Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

City Council Considers View Restoration Report and First Case Studies in Pilot Program

• More Than 300 Applicants in Seven Areas Throughout Malibu Express Interest in Program to Mediate Foliage Removal

The Malibu City Council was scheduled to hear a report from the planning department on View Preservation and View Restoration at its meeting this week on Wednesday after the Malibu Surfside News went to press, The report includes an undertaking of five case studies of the program.
The consultant LT Consulting was paid $25,000 to conduct site visits and complete view assessments related to the view restoration ordinance.
The council had appropriated money for hiring a consultant and participating  applicants had visits from the planning department to determine primary views. The staff has completed 288 view assessments.
According to the staff report, the five case studies were randomly drawn from the 316 applicants “to analyze the issues associated with determining view restoration determinations and to provide any recommendations on proceeding forward with a view restoration ordinance.”
The planning department was also seeking direction whether to proceed with drafting an ordinance that would apply view restoration rights.
Of a preliminary 218 applications, the applicants seeking a view determination are spread out over all of Malibu including 51 homes from Point Dume, 41 from Malibu Park, 32 from the Latigo /Murphy/Winding Way areas, 18 from the La Costa/Carbon Canyon areas, 17 from Serra Retreat/Civic Center/Malibu Knolls, 16 from Broad Beach/Sea Level, 15 from Big Rock, seven from Malibu Country Estates, seven from west of Sea Level Drive and one from Trancas Canyon.
The staff report contains a summary of the case studies, which are provided for the council and also spelled out in further detail in their entirety.
“For the purpose of the case studies, a pre-existing view was defined as ‘a view that existed at any time since the date of acquisition or city incorporation,’ whichever is more recent, unless the property was acquired without a developed, legally habitable structure. If the property was acquired without a developed, legally habitable structure, a pre-existing view shall mean a primary view that existed as of the day the certificate of occupancy was issued for the structure or city incorporation, which is more recent. The pre-existing view cannot be a result of a natural disaster or a result of illegal activities conducted to obtain the view,” the staff report states.
              BIG ROCK
The case study selected for the Big Rock neighborhood is a single-story, single -family residence located on Big Rock Drive. Staff indicated the view assessment photographs were taken from an outdoor deck, located approximately five feet from the exterior wall of a living room.
The property owner submitted two photographs without date-stamping, according to planners, but the property owners believe they are from the 1990s. The landscaping in question is located on two properties.
“Based on the submitted information, all evidence supports that the property owners had a pre-existing view, however, staff could not determine the extent of which the trees in question obstructed the property owner's view without date-stamped photographs from 1991,” the report notes.
          WINDING WAY
The case study selected is a two-story single-family residence located on Winding Way. The view assessment photographs were taken from an outdoor deck. The property owner submitted photographs without date-stamps; however, the photos have a digital date. The digital date is the date the photographs were uploaded from the digital camera to the computer.
“Based on the submitted information, staff concluded restoration could be required; however a photograph with a digital date stamp may not be sufficient evidence to require restoration action,” the case study report states.
                POINT DUME
A two-story, single-family residence located on Dume Drive is case study four. The view assessment photographs were taken from an outdoor patio, located within 10 feet from the exterior wall of a family room.
The property owner submitted an arborist report and a photograph from Homes and Lands Magazine with a 1995 date.
The landscaping in question is located primarily on three properties, however, view restoration is desired over five to six properties because the property owner believes other properties may include trees and cause view obstruction, planners said.
“Based on the submitted information, staff concluded restoration could be required; however, staff could not determine the extent of restoration that would be required without date-stamp photographs from 1991 taken from the same location as where the primary view determination photographs were taken,” the case study report states.
                       MALIBU PARK
This case study is a single-story, single-family residence located on Busch Drive. The view assessment photographs were taken from an outdoor deck, located within 10 feet from the exterior wall of a living room.
The property owner submitted photographs without date-stamps, however, the property owner identified the date of the photographs as May 1989.
“Based on the submitted information, staff concluded restoration could be required; however, the photograph without a date-stamp may not be sufficient evidence to require restoration action,” the report once again states.

