Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trancas Market Center Sign Plans Precipitate Neighborhood Outcry

• Malibu West Homeowners Say Area Aesthetics Are Threatened

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Monday, June 3, to consider an application for a master sign plan for the Trancas Country Market shopping center.
The Malibu West Board of Directors has written a letter to the planning commission that asserts the proposed sign plan for the 237 home subdivision “will be aesthetically negatively impacted by the tenant lit signage proposed by the Trancas Country Market.”
Planners originally told the applicant that three signs had to be removed.
However, the applicant convinced the staff to allow the signs. All of the rest of the current signage is expected to be removed.
The existing nonconforming, 167 square foot roof sign that currently advertises the HOWS Trancas Market,  the existing nonconforming, 208 square foot, 16-foot tall monument tenant identification sign and 36 square foot tenant sign that currently advertises Starbucks.
The planning staff first maintained those three signs are not allowed by the city.
“The Malibu Municipal Code requires that within 30 days after the discontinuance of a business in any commercial zone or before a new business occupies the premises, which ever comes first all nonconforming signs and support structures shall be removed from all conforming signs,” the staff report states
It was during a review of the master sign program that staff had initially advised the applicant that the roof sign had to be removed.
However in response to that request, the applicant submitted a “lawyer letter” providing details on why the roof sign should be allowed to remain.
The staff report notes that after further review it was determined that the signs could remain based on the fact that the shopping center had in the past been known as the Trancas Market and since the roof sign included the words Trancas Market.
The proposed master sign program for the Trancas Country Market consists of the removal of all existing signs except the existing nonconforming roof sign, monument tenant sign and Starbucks sign.
However, Malibu West’s concerns have to do primarily with illuminated signs
Two new internally illuminated anchor tenant signs for Erewhon and Wells Fargo are planned, though, the design of the Erewhon sign has not been finalized. Wells Fargo’s are included in the plans. The two new internally illuminated anchor tenant signs require planning commission approval, because the signs differ in color, material and lighting method from the other proposed tenant signs.
A third tenant sign for Wells Fargo, which would consist of a non-illuminated secondary blade sign on the northeast corner of the building. The third tenant sign, according to the staff report, requires planning commission approval because only one secondary sign is allowed.
Thirty-two primary tenant signs that are proposed to be backlit with channel letters will be either suspended from a bar or sited above a bar.
Six of the primary signs will vary depending on the linear footage of the store footage. Every primary sign has to comply with the maximum sign area of one square feet of sign area per linear foot of store frontage.
“It will light up that corner like Las Vegas,” said Patt Healy, a lo

cal activist.
The Malibu West homeowners agree and state in the protest letter the commission either approve the signage plan originally sought by the previous owner, or deny the current application without prejudice and invite the applicant to return to the planning commission with signage and a signage lighting plan that adheres more closely with the previous tenant signage project description.
The original proposal that was never formally approved by the city consisted of hand-lettered wooden plaques and that what was lit would be downcast, copper stem-mounted fixtures.
“The applicant is now proposing for your approval a signage program radically different from the project description. The intensity of the current proposal will forever change the character of the surrounding area and our neighborhood. And not for the better,” the Malibu West letter states. “It is important to note that the applicant owns the commercially zoned property west of Trancas Canyon Road and whatever is approved now will set the stage for what is to follow and the surrounding area could be doubly impacted.”
The HOA letter concludes that it is better to approve a master sign program that is in keeping with the overall center design and west Malibu community character rather “than one that has the ability to change for the worse the character of the area forever.”
If that does not happen, then the commission should condition for aesthetic purposes all the signage not to be back lit or interior lit, according to the HOA.
Activists have called on the city to not consider the shopping center’s plans in a piecemeal fashion.
In previous notices announcing a hearing before the commissioners, a request for amending the lighting plan was also noticed, but no application for amending the lighting plan is included for the June hearing.
A staff report indicates the proposed lighting plan for the center is under a separate review and permit. Originally the applicant was proposing the addition of numerous light standards in the parking lots, but has since eliminated that request and the lighting plan currently under review would utilize bollards only to illuminate the parking lots, according to planners.
“The only exception to that would be four light standards in the main parking lot adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway. The current proposal would be consistent with the original planning commission approval for the center,” the  report states.
The planning department notes if the applicant is able to provide evidence that the proposed lighting plan for the center is consistent with the previously approved lighting plan, staff could approve the plan under substantial conformance and would not need to return to the commission.
Zuma Beach Properties LLC, an entity controlled by Walmart heiress Paige Laurie Dubbert and husband Bo, owner of the west Malibu center, which is still under construction, has attempted to return to the city chambers several times for amendments and changes to previously approved plans.
Current construction at the site makes fairly visible now to residents and visitors what the shopping center will look like while the framing and sheathing are in progress.
The Malibu West letter describes the current construction as a “rustic structure design [which] is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. The one story residential scale buildings fit the character of our neighborhood and many of our residents look forward to walking to the center to do our day to day shopping.”
Recently, the Trancas Starbucks sought changes to its summer hours. Commissioners tied approval of the change of closing hours to completion of a right hand turn lane at the shopping center.
It appeared the commissioners were either swayed by activists or wanted to send their own message about how they wanted to view the progress of the rest of the construction as it proceeds at the west Malibu location.
That may explain why the Dubberts have brought back a well-known Los Angeles attorney Claire Bronowski, who has years of experience in planning, and assisted in the early days of ownership when the Dubberts first acquired the commercial property, to act as the applicant and steer the application through the approval process.

‘State of the City’ Address Puts Spotlight on Staff

• Mayor Takes New Approach to Annual Update on Municipal Issues

BY BILL KOENEKER

Mayor Lou La Monte, who shoots videos for a living, decided to turn to that medium for his State of the City address last week, while speaker Los Angeles County Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district encompasses Malibu, went the traditional route.
The mayor told the Malibu Chamber of Commerce breakfast attendees that he wanted to do something a little different than the usual presentations at the annual breakfast.
“I did not want to do another power point presentation,” La Monte said about the short video attributed to city staffer Alex Montano.
The mayor said he wanted to focus on the people who work for the city. “The strongest thing we have is people. [In the video,] you get a glimpse of the people, who make this city run,” he said.
“The city is well governed. In the next few minutes you will see shots of the staff at City Hall,” he added.
The video with a voice over by La Monte takes a look at some of the new features the city offered over the past year such as the popular library speaker series and improvements to the website among other projects.
Many of the various programs the city has undertaken are mentioned in the context of the various departments assigned to the tasks.
A good deal of the video was shot showing close-ups of the various staff members as their departments were mentioned.
Almost all of the department heads got some face time as the mayor talked about such things as the city’s Areas of Special Biological Significance, which he said is the largest in the state.
The ASBS program is a marine conservation plan prompted by state mandates for basically protecting the kelp beds and other intact sensitive offshore ecological areas.
La Monte said all of this is being done without raising city taxes. The mayor said municipal officials are using a branding of the Malibu name to help generate revenue without impacting the taxpayer. “There is no increase in taxes,” he added.
Yaroslavsky started off by saying the city’s management today is a far cry from 18 years ago.
The supervisor said his predecessor Ed Edelman would tell him that Malibu makes up 10 percent of the population of the district, but takes up to 50 percent of a supervisor’s time. “That is not the case anymore,” Yaroslavsky said.
The supervisor said the county weathered the recession better that any other large metropolitan entity in the nation. “The reason; a practical belief in living within your means. Almost 18 years ago, we were on the road to bankruptcy,”
He credited the employee unions in helping by agreeing to make sacrifices. “We did not do like Los Angeles. There was no pay cut. No pay raises. No cost of living increases,” he added. “We did give raises this year.”
“We socked away a lot of money. We did not spend it. Just because you have a good year, you can’t infer they will all be good years. That was the state’s mistake.”
Touching on the highlights, the supervisor said, Pepperdine University got approval for the second phase of the university’s growth.
“We have utilized Pepperdine for more disasters than I can think of,” he said.
Yaroslavsky also talked about the land that has been acquired under his shift. “We just purchased land in Escondido Canyon and will also acquire Ladyface Mountain. More is coming. It was decently priced and has resources. The Santa Monica Mountains are a great resource. It is great to have both the mountains and the ocean. Malibu is unique among coastal communities. That is a value and a blessing,” he said.
He briefly mentioned the opening of the lagoon and said it showed a cooperative effort.
Yaroslavsky also mentioned traffic safety funding and the need to continue to fund deployment of law enforcement. “High speed will not be tolerated. PCH is not an average boulevard. The consequences to speeding is people get killed. We are on it. I think we are making a difference despite the fatalities,” the supervisor said.
The supervisor was unequivocally critical of the Waterworks District 29. “We have a 19th century system.”
He once again showed his support for arson patrol, saying there has been $300,000 set aside for it. “The sheriff has more money than they know what to do with,” he quipped.
Yaroslavsky announced that there is a dedicated helicopter for arson watch over the Santa Monica Mountains. He said inoculating our own properties is the next best thing to a response.  “We are overdue for fire,” he cautioned.
He briefly pitched funding for the stormwater projects and acknowledged, “There is a lot of political opposition.”
The supervisor noted that because of term limits he will be leaving his office Dec. 31, 2014.

