rescind the action taken at the previous meeting on Jan. 14 directing her to negotiate agreements and implement documents for the land swap by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy of acquiring city-owned Charmlee Wilderness Park for 83 acres of state-owned Bluffs Park.
Her recommendation also included the council rescinding its action at the meeting of Jan. 25 in connection with declining to cure or correct in response to MTC's allegations of Brown Act violation.
However, another resolution was, by unanimous vote, promptly reinstated:
“After hearing public comment. 1) Direct the city attorney to negotiate agreements and implementing documents to effect land swap of Charmlee Wilderness Park for approximately 83 acres of Bluffs Park resulting in complete city control over all 93 acres of Bluffs Park, contingent on establishing that ball fields can be added to the state-owned portion of Bluffs Park and confirming that the county imposes fire safety measures on camping that would be applicable to Charmlee Wilderness Park; 2) Direct the city attorney to negotiate a resolution in the lawsuit over the uses in Ramirez Park; 3)Establish the Charmlee Wilderness Park/Bluff Park Land Swap Ad Hoc Committee of Mayor [Lou] La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem [Joan] House to work with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy  to resolve differences over the appropriate uses and development proposed at Corral and Escondido canyons. The city council will consider proposals generated from this direction at future council meetings.”
However, that resolution was never read into the record and it was only contained in an amended agenda. Most folks were using the regular agenda, which contained different language. Some in the audience cried foul.
“Read the resolution,” shouted Trancas activist Cindy Vandor.  “What are you voting on? I protest,” she shouted.
Council members were angered by the interruptions and said so. More shouts and murmurs were heard in the council chambers as the council refused to have the resolution read back to them and voted unanimously to approve the measure before them.
Hogin earlier explained what she was doing. “I’m not trying to play games. I am creating another defense to a lawsuit. That is my job,” she said.
An MTC counsel, Jessica Cheng, an associate attorney with Frank Angel’s office, said, “The cure is a sham. It does not let the sunshine in. The flippant tone of the city attorney is disappointing. This is important for the city. The least we can expect is the respect of the community,” she said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Angel’s office challenged the council's actions on Monday night and continued a demand to cure and correct violations of the Brown Act.
MTC had objected to Hogin’s recommendations saying the proposed correct and cure was only directed at one item of the letter MTC sent to the city. “The letter also requested five additional items,” said Angel that the city attorney has ignored. Angel said none of this would preclude MTC going to court.
In a staff report released last Tuesday afternoon the city attorney said it had come to her attention that MTC was fundraising to bring a lawsuit over its allegations.
“The purpose of the recommendation is to appease MTC’s demand for a cure or correction arising from its allegations of a Brown Act violation and potentially avoid wasteful and distracting litigation. If successful, this would save the city approximately $20,000, allow the city to focus its attention on matters of substance and reserve public resources for the city’s priorities,” Hogin said.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she had alerted Hogin to the fundraising. “We should be talking about the deal or not doing that. I understand MTC wants to slow it down. We do need more information,” she said, calling the Brown Act allegations merely a stalling tactic by MTC.
Councilmember John Sibert said, “It doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to argue the fine legal points. I hate to argue the fine legal points. We need to be gathering information. We still have not made any decision,” he said.
Councilmember Joan House, who earlier in the evening was questioned about a public records request—that she had no records to turn in, added that more information is needed and that the city was still compiling information.
In her staff report, Hogin explained why she was making such recommendations to the council.
“MTC seems dissatisfied with the city's response. In an effort to dissuade MTC from filing expensive, distracting and dividing litigation, the city council may take the action MTC requests by ‘rescinding’ the Jan. 14, 2013 motion. This ‘cure’ allows the city to respond to MTC’s demand without agreeing to MTC’s interpretation of the Brown Act or conceding any violation.”
Angel said Hogin’s recommendation does not address other aspects of the MTC letter. He said the council may rescind the action taken on Jan. 14 concerning the swap, but indicated that Hogin is recommending the council immediately take up the same agenda item with little public input.
“We said let the public see the records and let the public have more information. Direct the city manager to suspend land swap negotiations. We said take a timeout, let the public discover what is in the city's files. That is most important,” he added. “This doesn't do any of that.”
Hogin, in her staff report, wrote that the MTC has demanded that the city set aside action directing the city attorney to negotiate on the city’s behalf and forming an ad hoc committee to assist her.
“MTC makes this demand based on its accusation that the city council held an illegal meeting in violation of the Brown Act because Councilmember John Sibert was aware that the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House were advocating that the city council consider a proposal to swap Charmlee Wilderness Park for the portion of Bluffs Park owned by the state.
Hogin attempted to explain further why she wanted the council to reinstate a previous resolution just rescinded.
“This item also resubmits the opportunity to direct the city attorney to negotiate on the city’s behalf with respect to a proposed land swap, settlement of the Ramirez Canyon Park lawsuit and with respect to the SMMC and Mountain Recreation Conservation Authority's plans for their Corral and Escondido canyon properties and to form and appoint the ad hoc subcommittee. At the time of this writing, we have nothing new to report with respect to those items. The prior staff reports are on file with the city clerk,” the city attorney responded.

