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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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.

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