Local Firefighters Set to Take Their CPR ‘Show’ on the Road

• Malibu Crews Teach ‘Sidewalk CPR’ Class n Next Tuesday at Three Public Locations

BY ANNE SOBLE

Los Angeles County firefighters and lifeguards that serve the Malibu area are asking local residents whether they “can spend five minutes to learn how to save a life?”
The not so rhetorical question is raised because next Tuesday, June 4, has been designated “Sidewalk CPR Day”—a day when Malibuites can learn the lifesaving technique of hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or hands-only CPR, in five  minutes.
Local crew members will teach five-minute CPR at three locations in Malibu:
• 9 a.m. to Noon. Zuma Beach Lifeguard Headquarters. 30000 Pacific Coast Highway
• 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Point Dume Village (Fountain Courtyard) 29169 Heathercliff Road (PCH and Heathercliff).
• 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Malibu Colony Plaza (Fountain Courtyard) Pacific Coast Highway and Webb Way.
Los Angeles County Fire Department spokespersons emphasize that no appointment is necessary to receive CPR training; “all one has to do is just show up.”
Everyone in the community is being urged to learn this life-saving technique by the LACFD.
The CPR event  announcement stresses that “the life you save [using CPR] could be someone in your own family.”
Fire department statistics indicate that the majority of sudden cardiac arrest emergencies happen at home.
The Tuesday event will also be offered at hundreds of other locations throughout Southern California. A comprehensive list of these locations is available at: www.fire.lacounty.gov

Deer Creek Area Residents to Protest Proposal for Tiger Facility at Ranch

• Up to Five Big Cats to Be Housed at Site

BY BILL KOENEKER


Just when Deer Creek area residents thought it was safe to go back out into the blackened burned landscape, neighbors have found out a Pacific View Road property owner has applied for a conditional use permit to keep wild tigers on the property for filming purposes in the entertainment industry, according to Ventura County documents.
“After the recent fire, the last thing our neighborhood needs is 700 pound Siberian Tigers,” said one homeowner, who did not want his name used.
The CUP is sought to keep up to five tigers in an enclosure that will be eight-foot high chain-link fence with chain-link roofs.
“We intend to send a letter of protest to the case planner, to county official[s], to the local head of the National Park Service and to the Chief of the Ventura County Fire Department,” reads a daisy chain email obtained by the Malibu Surfside News. “Don’t forget the bad experience that our neighborhood had with a similar situation. The facility on Yerba Buena housed several chimps, exotic snakes, a lion and exotic animals…at least one neighbor was bitten by the ‘tame lion.’”
The property currently consists of an existing residence, guest house, garage and barn with two water tanks totaling 11,200 gallons and a well.
“The applicant is proposing to build an eight-foot perimeter fence of 2338 feet in length, encompassing approximately 7.16 acres. The residence, garage and equine barn will be located within the perimeter fence area. This area was previously used for horses and is devoid of native vegetation.
“There will also be three animal enclosures and an arena within the perimeter fence area. This request includes the ability to increase fence height without a CUP modification.
“The enclosure will be eight-foot-high chain link fence with chain-link roofs. The arena chain-link fencing will be 16 feet in height. The arena fence will be 556 feet in length and will encompass 0.31 acres.
“There will also be a small shallow pool for the animals within the arena fence. The three enclosures will be 2400 square feet, 1334 square feet and 2400 square feet respectively,” according to the Ventura County planning document, which goes on to state the pool will be 432 square feet and approximately four-feet deep.
All of the trees in the arena area are pepper trees, and no protected trees will be affected by the project, according to the applicant.
In letters of protest sent to Ventura County officials, including Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, residents say they strongly protest the application. “This is not a wild animal park, this is a residential community, and we strongly protest bringing big cats into the neighborhood and putting the safety of our children and pets at risk.”
The applicant told county planners members of the public will not be permitted on site and there will be no additional employees other than the property owners and their immediate family.
“The animals will enter and exit the property by vehicle through a series of gates. All fence height requirements are dictated by existing USDA and CDFG approved permits,” the application states.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Memorial Distraction •

BY ANNE SOBLE

Driving through Malibu over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, it was obvious that the local sheriff’s department powers-that-be had assigned extra black-and-white patrol cars to Pacific Coast Highway. Speeding and DUI offenses might not be at their peak in the kind of sleepy traffic crawl that marked Memorial Day’s unofficial kickoff of the summer beach season. But there was ample evidence of the other major distraction that has taken over the accident scene—texting while driving.
Just having looked at the stats for the most recent local DUI checkpoint may have prompted my interest in holiday driving patterns. While the number of arrests and actual legal catches for various violations at the Malibu stops may seem underwhelming, that’s not the only objective of the policy. Announcing and analyzing the DUI tallies is part of a critical educational component emphasizing that driving under the influence of anything capable of distracting the driver’s attention is a serious social concern with the potential for tragic individual and community consequences.
For this reason, it is in everyone’s, as well as the community’s, interest to keep the public spotlight on the problem of distracted driving. If education does not get the message out, then penalties will have to become progressively harsher, as has been the case with traditional drunk driving law. If fatal accidents have been caused when changing a radio station or inserting a CD, is it not readily understandable that a heated exchange with a family member or conducting a complicated business transaction requires the processing of so much information or the reining in of so much emotion that a stop sign can be missed, or a rear-view mirror not checked?
To no great surprise, studies indicate texting distraction is a more prevalent concern among younger drivers. Checkpoints don’t address this. Checkpoints are timed for older drivers who dine out. They have to be reformatted to monitor student-age drivers after school let-out times and young adults after sports and other social activities geared to those demographics. Some 45 percent of teens acknowledge that they text or email when behind the wheel, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The same study indicated that 31 percent of U.S. drivers aged 18 to 64 drove while texting.
The numbers are still in flux, but it appears that injuries caused by texting already outpace drunken-driving injuries in some areas and demographics. In one set of studies, more than 300,000 injuries to teens were attributed to texting, while drinking and driving caused 282,000. The gap continues to widen. Correlations of texting data with years of driving experience, number of people in vehicles, and age-related proclivities for speed and high-powered cars, add to the concern that the spotlight needs to be turned full force on texting.
It wasn’t until society got serious about drunk driving that resources became available for checkpoints. The texting accident numbers now warrant the same allocation of resources to address drivers whose thoughts are focused elsewhere while they maneuver several thousand pounds of metal and other material on Malibu’s roads.