Proposed Dark Sky Ordinance Is Sent to ZORACES

• Planning Commissioners Urge Swift Adoption of New Standards

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council, at its meeting this week, directed the staff to start “the preparation of a comprehensive citywide lighting ordinance,” by sending the proposal to its Zoning  Ordinance Revisions  and Code Enforcement Subcommittee and to consider hiring a consultant or expert to help planners.
The city's planning commission recently approved a recommendation to the council to initiate a citywide lighting ordinance.
Some planning commissioners came to council chambers to urge members to move forward.
Commissioner David Brotman told council members that current regulations “are woefully inadequate,” and that no standards have been established.
“We need to have an ordinance,” he said.
Commissioner Mikke Pierson agreed. “It just makes sense,” he said.
Commissioner John Mazza noted that it is very easy for planners and the planning commission to comply with standards. “It really helps,” he said on the matter. “The lighting guys agree with the dark skies guys. It should not be controversial. Pretty soon our codes won’t apply,” he said.
Neither the city’s Local Coastal Program nor the Malibu Municipal Code have detailed lighting standards, according to the city’s Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski.
The LCP only has general lighting standards, which require all lighting to be minimized and shielded as it relates to Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas or scenic areas, according to the planning director.
The issue was a hot topic all of last year after battles erupted about lighting for various high school projects including parking lot lights, stadium lights, followed by renewed focus on a lighting plan for the Trancas Market shopping center.
The council also heard from lighting expert James Benya, a professional engineer and lighting designer, who was one of the authors of the International Dark Sky Association/Illuminating Engineering Society's model lighting ordinance.
He talked to the council about the impacts of night lighting and the model lighting ordinance.
“The MLO is an outdoor lighting template designed to help municipalities develop outdoor lighting standards that reduce glare, light trespass and sky glow,” said Benya. “All types of properties including residential are covered by the ordinance. The MLO is considered a valuable guide for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting in North America.”
Benya, who said he thought a consultant would cost no more than $5000, went on to say such standards reduce expenses, save energy and cut green house gas emissions. The MLO was developed jointly by the IDA and the IES over a period of seven years; the most recent version was adopted in June 2011, he said.
The council deliberated for some time and discussed the four options the planning director had suggested.
“There is a lot more detail [to consider],” said Councilmember John Sibert.
Councilmember Joan House said, “Malibu is unique. Malibu is not one size fits all.”
“I have to agree with that. Malibu is different. It is best to start with ZORACES. I support option one,” said Mayor Lou La Monte.
“Yes, we can take it up quickly,” said ZORACES member Sibert.
“I think we all agree,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who made the motion for option one.
The planning director had advised that if the council wanted to move forward with the preparation of a citywide lighting ordinance, there are four options: Refer the ordinance concept to the city’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee for initial feedback, which they decided to do. Direct staff to prepare an ordinance.  Include a lighting ordinance in the zoning code update that is currently underway. Hire a consultant, with expertise in lighting to prepare an ordinance, which the council also wanted to consider and was included in the motion
Most, if not all of these options will require funding for the amount of staff or specialist work required, according to the planning director.
The partnership between the IDA and the IES encouraged broad adoption of comprehensive outdoor lighting ordinances.
Any community, regardless of size, can use the MLO to develop proven, comprehensive and environmentally sound outdoor lighting practices. Several unique features allow the MLO to be customized. The first innovation is the use of lighting zones to classify land use and to implement appropriate lighting levels for each Zone, according to experts.
Zones range from LZO, designed for pristine natural environments and limited outdoor lighting to LZ4 for limited application in areas of extensive development in the largest cities.
The second innovation limits the amount of light used for each property. An individual parcel is given a lumen allowance based on the lighting zone, the size of the property and the degree of development on the property. Third, the MLO uses the backlight-upright glare rating system for luminaries which provides more effective control of unwanted light, according to Benya
Many cities and counties in California have adopted dark skies ordinances including Los Angeles County. The county’s rural outdoor lighting ordinance was adopted last year and covers the area directly adjacent to the city, according to the planning director.
Each city and county ordinance differs in the level of detail. The county ordinance regulates the maximum height of light standards, hours of operation, shielding and total lumens.
“Staff is not aware of any city or county in California that has adopted the standards found in the MLO since it is a relatively new ordinance,” Parker Bozylinski told the council.