Volunteers on Patrol Given Authority to Issue Parking Citations within City Limits

• Officials Say It Will Save Municipality Money


Malibu’s Volunteers on Patrol are about to be handed some additional duties and powers after the Malibu City Council authorized the VOP to enforce parking violations.
The city currently uses the volunteers who are trained and registered as members of the Sheriff's Department’s VOP program. The volunteers wear uniforms and travel in a marked VOP patrol car, according to city officials.
For the most part, volunteers have taken up observe-and-report duties, as well as residential vacation checks.
However, VOP members have not been authorized to issue citations of any kind. Their prior role was to notify the Sheriff’s station of infractions and available deputies were then deployed to the area to take any appropriate action, according to municipal officials.
Utilizing the VOP team to issue citations of city parking restrictions would supplement the current enforcement performed by parking enforcement officers, according to the city report. Volunteers must complete required training provided by the LASD.
 “The primary objectives for the members shall be to prevent crime by mere presence, or identify public hazards,” the LASD VOP guidelines state.
 “Members shall also act as the eyes and ears of the Sheriff’s department by identifying suspicious activities, crimes in progress, or dangerous circumstances. The members shall not take action themselves, but shall notify the proper authorities.”
There is also a cost savings realized since volunteers would take the place of a paid deputy, according to Malibu officials.

FAA Says No to New Rules to Limit Helicopter Noise

• Agency Suggests Voluntary Measures


The Federal Aviation Administration released a report recently providing recommendations for reducing helicopter noise in Los Angeles, but did not offer any hope of setting up new regulations.
The report offered suggestions such as evaluation and modification of existing helicopter routes to determine if the choppers could safely travel over less inhabited terrain, research whether helicopters might safely travel at higher altitudes, develop voluntary best practices for hovering and news-gathering, do outreach to helicopter  pilots to make them aware of community concerns.
The report indicated with Los Angeles County having the world's most complex, congested air spaces the regulations “would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to develop.”
The report went on to state that the “most satisfactory and widely accepted noise abatement measures are those that have been collectively discussed by engaged stakeholders and the FAA at a local level and are supported by local consensus The Malibu City Council had recently voted unanimously to support what is called the Los Angeles Residential Noise Relief Act of 2013.
A helicopter pilot who works for the local media and attended the council meeting said they have already voluntarily changed some habits such as hovering.
“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 fire and the Coast Guard,” he said.
The chopper pilot 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 papaprazzi 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.

Panel Grants Permits for Fire Station

• Current Facility Will Be Demolished and Completely Rebuilt


The Malibu Planning Commission, at its meeting last week, unanimously granted permits and entitlements to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works for construction of the new Fire Station 71 located on Point Dume.
Just minutes later, the commission also OK'd the new temporary station for firefighters near Zuma Beach headquarters.
The building plans for the new station include demolition of the existing facility and reconstruction of a new station on the existing site.
The county successfully sought to expand the fire station to encompass a total of 5800 square feet.
The proposed expansion would not increase staff size 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 living quarters would expand from 1277  square feet to 3500 square feet with three internal parking bays for a new fire engine truck and paramedic squad car.
Commissioner John Mazza asked about the night lighting. “Will this look lit up like a shopping center?” he asked.
Planning panelists were told only very low lighting would used and that the shielded lighting would be confined to four poles.  No more than current lighting.
The county successfully sought 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.
Most commissioners did not blink at the number of variances and modifications required to expand the station except Chair Jeff Jennings.
“It is hard not to support the fire department, but this is bizarre,” he said.
Jennings went on to say most of the time the restrictions are used to block construction especially when an applicant comes in and says, “I want this big house and this is how I want it.” The commission can use their discretion when there are too many variances or they are egregious, he said.
“Now we get something we want or need, we ignore all of it. Basically we ask what do you want to build,” Jennings added.
The county was also granted a demolition permit to remove the existing fire station and accessory structures.