Special Screening of Paw Project Documentary Is Planned

Malibu animal welfare activist, veterinarian and filmmaker Jennifer Conrad, the founder of the Paw Project, a non-profit organization created to educate the public about the painful and crippling effects of feline declawing, promote animal welfare through the abolition of the practice of declaw surgery, and to rehabilitate cats that have been declawed, will be at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, 24855 PCH, on June 8, at 8 p.m. for a screening of her one-hour documentary film “The Paw Project.”
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The screening begins at 8 p.m.
The screening will be followed by a Q & A session with Conrad. There will also be an informal reception with a selection of vegan hors d’oeuvres.
 Declawing surgery, also called onychectomy—amputating an animal’s toes at the last joint is performed on domestic and exotic cats. The surgery is illegal or considered inhumane in many countries around the world, including more than 12 European nations, Australia and Brazil.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals “does not approve of the declawing of cats as a matter of supposed convenience to cat owners,” according to the Paw Project website. The ASPCA is on record stating that the surgery  “is a form of mutilation and it does cause pain.”
According to Conrad, big cats can become crippled by pain from bone fragments, infection and severed tendons from the surgery.
The screening is free, but RSVP is requested: 310-795-6215, or www.pawprojectmovie.com

Local Musician Is Committed to Keeping Silent Film Tradition Alive

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

When he was a high school student, musician Rick Friend, who says that he grew up with a love of film and music, became interested in silent films. He rented a print of the 1926 Buster Keaton silent film “The General” and improvised an accompaniment on the piano to entertain his friends. It was the beginning of a lifetime passion for bringing silent films back to life with improvisational accompaniment.
“I enjoyed it so much I decided to make a career out of it,” Friend told the Malibu Surfside News.
A native of Clifton, New Jersey, Friend studied piano and composition at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.
He played for four seasons of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Open Vault Series and, in 1987, began playing for the Toronto Film Society. He became involved in Cinemateque Ontario, accompanying their showings of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and Carl Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc.”
He was so taken with “Joan” that he developed an original score for the film, which he performed with a consort of nine musicians at the Music Gallery in Toronto.
Friend describes the film, produced in France in 1928, as brilliant. “It’s all done in close-ups, there’s just enough scenery to set the start mood.”
“The Passion of Joan of Arc” was followed by orchestral scores for Lon Chaney’s eerie 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” the 1922 horror film “Nosferatu,” and the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks film “The Mark of Zorro.”
 “I’ve appeared as soloist with various orchestras,” Friend said. “It’s easy for me when I work alone. When I work with a conductor there are visual cues. Both film and music are time-based arts.”
Friend says he likes to use character themes to add continuity but prefers to improvise the action scenes.
“I moved out here in 1998,” Friend told The News. “I had a wonderful gig for several years playing at the Silent Movie Theater.”
The storied theater, which was sold in 2006 and now operates as Cinefamily, a non-profit American cinemateque, shows a wider range of films, although silents still feature on the schedule.
Friend has expanded his performance schedule to include freelancing between orchestral gigs—he’ll be accompanying the still-terrifying “Nosferatu” with  the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, for Halloween this year, and the swashbuckling adventures of “The Mark of Zorro” with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, in Maine for Valentine’s Day 2014. He offers his unique silent film improv skills for parties and special occasions.
“Silent films were never silent,” Friend says. “They were always shown with live music.”
“One of the things that appeals to me is the magic of live music. It’s transporting. Everyone should have the chance to experience that.”
He adds that his mission “is to bring the art form to audiences everywhere.”
More information is available online at silent-music.org

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trancas Highlands District Debate Is Complex and Contentious

• Property Owners Engage in Email Campaign Over Validity of HOA and Inclusion in Boundaries

BY BILL KOENEKER

A debate started after a number of Trancas Highlands homeowners descended onto Malibu City Council chambers last week to address potential water district assessments as high as one million dollars.
Currently, many of the homes in the highlands do not have potable water and have water trucked to them and stored in tanks.
Apparently the public discussion has brought more dissenters to the forefront who are unhappy with other aspects of the formation of the assessment district.
“I have read the articles in the local newspapers published this week about a proposed water and gas assessment district for Trancas Highlands. It is unfortunate that the [residents] of Trancas Highlands have suffered for years without water and have had to rely on their water being trucked in weekly to each of their residences,” wrote Robin Barton Peterson, in an email exchange obtained by the Malibu Surfside News.
“As you know this assessment district has been proposed by the leaders of the Trancas Highlands Homeowners Association and for some unknown reason, the principal leaders of this project are trying also to include certain properties into this assessment district that are outside the boundaries of the Trancas Highlands HOA.”
Barton Peterson notes in her missives to the HOA leasder that her property has working wells and does not need water.
The property is outside the city limits and it appears that the land is actually in another water district, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District and not L.A. County Waterwork 29s. She contends none of the engineers hired by the HOA as consultants ever met with her or visited the property, which lies directly north of Anacapa Drive known historically as the Kincaid Ranch, or more recently as Trancas Vineyards.
“If my property is not taken out of the assessment district, then at the appropriate time, I will use the courts to make a determination, which we both know could cause years of delay. I am of the firm opinion it is better to work with your neighbors, but if forced and not mater what the courts may initially decide I will keep this project tied up in court as long as possible. In the meantime, perhaps it is best that I also start making my feelings be known through our local newspapers and other form of media available,” wrote Barton Peterson in her reply.
Scott Tallal, who is one of the HOA members spearheading the formation of the water district, has replied that the issue is more complicated hat it first appears.
“Trancas Highlands HOA is not in fact trying to include certain properties that are outside the boundaries. It is our understanding that state law prohibits us from manipulating the proposed boundary map in any an and that the city of Malibu and we have not say in the matter,” replied Tallal.
The HOA head went on to say that the engineering consultants Penfield&Smith make determinations regarding project benefits.
 “We and the City of Malibu are not able to force them to include or exclude any property including yours. They are the ones who have made the determination that your property will receive any benefits and it is our understanding that California Law therefore requires that your property be included. No one involved with the HOA is an expert in analyzing or assigning the benefits associated with this project. This is not a decision, which was made by us or by the City of Malibu. Rather, widely recognized and respected award-winning industry experts in this field made the decision and they've told us that under state law they have no choice but to include your property. In short, your dispute appears to be with the State of California and the way the law is currently constructed. I'm by no means an expert in the legalities involved, but to me it seems unlikely that any court would enjoin us from proceeding when this process has been followed to the letter of the law”
Tallal has said the entire project including undergrounding utilities, plus a water tank is estimated to cost $17.4 million. The undergrounding of utilities constitutes approximately $4.4 million of the price tag.
The TRHOA had petitioned the city for formation of a special assessment district to fund design and construction of public water facility. Other utility improvements proposed include undergrounding electric lines and extending underground natural gas, cable and telephone lines.
Tallal said the Kincaid Ranch was included because Penfield&Smith has determined that while the Barton Peterson property would not be liable to share any of the costs associated with the water, gas or telecom lines, it would in fact benefit from improved fire protection, improvements made to Trancas canyon road and the removal of above ground utility poles
“Penfield&Smith has projected that the 'worst case' estimate for your share of these costs would equate to a payment of just over $600/month and that it might end being a little less.
Last year, moving forward with the formation of the Trancas Highlands Utility Assessment District, the city council, without comment from the council or the public-there were no dissenters at the time, authorized the city manager to negotiate and execute an agreement with Penfield & Smith to provide consultation for the formation of such a district.
The chief engineer on the project is Patrick Reeves who said the draft engineering report was submitted to the city's public works department several week's ago.
He said the document could be considered the “Bible” of the project and includes the total amount of money chargeable to the assessment district, the amount chargeable to each parcel in the district, the duration of the payments, the reason for the assessment, the basis upon which the proposed assessment was calculated and a summary of the ballot procedure.
The report would also include a description of the improvements or services to be financed through the special assessment, the proposed district boundaries and a description of the special benefits, which each parcel receives as a result of the assessment.
The reason for this is Proposition 218, which was approved by California voters in 1996, and requires that all assessment districts must be supported by a detailed engineer's report prepared by a registered professional engineer and voted upon by the affected property owners. The voter-approved measure also establishes a common formation and ratification procedure for all special assessment districts.
Prior to creating an assessment district, there must be a public hearing and the district must receive approval from a majority of the affected property owners casting a ballot.
All owners of property within the assessment district must be mailed a detailed notice of the public heading and a ballot in which to voice their approval or disapproval of the proposed district at least 45 days prior to the hearing.
The district would include Trancas Canyon Road, Anacapa View Drive and the surrounding gated private streets and access easements in the Trancas Highlands neighborhood, according to city officials.
Assessment district proceedings must be abandoned if a majority of the ballots received by the conclusion of the hearing protest creation of the district. Ballots are to be weighted according to the proportional financial obligation of the affected property, the larger the financial obligation, and the greater the weight that must be assigned to that property. Once an assessment is created, it may be repealed or reduced by popular initiative.
When an assessment is challenged in court, Proposition 218 specifies that the agency carry the burden of proof in showing that the property is receiving a special benefit and that the amount assessed is proportional to, and no greater than, the special benefits conferred.
A resident on Anacapa View Drive maintains that Prop 218 makes it illegal to force specific property owners to pay for what he calls general benefits for the broader community because of the fire protection benefits.
“The general benefit of fire protection for homes and communities needing the fire department to save their homes and businesses and churches and schools as the entire 500,000 gallons of stored water will be a part of the district 29 system and available to fight fires well beyond the Trancas Highlands area.”
“The city must cover the costs not the 66 private property owners who happen to live closest to the new water tank being built for water District 29.
“This water project is not a private water system all to its own, that buys water from district 29 and stores and sues it solely and only for its own use. District 29 will own the new tank and the entire addition to their system.”
 The homeowners within the proposed district have deposited $86,200 with the municipality, which will be used for studies of special tax, utility engineering, bond and legal counsel for the formation of the proposed utilities undergrounding district and water distribution system.
In addition, the planning commission approved a coastal permit for the construction of a public water system and dry utility infrastructure improvements in the highlands neighborhood and the installation of a 500,000-gallon tank.
Most of the neighborhood's residents had shown up in chambers to urge the planning panel approval of the request.
“The entire neighborhood is here,” said Tallal at the time. “This is about fire protection. We desperately need this.”
Commissioners were assured the additional water would not be growth inducing, that it was designed to “just serve the neighborhood,” including 18 new fire hydrants.
The Trancas Highlands HOA successfully sought a permit for a project, which calls for the 500,000-gallon water storage tank constructed on a vacant lot at 31537 Anacapa View Drive, which is located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood, according to planning department documents.
No public dissent was heard from any of the residents until last week. City Manager Jim Thorsen said the city and the HOA have been working together for several years.
He said the time frame calls for Los Angeles County to put it on its agenda, which should take six weeks and then the city would put it on its agenda. The board of supervisors is the governing body of the water district.
 “There are a lot of [other] homeowners who feel the city is moving too slow. The assessment district needs to vote. If the majority of the vote is no, then there is no water system,” Thorsen said. “If they do want to continue to move forward, it is a matter of what kind of assessment-only for water or for water and gas or all of the utilities. It certainly is an expensive project.”
At last week’s meeting, council members held out little hope the city could help in any other way than it is now. Mayor Lou La Monte said, “The issue belongs to you people. What you are talking about should be resolved. The costs are astronomical.”
The HOA proposes forming a special assessment district to fund the extension of a public water line from Trancas Canyon Park north along Trancas Canyon Road and within the gated private streets of Anacapa View Drive, Beach View Estates Drive and Foxview Drive. The assessment district would encompass about 66 parcels and 209 acres, according to municipal planners.
Water would be obtained from a booster pump station constructed at Trancas Canyon Park, near an existing Los Angeles County Water District No. 29 storage tank that would pump water up to the new tank.
Fire hydrants, two pressure reducing stations, valves and other appurtenances would be constructed along the public and private streets.
An additional “dry” trench is also proposed for undergrounding existing overhead electric lines and extension of utilities such as natural gas and cable.
Once underground utilities are installed, overhead lines and poles would be removed. The underground wiring is a safety factor.
The HOA will form the assessment district to fund preparation of final-engineering and construction plans.
The water system and utility plans would be designed in compliance with Water District 29, Los Angeles County Fire Department, City of Malibu and utility provider requirements.