‘Crummer Site’ Development DEIR Reveals Ballfield Proposal Concerns

• Two-Story Homes with a Skatepark Recommended in Report but Plans Draw View Impact Criticism

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Draft Environmental Impact Report prepared for the so-called Crummer site residential subdivision indicates the alternative consisting of five two-story homes with a skate park “is designed to eliminate the project's only significant and unavoidable impact.”
“The proposed project with baseball field development option would result in a substantial increase in traffic in Opening Year 2017 and Future Year 2030 if the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road/Winter Mesa Road, which is operated by Caltrans, is not improved,” the DEIR states.
The project site is a 24-acre parcel atop a bluff with steep slopes descending to the south and east. Malibu Bluffs Park borders the project site to the west. PCH borders the site to the north and a privately owned parcel borders the site to the east. Winter Mesa Drive, a small road connecting PCH to Malibu Bluffs Park, provides access to the project site.
The developer wants to build five homes with lot six developed as a private gated street, gatehouse, onsite wastewater treatment package plant, landscaping, open space to be owned and maintained by the homeowners association. Lot seven would be dedicated to the city for active and passive recreation use.
“At this time the city believes that the recreational area may be used as a baseball field or a skate park. Therefore, these uses are evaluated in this Draft EIR,” the document states.
Three project alternatives were identified and analyzed in detail for the relative impacts to the proposed project. The two-story with skate park only alternative, one- story homes with skate park or baseball field, and no project foreseeable development alternative.
The two-story homes with skate park only alternative “would eliminate the significant and unavoidable traffic impact. It would also reduce parking demand impacts and operational noise impacts,” the DEIR concludes.
The one-story homes with skate park or baseball field alternative “would reduce the maximum building height of the residential structures from 28 feet to 18 feet. The building square footages would remain the approximately the same for each unit, as would the lot sizes.”
The two-story homes represent a more compact building zone, according to the document, resulting in less building mass and allow for more open area on each of the five lots offering a reduction in space between homes.
“The single-story alternative would almost double the building footprints as well as the amount of grading and export for each of the five homes,” the DEIR asserts.
The document is quick to point out planners got an earful from homeowners who said the five homes would appear very prominent when viewed from low lying portions of the city to the east and when viewed from higher elevations such as the Malibu Country Estates,
“Although not significant, this alternative would reduce aesthetic impacts. It would increase impacts in a variety of environmental categories including construction, air quality, biological impacts, cultural, geochemical and construction noise. While the alternative would meet many of the project objectives, it would not meet the objective of maximizing separation of building areas from significant environmental resources.”
Plans call for each of the five single-family residences to be two stories tall with a maximum height of 28 feet, and would include a basement, attached garage, swimming pool and spa, fountains, vehicle entry gate, fencing, landscaping and hardscape.
Lot one includes a detached guesthouse. Lot two includes a detached gym. Lots three and five include a detached cabana and guesthouse and lot four includes a detached cabana, according to planners.
Each home would have a wastewater septic tank, which would route wastewater to the OWTS plant.
The proposed private street provides access to the single-family homes. The private gated street is planned to be 34 feet wide and terminate in a cul-de-sac, which would serve as a fire department turnaround and would be accessible from Winter Mesa Drive. The gatehouse would measure about 280 square feet, 16 feet in height at its highest point and could include an office  and a bathroom.
In the executive summary, the DEIR acknowledges areas of controversy indicating adjacent residents' concerns over the potential land use and aesthetic incompatibility of the two-story single family homes and recreational uses with the surrounding neighborhood.