Council Takes Second Look at Budget for Upcoming Year


The Malibu City Council, at a recent meeting, took another look at the proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget.
The council had its second review during a public hearing after its subcommittee and the Cultural Arts Commission weighed in on grants funding at separate public meetings.
“The council's Administration and Finance Subcommittee met on May 14 and recommended that the council adopt the budget as presented,” said Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, who noted the matter will came back to the council for its final vote on the budget on June 24.
“I was here in April when the council had its first review,” added Feldman, who said the A&F subcommittee made its recommendations for grant funding for council approval.
Council members were once again 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.
“The property tax is increasing about 10 percent from last year and reflects county-wide increases,” Feldman told the council.
“It is a balanced budget. The numbers really haven't changed much since April[at the first council session],” the assistant city manager said.
“The city is in good shape fiscally,” said Councilmember John Sibert, speaking to the council from Alaska. “Reva and her staff do a remarkable job putting the budget together.”
Feldman noted that the A&F subcommittee endorsed a recommendation to use library set-aside money for the Malibu Boys and Girls Club-instead of the grants awarded to them in the past-using library set-aside dollars..
“It was Reva who looked at the library funds,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal “She put those people together.”
Councilmember Joan House said she had questions about how a homeowners association got grant fund money. “I did not know we did that provide equipment or something for just one area.”
She was told the Malibu West had done this before when it was money used for a fire protection plan.
“They had received grants before,” said Mayor Lou La Monte.
Feldman, in her staff report reiterated how some financing is accomplished.
Her example is how the income revenue generated (from the Chili Cook off acquisition) not only pays to retire the debt service, but also covers the costs for the operation and maintenance of Legacy Park including its water quality treatment facilities
Feldman is 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.
Talking about total revenues, the assistant city manager had 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.
The new City Hall debt service was also taken into account by Feldman's staff report.
She 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.
The assistant city manager noted health care costs have gone up across the board. However, it is not specific to the city.
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 budget documents
The budget for administrative services 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 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 Community Facility District; $670,000 from special revenue funds and $1.3 million from the general fund capital improvements projects designated reserve fund.

Dial-A-Ride Program Renewed


The Malibu City Council is poised to approve a contract with Malibu Yellow Cab to perform transportation services for the municipality’s Dial-A-Ride program.
The service agreement calls for payments not to exceed $200,000 annually for the first two years of the contract and a fare hike for passengers.
“Rates for subsequent years will be adjusted from the year 2 rate based on the change in the Consumer Price Index,” the staff report notes.
Riders can use it for transportation purposes within city limits and only for medical purposes outside of the city limits.  Currently the fare is one dollar for trips within municipal limits and two dollars for outside city limits.
The city subsidizes the remaining costs of the fare with Proposition A funding.
According to a staff report, there are currently 334 eligible seniors registered as passengers with about 15 to 20 percent actually using the service on a regular basis.
The average monthly requests for rides generate 480 trips at a cost of $16,500, according to the staff report.
For fiscal year 2012-14, the city is expecting to receive approximately $200,000 in Prop A funds.
The city’s Public Works Commission recommended raising the fees for the Dial-A-Ride service program. Following the staff recommendation, the commission is urging the city council increase the fee for rides $2 per one-way trip within the city limits and $4 per one-way trip to Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.
The recommendation also includes using the remaining Proposition A funding to pay for occasional shuttle services for senior center programs.
The panel also recommended the city execute an agreement with Malibu Yellow Cab to continue to provide its services.
The program is offered to residents living in the city who are 60 years of age or older. The service will take seniors to Santa Monica, St John’s and UCLA hospitals and various medical offices along Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards for currently $2 each way, according to the city’s website.
There are scheduled shuttles between Malibu and Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. The hospitals and medical offices are the only locations outside of the city limits that DAR will service.
The service was established to help the senior population with transportation to doctor appointments, markets or the senior center as well as other destinations within Malibu city limits.
The story about making changes starts three years ago when some council members complained that too much Prop A funds were not being used and had to be sold on the dollar so they were not completely lost.
The Public Works Commission was given the task of trying to determine if a potential shuttle service or other ways could be used for utilizing the transportation funding, according to the staff.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Trancas Highlands Water Plan Debate Continues Its Public Airing

• Those Pro and Con Take Their Concerns to Malibu City Council Chambers in Effort to Make Points