Trancas Center Reviewed

• Master Plan and Landscaping  Need OK

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Monday, June 3 to consider an application for a master sign plan for the Trancas Country Market.
The planning panel is also being asked to  consider changes to the previously approved landscaping plan.
In previous notices announcing a hearing before the commissioners, a request for amending the lighting plan was also noticed, but no application for amending the lighting plan is included for the June hearing.
Some activists have called on the city to not consider the shopping center’s plans in a piecemeal fashion.
Zuma Beach Properties LLC, an entity controlled by Wal-Mart heiress Paige Laurie Dubbert and husband Bo, owner of the west Malibu center, which is still under construction, has attempted to return to the city chambers several times for amendments and changes to previously approved plans.
Current construction at the site makes fairly visible now to residents and visitors as to what the shopping center will look like while the framing and sheathing are in progress.
Several weeks ago, the Trancas Starbucks sought changes to is summer hours, but commissioners tied approval of the change of closing hours to completion of a right-hand turn lane at the shopping center.
It appeared the commissioners were either swayed by activists or wanted to send their own message about how they wanted to view the progress of the rest of the construction as it proceeds at the west Malibu location.
That may explain why the Dubberts have hired a well-known Los Angeles attorney Claire Bronowski, who has years of experience in planning matters, to act on their behalf and steer the application through the approval process.

Draft EIR for Housing Element Update Now Out

• Affordable Overlay Options Proposed for Two Sites near Point

BY BILL KOENEKER

The City of Malibu has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the 2008-2014 General Plan Housing Element Update.
The 45-day public review comment period began last week and ends on June 28. All comments should be submitted in writing, according to city planners, and directed to Richard Mollica, Associate Planner via email at rmollica@malibucity.org or by mail at 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, Malibu, CA 90265.
The planning commission is scheduled to hear public input on the DEIR on June 3 at 6:30 p.m.
One of the programs would: “Remove regulatory barriers to affordable housing and housing persons with special needs.”
The policy calls for “amending the Local Coastal Program and the Malibu Municipal Code to permit small licensed residential care facilities (maximum six residents) by-right in all residential zones and larger care facilities (more than six residents) and similar innovative alternative living projects in the Civic Center area subject to a Conditional Use Permit where such projects would be compatible with the surrounding uses.”
However, the core of the document proposes the addition of an overlay zone on three parcels to allow for a residential density up to 25 units per acre.
Two of the three parcels are located near Point Dume and are called city candidate sites one and two, located adjacent to each other at 28517 Pacific Coast Highway and 28401 PCH respectively, according to the DEIR.
The sites front PCH between Ramirez Mesa Road and Zuma View Place and there are condominium complexes that are located off of those streets.
The sites are surrounded by land uses primarily comprised of residential uses including multi-family and rural residential. Another candidate site is located at 23465 Civic Center Way in the city’s Civic Center and is approximately 6.5 miles east of the other two sites. The site is primarily surrounded by commercial, institutional and residential uses.
The first two sites mentioned are 5.8 acres and 3.25 acres respectively and are currently zoned multi-family residential at a density of six units per acre per Malibu’s Local Coastal Program.
The sites are undeveloped with the exception of one single-family residence on each site.
The Civic Center site encompasses 2.3 acres of a larger 15.2-acre site and is currently within the Town Center Overlay District. The site is entirely undeveloped; however, the adjacent lot has been approved for commercial retail and office space development known as the La Paz.
The document would update the housing element to include a program to create a new “Affordable Housing Overlay” district within the General Plan and the LCP.
The AHO designation would allow multi-family residential development at a density of 25 units per acre when affordable housing units are included in the project as well as a density bonus up to 35 percent consistent with state density bonus law.
The AHO can be applied to the three candidate sites to accommodate the city’s required housing needs allocation as determined by the Southern California Association of Governments.
Incentives for development on the three sites include density bonuses up to 35 percent, priority permit processing, modified development standards, administrative support with funding applications and/or fee waivers or deferrals.
The units that the three candidate sites could accommodate under the updated document is 212 units, which just exceeds the minimum number of affordable units required in the city’s mandated quota of 188 units of affordable to very-low and low income families.
The Housing Element Update also includes a number of programs and policies intended to encourage and facilitate the provision of adequate housing for the existing and protected needs of all economic segments of the community, as well as housing for persons with special needs.