Update on Santa Monica College Malibu Satellite Campus Is Released by Officials

•  Project Calls for Demolishing Existing Structure and Constructing a New 27,500-Square-Foot Building

BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Public Facilities Authority, a joint powers agreement of the Santa Monica Community College District, the lead agency, on a planned satellite campus in Malibu and the City of Malibu, met last week to hear about the preliminary design of the proposed college center.
The municipality’s members consist of Councilmembers Laura Rosenthal and John Sibert.
Last year, the college started on an Environmental Impact Report on the project.
The proposal consists of a nearly 2.5 acre irregularly shaped ground lease area within the larger 9.18-acre Los Angeles County-owned and operated Civic Center complex, according to SMC officials.
The site is the former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station, which was decommissioned in the early 1990s. The existing building includes approximately 23,882 square feet of developed floor area.
The proposal calls for 210 students, full-time equivalent students and 12 faculty members.
SMC is proposing demolishing the existing building and the construction of a new two-story, 27,500-square-foot educational facility including approximately 5700-square-foot community sheriff’s substation and emergency operations and planning center, which would take over the first floor. The college classrooms would be located on the second floor.
There would be a net increase of 3618 square feet compared to the size of the old building, according to the designers.
The school campus will include five classrooms and labs, a multi-purpose community room that will convert into an emergency operations center for local emergencies, a computer lab, administrative offices to accommodate up to 210 students (full-time equivalent) and 12 faculty and staff members during peak time periods, according to a project description prepared by the consultant.
The money comes from Measure A approved by the voters in 2004 that set aside $25 million for the project.
The project plans to connect to the On-Site Wastewater Treatment System currently serving the Los Angeles County Civic Center complex, including the existing sheriff's station building, on an interim basis subject to verification that the new development will not exceed the current wastewater flows of the capacity of the existing OWTS.
They expect completion of construction by 2015.
At a previous meeting, college spokesperson Don Girard told the panel that the SMC academic planning staff had prepared an instructional program plan for the proposed new building that includes providing high value classroom facilities, such as a science lab, art studio, computer lab, community music and lecture hall and two standard classrooms.
Girard stated SMC staff was also recommending that the building include an interpretive center, open to the public, with the intent to highlight Malibu's unique culture, history and ecosystems.
He also discussed the multi-purpose room that would be available to the community and used by the Sheriff's Department and the City of Malibu as an emergency operations center.
The Sheriff's Department is expected to work with the SMC staff to prepare preliminary drawings for the interior of the Sheriff substation.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Anemometer Anomaly •