Proponents and opponents of a proposed water system for the Trancas Highlands neighborhood came out in full force last week in the Malibu City Council chambers to argue their viewpoints.
The discussion was started during a council session beforehand when dissenters showed up at a council meeting to ask members to slow down the process on the $17.4 million  project.
This time supporters showed up to state their case. Proponent Eric Knight urged the council to keep the process going. “I encourage you to proceed with the project. It is sorely needed. It is opposed by a protest group. My strong opinion is to move forward. It is ready to go,” he said.
One critic, who is a homeowner, said the homeowners group is not really an homeowners owners association, but rather a private corporation with a board of directors. “This is not a HOA. There are no meetings. There are no dues. There are no votes,” he said.
Homeowner Robert Bass said the assessment tax is in violation of Prop 218. “This is for general benefits,” said Bass, who indicated a 500,000-gallon water tank will provide fire protection benefits to not only the 66 properties charged with an assessment, but the wider western Malibu community in general.
However, longtime highlands residents George and Margaret Hauptman said there were people trying “to throw a monkey wrench” into the project and pointed to the years of numerous previous meetings  to chart a course for a water system, and they said the project should move forward.
Homeowner Eric Myer said there have been may erroneous reports of how much the assessments will be for the affected property owners.
“I want to set the record straight. There was an erroneous report of one million dollars. It is 70 percent less than that. We can’t reduce the costs by creating a private system. No parcels have been kept out,” he said.
Board members and supporters were even asked to stand up to show council members there are many supporters for the project.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said the city is currently working with the assessment engineer. “The residents came in with money for assessments. First, it will go to L.A. County for approval, then it will be brought back for a city council hearing. The staff report will have the details of the assessment. We will have a lot more [information] in a couple of months,” Thorsen said.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said, “We heard people speak on both sides of the issue. We can’t say anything about it tonight,” Rosenthal added
“Let it play out,” said Councilmember Joan House. “You spoke politely to one another. I will continue to listen.”
The matter was not on the council’s agenda and therefore the council could not discuss the item since it was not publicly noticed.
Currently, many of the homes in the highlands do not have potable water and must have water trucked to them and stored in tanks on their land.
Apparently the public discussion appeared to bring out more dissenters to the forefront who are unhappy with the financial aspects of the formation of the assessment district.
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 an assessment district.
The firm’s principal engineer on the project is Patrick Reeves, who said the draft engineer’s report was submitted to the city’s public works department several weeks ago.
He said the document could be considered the “Bible” of the project and does include 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 includes 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 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.
The overhead lines and poles would be removed. The underground wiring is a safety factor.
In other matters, council members, without comment or any public comment, unanimously approved the assessments for landslide abatement districts at Big Rock Mesa, Calle Del Barco and Malibu Road.
The yearly public hearings are for the council, by resolution, levying an assessment for the maintenance, repair and improvements, works, systems and facilities for the wells and devices that help drain water from these three separate landslide areas.
The good news on these districts is that Public Works Director Bob Brager said there had been no movement detected in any of the landslide areas.

Planning Commission Faces Local Blowback to Shopping Center’s Signage Demand

• Name Game and Public Lighting Traditions of Malibu West Came into Play as Neighbors Flex Their Political Muscles