Malibu High Graduation to Be Held for First Time at Athletic Field


• Local Movie Director to Deliver Commencement Address at Mid-Century Mark for Campus

BY ANNE SOBLE

It was announced this week that graduation ceremonies for Malibu High School’s class of 2013 will take place on the campus athletic field for the first time in the school’s history.
In addition to the new venue for the June 10 commencement program, the 2 p.m. event will feature an address by Malibu movie director and writer Tom Shadyac, known for his films featuring Jim Carrey, including: “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Bruce Almighty,” and “Liar, Liar.”
Shadyac’s book, “Life’s Operating Manual” will be released in June. He is an adjunct professor of Communications at Pepperdine University and teaches the class “Film and Life.”
MHS principal Jerry Block said, “It’s a thrill to be able to have a graduation that can accommodate our entire community.”
Block added, “With the concurrent celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Malibu Park Junior High in 1963 and the 20th anniversary of  Malibu High’s first ninth grade class,  parents, faculty, staff and students opted to try the new venue.”
The school’s announcement noted, “Teachers, parents and students cited the beautiful view, larger seating area and a more ‘real high school’ feel as advantages for moving the ceremony, while [keeping] the day in line with past tradition, including the musical acts, senior speeches and presentation of diplomas.”
The City of Malibu, the Malibu High School PTSA, and a number of private donors helped offset the costs of the added seats and the stage for the event.
After the graduation ceremony, the senior class will participate in the traditional Safe and Sober Grad Night planned by the PTSA Grad Night Committee, which noted that generous financial support also came from the community for this annual event.
Grad Night organizers said that dozens of parents, local businesses, service clubs and community organizations helped make it possible “for the young people to spend an evening together celebrating their last day of high school and their first day as graduates before heading off to new lives at college and the working world.”

Publisher’s Notebook

• Snakes in the Grass •

BY ANNE SOBLE

It’s funny the way a theme can dominate at a moment in time. As The News goes to press with this week’s issue, it seems as if there are rattlesnakes lurking in every corner. Not literally, of course, but in the sense that this is peak rattler season and Malibuites are being reminded to give these important members of the local ecosystem the respect and the wide berth they deserve.
Rattler presence nearly everywhere in Malibu affirms that nature is persistent and these diligent monitors of the rodent population will find a way to manage to coexist with other species, including humans. For example, during the last week, we have received three reports that the signage urging visitors to be on the alert for rattlesnakes in Legacy Park is well founded.
Actually, since the park grounds are not a high public use area, the presence of the snakes is an affirmation of the health of the mini-ecosystem that was created at the site. It may not offer the active recreational options sought by a segment of the current community demographics, but it is a semblance of manmade wilderness surrounded by urban/suburban development.
Making the presence of rattlesnakes in the center of Malibu’s commercial and civic area a topic of discussion should not lead to a call for the eradication of the snakes. That would only allow the local rodent ranks to skyrocket. But visitors to the park, especially those with dogs whose curiosity may prompt them to poke around the grass, should take the warning signs seriously.
Rattlers are not the only wild things that have found Legacy Park’s grounds to their liking. Other animals that also prefer to be less visible are in the area. A reader reported spotting a coyote in Legacy Park two weeks ago that was more than likely just passing through. The diversity of smaller animals that might consider Legacy Park for a through route, or setting up house, is directly related to the relative lack of human use of the park.
I decided to visit Legacy Park recently and look for signs of the extent of the wilderness takeover. My goal wasn’t a hike per se but a succession of loosely structured sit-and-stops, as I looked for areas adjacent to where one might see signs of rodent life, the makings of a well-stocked larder for rattlers and other wildlife.
I brought portable seating that allowed me to move from stop to stop, then sit nearby quietly for 15 minutes or so, and where appropriate, use my bamboo hiking staff to stir up the nearby topsoil in order to check underneath the foliage of ground-hugging plants.
There were ample indications that snakes—whether rattlers, eco-buddy gopher snakes, or numerous other things that slither—would find the Legacy Park menu options to their liking. Not only would the snake population be healthy, but they also would be less likely to act in ways that increase the potential for human encounters.
Legacy Park may not be to everyone’s liking, but it provides a counterbalance to the changing face of mid-Malibu. If one gets lucky and spots one of nature’s wild critters, an adrenalin rush is likely. Humans so outnumber wildlife now that every sighting is a special event.

Activists Seeking City of Malibu Rodenticide Ban Are ‘Recognized’ by State Senate

• Volunteers Continue to Prod City Council to Take Action to Prevent Growing Toll on Local Wildlife

BY ANNE SOBLE

The growing ranks of volunteer anti-rodenticide-use activists led by the Malibu Agricultural Society received a certificate of recognition this week from the California State Senate at the direction of Malibu’s Senator Fran Pavley.
The state recognition is seen as an affirmation of the broad reach of MAS’s educational campaign and may help to bolster the group’s efforts to obtain a City of Malibu resolution opposing the use of chemical rodenticides that are increasingly having a devastating effect on wildlife.
The group’s ongoing drive to obtain city action, which is largely symbolic in nature, has been undertaken simultaneously with its success at getting local retailers to remove the readily accessible chemicals from store shelves and provide outreach to other communities whose residents share the concerns.
Members of the group met last month with representatives of city staff, city council members, public agency personnel, and others, to explore ways to curb rodenticide use because wild animals for which rodents are a food source are becoming the victims of secondary and tertiary poisoning at an alarming rate.
Research indicates that coyotes and mountain lions—predators critical to a healthy ecosystem balance—are among the most vulnerable species.
Use of chemical rodenticides in the Malibu area assumes increased importance because of the community's proximity to publicly-owned wilderness lands that provide critical animal habitat.
This is why the National Park Service and other public entities support a ban, but their efforts have been fought at every turn by large chemical conglomerates for which chemical rodenticides are important profit-makers.
MAS secretary Kian Schulman acknowledges that state action is necessary for an enforceable ban, but stresses that a Malibu anti-rodenticide resolution would be a high profile boost for the issue.
Schulman added, “The wildlife carnage we are trying to limit goes beyond our own backyard, necessitating a multiple city outreach. A precedent set by Malibu, as a green city, will be most helpful when these cities are approached to do the same.”
The rodenticide issue has been before city officials for six months.
No dates have been set for the Malibu City Council to air and take possible action on the request for a formal resolution.

Springs Fire Numbers Are Revised

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Cal Fire is reporting that the Springs Fire, which ignited near the Ventura Freeway in Camarillo Springs on May 2, at 7:01 a.m., and reached Pacific Coast Highway at Point Mugu and Big Sycamore Canyon in hours, burned 24,251 acres. A total of 10 outbuildings were destroyed, and six commercial properties and six additional outbuildings were damaged. There were 10 injuries associated with the fire, none of them serious. The cause remains under investigation.
The acreage, initially estimated at 28,000 was reduced based upon more accurate mapping, according to a Cal Fire press release.
According to the National Park Service, the fire burned more than 1000 acres of NPS land and more than 12,000 acres of California State Parks land.
The National Park Service re-opened trails on the western side of the Santa Monica Mountains, including the popular Sandstone Peak and Mishe Mokwa trailheads, and the Backbone Trail east of the Point Mugu State Park, with restrictions.
“We know the public is anxious to return to their neighborhood national park,” said David Szymanski, superintendent of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “We're working as hard as we can to balance that enthusiasm with visitor safety and protection of our resources.”
Park officials estimate 70 percent of Rancho Sierra Vista Park’s 1170 acres burned. 
The fire raced from Rancho Sierra Vista to PCH, burning the popular Sycamore Canyon Campground. The beach and picnic area at Sycamore Cove was not damaged and fire crews were able to save several Sycamore Canyon structures, including a visitor center and equipment yard.
The Sycamore campground, La Jolla Valley group campsite, and Chumash Trail are expected to reopen on Friday. However, some backcountry trails will remain closed.
Visitors are encouraged to respecting trail closures and stay on the trail in the areas that are open.