BY ANNE SOBLE

The handheld anemometer that is in my bag of digital/electronic “journo” toys put in some heavy-duty overtime the last week as unseasonable April winds wreaked havoc on the local area.
Even though Malibu fared better through the north and northeast wind assaults than some of our neighbors, they underscored what has been evident for several weeks that Malibu’s spring may be as anomalous as its winter was and the weather rule books be damned.
The blaze being battled in Fillmore reiterates the presence of year-round wildfire danger as long as drought conditions prevail statewide and the ongoing need to do our part as residents to be as prepared as possible for a local catastrophe.
That high temperatures have not accompanied the strong winds has been the primary weather factor keeping the area’s fire danger from spiking off the chart. We all are well aware that those circumstances could change in an instant.
The relatively dry winter has left Malibu vulnerable. County fire department brush clearance notices have been mailed out and are ignored at one’s peril. Defensible space is often the difference between success and failure when flames threaten structures.
Despite the official mantra of ready-set-go, there are those of us who know we have made a difference protecting our families, homes and livestock during Malibu conflagrations. Every household must determine its strategy for addressing evacuation and wildfire response before a plan actually has to be implemented.
Malibu’s parched grasses are ready tinder for the dry fuel-laden brush that nature placed in the local mountains to facilitate a regular thinning process by weather forces. When humans entered the picture, this process became complicated.
But we are here now and we have to coexist with nature. Arrogant professions of human ability to assume control of the forces of nature by engineering or any other man-made methodology only serve to illustrate how little is understood about weather phenomenon such as wind, rain and wildfire.
Philosophical musings notwithstanding, complexity and immutability are at the heart of Malibu’s relationship with nature, and that interconnection requires the ability to respond to wildfire on its terms.
There will never be enough physical resources to stop an out-of-control wildfire in its tracks. Only nature can harness the wind, increase the humidity and enable the best of firefighters to ply their craft safely and successfully.

Formula Retail Comment Period Is Ending

BY BILL KOENEKER

The deadline looms for those who wish to comment on Malibu's proposed formula retail ordinance. The last day for city planners to receive comments is April 11.
Once complete the item will be scheduled for a planning commission hearing and then to the city council.
To date over 56 comment letters have been received including from former Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, whose idea years ago initiated the process, Preserve Malibu, whose most recent cause has been the proposed ordinance and various law firms, representing shopping center owners who are against the proposal, according to the city’s website where the comments have been posted.
Senior Planner Joseph Smith said the letters have been trickling in, but he has seen more now that the deadline is fast approaching. “We just got 15 this afternoon,” he said.
The proposed measure consists of an amendment to the zoning code to make formula retail establishments a conditionally permitted use in the Civic Center commercial district of the city.
Formula retail is considered any type of retail sales activity and/or any retail service activity conducted within a retail establishment which, along with six or more other existing operational retail establishments located within southern California and is required to maintain two or more of the following features: Standardized color scheme, standardized décor, standardized façade, standardized layout, standardized signage, a service mark, or a trademark and uniform apparel.
The proposed ordinance would require a conditional use permit for all new formula retail establishments located within the district and for existing formula retail establishments located within the district that relocate to a new tenant space, expand by 200 square feet or more of gross floor area, or increase service area by 50 square feet or more.
The proposed ordinance would not apply to existing formula retail uses that change ownership or existing and new formula retail uses considered grocery, gas stations, or banks and financial services.
The proposed ordinance is intended to regulate the location and operation of formula retail uses within the district in order to avoid the proliferation of elements that project a sense of sameness and familiarity.
“These elements conflict with and frustrate the city's goals of maintaining a unique community character while promoting a diverse retail base with correspondingly unique retail amenities within the Civic Center,” wrote a city planner.
Currently, there is no requirement for conditional review of formula retail establishments in the city.
Most of the shopping center owners in the Civic Center are opposed to additional regulations and have steadfastly maintain that the actual numbers of existing formula retail stores in the various centers speaks volumes about no need to regulate something that is not proliferating.

Council Supports Helicopter Noise Relief

• Legislation Is in the Works at the Federal Level

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council voted unanimously this week to support the Los Angeles Residential Noise Relief Act of 2013, but not without hearing from a longtime helicopter news reporter, who cautioned that helicopter noise can also come from emergency craft.
He said local media woke up to what bothers residents when reporters were interviewing residents during the so-called Carmageddon episode during the 405 freeway closure.
 “Reporters asked, ‘How did you survive?’ The answer was complaints about the helicopter noise,” said Jeff Baugh, who noted the practice used to be for news helicopters hovering at one place at one time.
“We stopped that practice. We represent a small portion of the noise. We hear complaints of police helicopters. They are out there for a reason. So too fire and the Coast Guard.” He said civil aircraft including the flying paparazzi are the culprits.
Residents in Malibu and many other neighborhoods throughout the county have been dealing with the noise disturbance caused by the low flying copters for many years.
Everyone is quick to point out how helicopters can provide a tremendous benefit when used by health officials or law enforcement.
However, the growing use of the flying devices for such activities as sightseeing, area tours, filming and paparazzi has caused what some call an “unacceptable intrusion” on the quality of life for local residents due to copter traffic.
Unlike airplane traffic, helicopters are not currently regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration or any other agency, according to city officials.
House Resolution 456 introduced by Malibu Congressmember Henry Waxman along with Representative Adam Schiff, Janice Hahn and Brad Sherman, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced Senate Bill 208.
The measures would direct the FAA to develop regulations for helicopter operations in Los Angeles County that would include requirements relating to flight paths and altitudes in order to reduce helicopter noise, pollution and increased safety in residential areas.
Councilmember Skylar Peak sent a letter of support for HR 456 to Waxman last month. Mayor Lou La Monte and Peak were asking the full council to support it.