Coexistence and Avoidance Are Keys to Life in Rattlesnake Country

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and also marks the beginning of peak snake season in the Santa Monica Mountains. Gopher snakes, racers, and king snakes are appearing throughout Malibu, and so is the western diamondback rattlesnake, the area’s only native venomous reptile.
However, while rattlesnakes can be dangerous if provoked, they are not generally aggressive unless threatened, and are a critically important species that helps to control the rodent population.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, rattlesnakes only strike when threatened or deliberately provoked; given room they will retreat.
“Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing,” a DFW press release states. “The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.”
The California Poison Control Center receives an estimated  800 rattlesnake bite reports in an average year, deaths from the western diamondback are rare, seldom more than one or two annually. About 25 percent of all bites are “dry,” meaning no venom was injected.
In the event of a rattlesnake bite, the California Poison Control Center advises: Stay calm; wash the bite area gently with soap and water; remove watches, rings, or anything that might constrict swelling; immobilize the affected area; transport safely to the nearest medical facility.
Domestic animals and pets can also be bitten by rattlesnakes. Approximately 300,000 domestic animals are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year, according to government statistics.
The DFW offers the following rattlesnake avoidance advice: “Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas; stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush; do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark; step on logs and rocks, never over them; check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use; be careful when stepping over the doorstep, snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side; never hike alone; do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom; teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.”
 Rattlesnakes are not limited to wild areas in the Santa   Monica Mountains and are often encountered in Malibu gardens, under houses, along roads and driveways, and occasionally even on the beach.
According to the DFW, “Many a useful and non-threatening snake has suffered a quick death from a frantic human who has mistakenly identified a gopher snake, garter, racer or other as a rattlesnake. This usually happens when a snake assumes an instinctual defensive position used to bluff adversaries. A gopher snake has the added unfortunate trait of imitating a rattlesnake by flattening its head and body, vibrating its tail, hissing and actually striking if approached too closely.”
A U.C. Davis survey of rattlesnake bite patients at the veterinary teaching hospital between 1994-2005 indicates six felines, 67 canines, 15 horses, three llamas, a goat, a sheep and a parrot. Almost all of the patients survived, according to the report. An estimated five percent of bites are fatal in dogs. With horses the number is higher—10-30 percent. Symptoms include swelling, agitation or depression, severe reactions include trouble breathing, low blood pressure, or even uncontrolled bleeding. One or two puncture wounds on the nose or front paws may be visible. Timely medical treatment is essential.
Davis recommends that the animal’s owner call the veterinary clinic before bringing the animal to ensure that the vet is prepared. Treatment may include fluid therapy, antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics and painkillers and antivenin. A vaccine is also available for animals at high risk for rattlesnake contact.
Dog owners are advised to avoid bringing their dogs on narrow trails or areas with tall grass, rocks or woodpiles during peak rattlesnake season, and to seek out wide, clear trails instead, always keeping pets on leash. Rattlesnake aversion training for dogs is also available.
Animal-related rattlesnake information is available online at www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vmth/pharmacy/pdfs/pharmnewsvol4-1.pdf
More information on rattlesnake coexistance and avoidance is available at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/news/issues/snake.html

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Residents Have Several Options for Tuning In to State-of-the-City Speech When Municipal Officials Highlight Accomplishments

• Mayor’s Annual Address to Be a Video Presentation Focusing on a Year of Diverse Policy Issues

BY ANNE SOBLE

City residents will have several options for fulfilling the civic obligation of participating in this year’s State-of-the-City address, the annual assessment of municipal public policy from the perspective of Malibu’s elected officials and staff and a preliminary look at some of the city’s policy goals for the upcoming fiscal year.
This year, the speech will be delivered in a video format by Mayor Lou La Monte, which should facilitate increased access to the city’s primary annual public outreach effort.
In order to reach as broad an audience as possible, allow maximum viewer flexibility, and make the speech available at no cost, the city issued an announcement this week that the video of the State-of-the-City comments “will be played on the city’s local access channel and will be viewable on the city’s website.”
Prior to that, in keeping with a longstanding tradition, the video will be the centerpiece of a breakfast on Wednesday, May 22, hosted by the Malibu Chamber of Commerce at City Hall.
Mayor La Monte will be at the breakfast to provide live backup for the video presentation.
In addition, Los Angeles County Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes incorporated and unincorporated Malibu, will attend the breakfast and present a look at the current county budget and other issues under the Board of Supervisors’ purview.
Prior to Malibu incorporation in 1991, the Chamber often was the organizational link to county government events related to policy issues, primarily economic, that involved the community.
The MCC State-of-the-City event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m, The cost for breakfast is $25.
City Manager Jim Thorsen told the Malibu Surfside News, “The Chamber has hosted this event for many years.” Thorsen said, “Last year, the Chamber of Commerce hosted the State-of-the-City breakfast meeting and charged a nominal fee to partially recover the cost of the catered breakfast.”
The city manager noted that, “In addition, the mayor performed the same State-of-the-City address [at no charge last year] at a city council meeting. The meeting was well advertised, but we only had a few people show for the address.”
Reservations are required for the Chamber of Commerce breakfast. They can be made at 310-456-9025 or by going to the MCC website at www.malibu.org

City Council Subcommittee to Review Proposed FY 2013-14 Municipal Budget

• Any Revisions in the Document Are Expected to Be Minor

BY BILL KOENEKER

No revisions have been made to the proposed budget for the next fiscal year as it wends its way this week through the Malibu City Council Administration and Finance Subcommittee, according to Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman.
The subcommittee, which meets this week on Tuesday as the Malibu Surfside News was going to press, is expected to review the document and make recommendations.
The council, at a previous meeting, took its first look at the proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget.
The proposed document now includes general fund revenues of $21.73 million and general fund expenditures of $21.72 million, according to Feldman.
Feldman added a big plus in the revised picture was for the projected designated and undesignated general fund by June 30, 2014 is now anticipated to be $14.82 million.
The assistant city manager noted in her revised staff report, “Revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2012-2013 and fiscal year 2013-2014 have been refined since the budget was presented to the council.”
She added,“The undesignated reserve is budgeted at 58 percent of the annual operating budget and exceeds the city’s goal of maintaining a minimum of 50 percent of the operating budget in reserves.”
In the revised staff report, Feldman explains how a proposed starting general fund reserve at July 1, 2013 of $12.62 million changed.
“This reserve is $2.8 million higher than the general fund reserve that was anticipated during the prior year budget development. The significant increase is due to the $1 million reimbursement that the city received from the Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility Communities Facilities District, $1.3 million of additional general fund revenue, $175,000 of legal fee reimbursements and conservative spending in Fiscal Year 2012-2013. “Strong reserves have been achieved while funding clean water programs, including establishing a $250,000 reserve as required by the Baykeepers/NRDC litigation and appropriating $113,000 for the Broad Beach Biofiltration Project and $110,000 for ASBS.”
Property tax revenue is projected to increase $325,000 to $7.2 million from the 2012-13 tax year.
No changes or further discussion has ensued since it was revealed how much more Malibu is paying for law enforcement services than other surrounding cities.
At the previous council session, Councilmember Joan House wanted to know how much other cities are paying for public safety most notably the contract 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. Santa Monica, a city of about 100,000, has its own police force.
Several years ago, the city undertook a study about the costs of it paying for its own in-house police force, but determined the undertaking would be too costly.
There has been no discussion at the council level if another study is warranted in light of the current costs.

County Seeks OKs to Construct New Point Dume Fire Station

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Monday, June 3, on permits and entitlements the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works seeks for construction for the new Fire Station 71 located on Point Dume.
The building plans include demolition of the existing facility and reconstruction of a new station on the site.
The current fire station is described as a “very simple vernacular structure constructed in 1939 that was altered in the 1960s with the addition of a small, shed roof office area at the southwest corner of the property, and is approximately 2260 square feet.”
The county proposes to expand the fire station to encompass a total of 5800 square feet.
The application notes that the proposed expansion would not increase the number of staff but would provide six individual dorms, separate shower facilities for male and female staff, and a new ADA compliant restroom, according to municipal documents.
The station living quarters would expand from 1277 to 3500 square feet.
The plans also call for three internal parking bays for a new fire engine truck and paramedic squad car. The new fire engine is currently housed outside of the apparatus bay.
The county is seeking a coastal development permit and conditional use permit for an increase of more than 500 square feet in the commercial neighborhood zone, a minor modification for a 38 percent reduction in the required front yard setback, variances for an increase in the maximum floor area ratio from 0.15 to 0.19,  a 74 percent reduction in the required east side yard setback, a 78 percent reduction in the required rear yard setbacks, an increase in the maximum height for a flat roof from 24 feet to 28 feet, parking within the front yard setback and a 21 percent reduction in required landscaping.
The county is also seeking a demolition permit to remove the existing fire station and accessory structures, according to municipal planning documents.

Clock Ticks for Final Cases Heard at Malibu Courthouse

• Future Legal Filings Will Be Calendared in Santa Monica or Van Nuys Facilities

BY BILL KOENEKER

Last November, the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a press release announcing the closure of 10 courthouses, including the one in Malibu, and the shuttering of a dozen criminal courtrooms in an effort to deal with a budget deficit that could soar into the $80 million range.
That day came in a notice to attorneys recently that effective June 3, all new felony and misdemeanor filings previously filed at the Malibu Courthouse of the superior court must be filed at the Van Nuys Courthouse West, 14400 Erwin Street Mall, Van Nuys.
New filings for all traffic and non-traffic infraction cases must be filed at the Santa Monica Courthouse, 1725 Main St. in Santa Monica.
“As of June 3, 2013, the Malibu Courthouse will no longer handle any felony, misdemeanor or infraction cases/citation,” the superior court notice states.
An earlier notice states that effective last March, 2013 all Los Angeles Superior Court limited jurisdiction unlawful detainer cases must be filed in a regional ‘hub’ courthouse; downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Antelope Valley.
Existing limited jurisdiction unlawful detainer cases will be handled where they were originally filed until court notification is given to litigants prior to their existing unlawful detainer cases being transferred to a hub courthouse, according to the notice.
Boundaries for new limited jurisdiction unlawful detainer case filings can be found at the court’s website at www.lasuperiorcourt.org.
The same method will be handled for new small claims cases, which also will be filed in six ‘hub’ locations. That directive took place last March.
All Los Angeles Superior Court small claims cases must be filed in a hub courthouse: downtown Los Angeles (Stanley Mosk), Antelope Valley, Alhambra,  Downey, Inglewood, and Van Nuys (east building).
“LASC will continue to adjudicate existing small claims cases where ever they were oringally filed. An LASC court clerk will notifiy the litigants before LASC transfers any existing small claims cases to a hub courthouse or sets any new hearing dates,” the notice concludes.
The amount of traffic generated by the consolidation and the lines predicted to form by the increased activity at the hubs has some Malibu observers wondering if the traveling judge could be brought back to town.

Trancas Highlands Property Owners Sound Off on Assessment Costs

• Some Express Concern that Increasing Price Tag for Utility District Might Mean They Lose Their Homes

BY BILL KOENEKER

A contingent of Trancas Highlands homeowners descended upon Malibu City Council chambers this week to caution about the ramifications of what they said could potentially be utility district assessments that could go as high as one million dollars.
Currently, many of the homes in the highlands area do not have potable water and must have water trucked to them and stored in onsite tanks.
Most of the homes were developed with wells, which seem to have dried out for the most part in the hilly area above Broad Beach.
“Many of us experienced ‘sticker shock’ regarding the challenge of financing the water project, particularly with the additional cost of taking down the telephone poles, as well as including natural gas,” said longtime resident Art Mortell.
Mortell said after doing the numbers for the cost of interest over 30 years and the taxes anyone will have to pay over 30 years, in order to make the annual bond payments, “which brings the total to as much as $800,000.”
Mortell said one solution might be to pay in advance, rather than incur the interest and taxes that triple the initial cost. But there was still many unanswered questions. “Paying in advance also increases the viability of selling our property when a potential buyer might otherwise be distracted by the annual cost that is added to the Los Angeles County real estate bill,” he added.
Mortell told council members most residents were under the impression the bill for the utility package would come to around $50,000.
Just several weeks ago, each property owner received a document outlining the costs.
Scott Tallal, who is one of the lead activists in the Trancas Highlands Homeowners Association, said, he does not know where that figure came from. “I never told anyone $50,000 [per household].
He acknowledged there is a group of people not happy with the results. “Nobody has done anything illegal. I did not get everything I wanted. I have a well that works,” he added.
Tallal said the entire project including undergrounding utilities, plus a water tank is estimated to cost $17.4 million. The undergrounding of utilities constitutes approximately $4.4 million of the price tag.
Realtor Gail Copley, who owns a vacant lot in the highlands, said property owners are asking for more time. “Let’s slow it down. It is a staggering cost,” she said.
She said it might be time to consider not undergrounding the gas and electric as originally proposed.
“I’m in favor of water, but considering another $70,000 for gas. We had one meeting and listened, then got the envelopes for the cost. There are hardship issues,” she added.
Another homeowner, Margaret Hauptman, who was not at the meeting, told the Malibu Surfside News, “I really want the water, but I wish we could get some help. Corral Canyon. Latigo Canyon. Why was Trancas left out [for water service]? The main issue here is fire protection. And it is a hardship. Why can’t we get the county or city to help?”
Tallal said the HOA has been turned down by every public agency they asked for help for fire protection.
“We looked years ago at an independent water district [run by ourselves]. But who would do the work? Who would answer the phone at 3 a.m.? Who would run the district?”
Another property owner’s letter was read questioning the fairness of the assessment district and asking why certain areas were not added or excluded from the boundary line.
“It excludes at least 13 parcels located in the very heart of Trancas Highlands. It excludes at least 10 parcels located in the north portion of the Trancas Highlands. Last but not least, it wants to include several parcels not being any part of the HOA. We believe the basic legality of the proposed Trancas Highlands utility project needs to be carefully reviewed before any voting can take place,” wrote Andy and Teresa Kanigowski.
Tallal said they do want to include more property owners since that would lower the costs. “We are waiting on that right now,” he said.
“There is this sense that we are trying to manipulate the people. I have never asked people to change their votes. Some people are disgruntled,” he added.
The Trancas Highlands group had petitioned the city for formation of a special assessment district to fund design and construction of public water facility. Other utility improvements proposed include undergrounding electric lines and extending underground natural gas, cable and telephone lines.
Last year, moving forward with the formation of the Trancas Highlands Utility Assessment District, the city council, without comment from the council or the public—there were no dissenters at the time, authorized the city manager to negotiate and execute an agreement with Penfield and Smith to provide consultation for the formation of such a district.
The district would include Trancas Canyon Road, Anacapa View Drive and the surrounding gated private streets and access easements in the Trancas Highlands neighborhood, according to city officials.
The homeowners within the proposed district have deposited $86,200 with the municipality, which will be used for studies of special tax, utility engineering, bond and legal counsel for the formation of the proposed utilities undergrounding district and water distribution system.
In addition, the planning commission approved a coastal permit for the construction of a public water system and dry utility infrastructure improvements in the highlands neighborhood and the installation of a 500,000 gallon tank.
Most of the neighborhood’s residents had shown up in chambers to urge the planning panel approval of the request.
“The entire neighborhood is here,” said Tallal at the time. “This is about fire protection. We desperately need this.”
Commissioners were assured the additional water would not be growth inducing, that it was designed to “just serve the neighborhood,” including 18 new fire hydrants.
The Trancas Highlands HOA successfully sought a permit for a project, which calls for the 500,000-gallon water storage tank constructed on a vacant lot at 31537 Anacapa View Drive, which is located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood, according to planning department documents.
No dissent was heard from any of the residents until this week. City Manager Jim Thorsen said the city and the HOA have been working together for several years.
He said the time frame calls for Los Angeles County to put it on its agenda, which should take six weeks and then the city would put it on its agenda. The board of supervisors is the governing body of the water district.
 “There are a lot of [other] homeowners who feel the city is moving too slow. The assessment district needs to vote. If the majority of the vote is no, then there is no water system,” Thorsen said.
“This is not something we started. We are the agency the HOA uses,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal.
 “That is correct,” said Thorsen. “They came to the city for the assessment district.”
 “I heard a lot of scary things,” added Rosenthal, who waned to know what kind of information the city was sending out.
Thorsen answered. “The city has not sent out any forms.”
“I don’t know the methodology,” Thorsen added, saying, “If they do want to continue to move forward, it is a matter of what kind of assessment—only for water or for water and gas or all of the utilities. It certainly is an expensive project.”
“I hope you can work within the HOA. Please call the city to help,” she added.
Councilmember Skylar Peak noted, “The costs have been out of control. It would be good to have water. It seems outrageous for that.”
Mayor Lou La Monte said, “The issue belongs to you people. What you are talking about should be resolved. The costs are astronomical. Maybe you can scale back,” he said.
The HOA proposes forming a special assessment district to fund the extension of a public water line from Trancas Canyon Park north along Trancas Canyon Road and within the gated private streets of Anacapa View Drive, Beach View Estates Drive and Foxview Drive. The assessment district would encompass about 66 parcels and 209 acres, according to municipal planners.
Water would be obtained from a booster pump station constructed at Trancas Canyon Park, near an existing Los Angeles County Water District No. 29 storage tank that would pump water up to the new tank.
Fire hydrants, two pressure reducing stations, valves and other appurtenances would be constructed along the public and private streets.
An additional “dry” trench is also proposed for undergrounding existing overhead electric lines and extension of utilities such as natural gas and cable.
Once underground utilities are installed, overhead lines and poles would be removed. The underground wiring is a safety factor.
The HOA will form the assessment district to fund preparation of final-engineering and construction plans.
The water system and utility plans would be designed in compliance with Water District 29, Los Angeles County Fire Department, City of Malibu and utility provider requirements.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Time to Move On—Not •