Sea Lion ‘Unusual Mortality Event’ Compounded by Arrival of Ailing Elephant Seal Pups

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Weak and underweight sea lion pups continue to be reported throughout Malibu and the entire Southern California coast in unusually high numbers, taxing marine mammal rescue organizations to the limit. The federal government has officially declared the situation an “unusual mortality event.”
“An unusual mortality event has been declared for California sea lions in California from January 2013 through the present,” an announcement issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states.
The Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro, the only facility in Los Angeles County authorized to provide rehabilitative care for the marine mammals, is now officially closed to new intakes.
The rescue and rehabilitation situation has grown more urgent as elephant seal pups have also begun stranding themselves 
The area with the highest reported stranding rates is currently Los Angeles County, with many sightings occurring in Malibu. Orange County, and San Diego County strandings are currently increasing, according to new data.
“Live sea lion strandings are nearly three times higher than the historical average,” a press release from the California Wildlife Center states.
The CWC, which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, reports having been asked by the National Marine Fisheries to provide for an emergency temporary rehabilitation facility for northern elephant seal pups “in support of the activities of the local stranding response agencies and MMCC,” a CWC press release states.
According to NOAA, the UME seems confined at this time to California sea lion pups born summer 2012. Consistent findings in the pups are emaciation and dehydration with most animals very underweight for their age.
The cause of the current UME is still under investigation. While ring-necked seal populations in Alaska appear to be impacted by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, authorities say there is no evidence to indicate that radiation is a factor in the Southern California sea lion UME. Some observers are suggesting that the cause of the event is the absence of small fish, described as bait fish.
“There’s a theory right now that the problem is related to the pups' food supply,” CWC spokesperson Victoria Hand told the Malibu Surfside News. “The small fish aren’t close to shore where the seal and sea lion pups can find them.”
However, observers say that grunion—small fish that are a key element of the food chain along the Southern California coast, are currently abundant.
This is the sixth UME involving California sea lions that has occurred in California. Prior UMEs were declared in 1991, 1992, 1998, 2000 and 2002.
Previous UMEs were caused by leptospirosis (1991), El Niño conditions (1992) and domoic acid toxicity (1998, 2000, 2002). To date, 57 UMEs have been formally declared in U.S. waters since 1991 (including the current UME), according to NOAA statistics.
The arrival of northern elephant seal pups further complicates the issue.
“Recently weaned [pups are] on their own, are numerous in our region and dozens of them strand in need of care every spring if they have been unsuccessful in foraging activities,” the CWC press release states.
“These animals require many weeks of nourishment and care in order to return them to an appropriate body weight in preparation for release. With the closure of MMCC to any new intakes, these animals are currently being left on the beach as there is not an appropriate facility to transport them to and provide that care. This presents a number of difficulties for stranding responders in our highly populated region as well as leaving dozens of animals that would normally be provided with appropriate rehabilitative care on the beach to die.”
Hand says that the CWC is “moving forward quickly to secure the basic infrastructure and staffing support required to provide professional rehabilitative care during the unusual mortality event,” to provide stranding response, assessment, rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured Northern Elephant Seal pups.
Malibu residents continue to be urged to stay at least 50 feet away from stranded seals and sea lions and to use a leash when walking dogs at the beach.