BY ANNE SOBLE

Normally the residents on Malibu’s western boundary would have basked sufficiently in their good fortune at having been the beneficiaries of nature’s beneficence during one of the largest runaway wildfires in decades that their lives would return rapidly to whatever constitutes normal.
However, any Malibuites who want to count their blessings and move on may find that more difficult to do with all the attention being focused this week on some NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Chapman University research that should put every local resident on high alert for a mega wildfire season.
Because the threat of major wildfire danger is written into the scripts of annual firefighting agency budgetary pleas, Malibu residents can become desensitized to dire wildfire season warnings. But the outstretched palms of bureaucrats do not accompany the cautions in the current limelight. These warnings are centered in data that, at least on the surface, eschews political wrangling.
The JPL-CU wildfire research that was announced at the NASA JPL website located at: www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-160 is centered on satellite data sets of moisture changes in vegetation and soil in Southern California, with special emphasis on local wilderness areas. Rainfall patterns and the vegetation dry-outs that followed the precipitation in areas west and north of Malibu have resulted in an increased fuel load along traditional fire paths to these areas that can be quantified and mapped.
These unusually heavy fuel conditions may require fire prevention and fighting agencies to think differently about their preparedness programs. They also may mean that there has to be a sea change in assessment of wilderness interface terrain in terms of resource allocation. The bottom line is Malibu’s extreme vulnerability.
This use of satellite observations to enhance fire information and management systems is being used by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Malibu’s first line of defense, and the neighboring firefighting agency in Ventura County. Hopefully, it will result in the enhancement of the collective decision-making process for wildfire engagement across boundary lines.
Does this mean we now have sufficient tools to give special attention to areas, such as where the Springs Fire started, or where fires that might affect Malibu from other directions could start? Yes, in the sense that we can focus attention on the heaviest fuel loads. No, in the sense that there now are so many of these areas in the Southland that it is impossible to predict where the next random spark might occur.
There is no doubt that all the interest in this satellite research is warranted from Malibu’s point of view. In conjunction with an arsenal of the latest firefighting equipment and the well-trained and dedicated personnel who are the rank-and-file of Southern California firefighting agencies, everything that can be done to bring wildfire preparedness in line with the forces of nature improves the odds for wildfire outcomes in our community.

Unification Proponents Increase Public Involvement in Drive for Local School District

• Advocates for Malibu Public Schools Uses Diverse Array of Formats As the Group’s Outreach and Fundraising Efforts Intensify
 
BY KRISTINA KELL

The group Advocates for Malibu Public Schools is picking up the pace in its movement toward a separate Malibu Unified School District. 
In an intense effort at community mobilization and outreach in May alone, AMPS had scheduled no less that eight public meeting in and around Malibu to update the public on their recent progress toward gaining independence for Malibu public schools. 
AMPS outreach includes not only public meetings but a powerful and concentrated information campaign guided by heavy hitters, including educational specialists, attorneys, marketing strategists, business professionals, web designers, professional fundraisers, lobbyists and Malibu City Council liaisons.
Last week in one such meeting at Malibu City Hall, to a standing-room-only crowd of over 100 parents, teachers and Malibu community members, AMPS unveiled the findings of an independently commissioned feasibility analysis, which determined whether Malibu met the nine required criteria to separate from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. 
The independent feasibility analysis, prepared by WestEd, a research, development, and service agency chosen under the combined direction and authorization of the Santa Monica School Board and Superintendent Sandra Lyon, found that Malibu met the nine criteria required for the separation process.
The independent analysis further found that separation would mean Santa Monica Schools stands to gain $1.9 million in added funds if separation occurred, funds that would otherwise be allocated to Malibu. A copy of WestEd’s feasibility analysis is available at www.ampsmalibu.org/faqs.
AMPS president Craig Foster and members of the AMPS board have been working collaboratively to build the separation plan with Lyon, her chief financial officer, three members of the Santa Monica School Board, city council members from the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu, and senior representatives of the teachers union and the classified employees union in an attempt to bring together these key “stakeholders” to support the separation process. 
AMPS maintains that prior attempts at separation failed mainly because all stakeholders were not brought into mutual agreement. The AMPS board recognizes that agreements between these key stakeholders is imperative in the process and is highly committed to crafting an agreement which will address and satisfy all of these concerned stakeholders. 
AMPS maintains that these agreements could be crafted as soon as fall 2013. 
AMPS further maintains that the three big issues facing separation (1) division and payment of the bonds, (2) the parcel taxes, and (3) union contracts and seniority, can be effectively and satisfactorily negotiated, or kept in place, so that both Santa Monica and Malibu educational communities are unaltered and retain all the benefits and fiscal responsibilities that are currently in place, without added expense, reduction in student benefits, union benefits, or tenure, to any citizens in either district.
The next step for Malibu would be submission of an application in cooperation with all stakeholders to the Los Angeles County Commission on School District Reorganization, and then formal application to the California Board of Education, followed by public vote. 
AMPS has crafted a timeline and thinks separation of the districts could go to a public vote as soon as May 2015. 
AMPS continues to present evidence to the public whereby an independently controlled Malibu school district would not cost Malibu taxpayers added expense and separation would yield a Malibu School District an added $2.6 million.
At the City Hall meeting, Foster outlined some of the difficulties that Malibu has faced in the local control of local schools: Malibu only has 11,000 registered voters compared to Santa Monica’s 60,000; Malibu has only won two seats on the school board of the slots on the ballot in the last 22 elections; trustee voting (school board members elected from predetermined districts) could not be implemented without Santa Monica City approval; and the school board has denied even a nonvoting advisory position on the board for the Malibu community.
AMPS, supported by the WestEd independent analysis, asserts that Malibu and Santa Monica are stronger as separate districts, both financially and in their ability to concentrate and address their specific community concerns without distraction from outside interests.