It took hours for public debate and commission deliberations at this week’s Malibu Planning Commission meeting on an application for a master sign program and landscape plan to allow the removal of several immature sycamore trees at Trancas Country Market shopping center, but it took minutes for the commissioners to unanimously nix the sign plan and say no to taking down the trees at the site.
Center neighbor Hans Laetz, who lives across the creek from the center, said the illuminated signs would be like lighting up “a ship in the dark.”
Former planning commissioner Jo Ruggles said the municipal General Plan calls for western Malibu to be a dark skies area. “Keep western Malibu rural,” she said. “Don’t light it up like Coney Island.”
Even so, many speakers praised the design of the expanded shopping center and said the site now under construction already has a sense of style.
Peter Burrell said,  “I’m looking forward to spending time there. You don’t need to tell us what is there. We will already know.”
Activist Patt Healy had assistants unfurl banners the size of the signs sought by the developers. “The site is surrounded by the mountains, Zuma Beach, Trancas Lagoon. There is a dark sky [area] from Oxnard to Busch Drive,” she said.
Remy O’Neil said. “The signs and lighting are incongruous with the buildings.” She said signs are not needed when it is a commercial center surrounded by no other commercial strips. “If the signs don’t fit, you cannot permit.”
Another critic said, “This is Malibu at the western edge of the United States. We don’t want to be lit up like a shopping center in Columbia, Missouri.” The reference is to the hometown of many of the Walton family members who live in the Midwestern town, including Walmart heiress Paige Laurie Dubbert, who along with her husband Bo, owns the shopping center.
Claire Bronowski, the attorney representing the couple, said she had been working on the project for the last 18 months. “This is a beautiful center. Doug Burdge, the architect, designed the signs,” she said.
The attorney said they wanted to measure the pulse of the commission and get their comments. “We need feedback from the commission. The staff has not been able to articulate standards,” she said.
The commissioners all agreed that a mock-up of the signs described would be helpful. The panelists deliberated for some time on different kinds of signs and what type they thought were adequate or not.
Chair Jeff Jennings said, “We heard tonight the signs are too large. We’ve heard, ‘We don’t need such signage or signs should be smaller.’ It seems more acceptable to come back with smaller signs.”
The commissioners also discussed three signs that were supposed to be taken down because of the city’s sign law.
Panelists also asked a lot of questions about tenant signs and anchor signs.
Then the commissioners turned to the topic of why the sycamore trees needed to be cut down.
They were told the immature trees were  inadvertently in place where some parking spaces are planned. “Without the four spaces, they still have legal parking. Do leave the trees,” said Commissioner John Mazza.
“The trees stay where they are,” said Commissioner Rhoohi Stack. “I agree,” said Jennings.
The proposed master sign program planned for the center and  rejected by the commission consists of the removal of all existing signs except the existing nonconforming roof sign, monument tenant sign and Starbucks sign.
Critics’ concerns had to do primarily with illuminated signs
Two new internally illuminated anchor tenant signs for Erewhon and Wells Fargo were planned. The design of the Erewhon sign has not been finalized,  Wells Fargo’s is included in the plans.
The two new internally illuminated anchor tenant signs required 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, would consist of a non-illuminated secondary blade sign on the northeast corner of the building. According to the staff report, this sign requires planning commission approval because only one secondary sign is allowed. Bronowski said there would be two.
Thirty-two primary tenant signs that were proposed to be backlit with channel letters would have been either suspended from a bar or sited above a bar. Commissioners talked about that design for some time.
Six of the primary signs would have varied 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.
The Malibu West homeowners, in a letter to the commission, suggested the panelists 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, which is what the commission did.
The original proposal, which was never formally approved by the city, consisted of hand-lettered wooden plaques with any that were lit to have downcast, copper stem-mounted fixtures.
Many public speakers suggested variations of that original design.

Planning Commission Addressed DEIR for Housing Element Update

• No One from Public or Officials Commented on the Document


Planning Chair Jeff Jennings explained that the hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Housing Element Update this week was to allow members of the public and the commissioners to speak or comment on the DEIR.
However, there was no public comment. None of the commissioners commented on the document either.
Commissioner John Mazza had an explanation. “I thank the staff for getting us out a major mess. This was a big problem,” he said.
Mazza said he was not referring to the Trancas properties that were at one time earmarked for the density increases for affordable housing.
Malibu West residents howled in protest and previous hearings on the housing element were filled with critics.
Mazza indicated the lack of public speakers was testimony that the staff had responded to public concerns. “There is nobody here,” he said.
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.
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 primarily 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.
Mazza asked if the city now owned the acreage that is part of the development agreement with the La Paz developer.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski answered in the negative saying the city and the developer are not in agreement about how and when the transfer should take place.
“We believe the language says the change of ownership would take place when they got their permits meant city permits. They say it means when they get all of their permits from all of the agencies,” the planning director said.
Additionally, 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 be able to 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.
Some observers say it seems somewhat interesting that no one responded to a stated policy in the draft document.
That 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.”

Response to Widespread Problems of State Parks Department Begins to Take Shape at the Helm

• Collaborative Initiative Seen as Key Step to Restore Prestige


California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird and California State Parks Director Major General Anthony Jackson, USMC (Ret.), revealed the state’s plan to shore up and stabilize California’s crisis-racked Department of State Parks, which is still perceived by many as still mired in financial scandal, mismanagement and years of neglect.
“A distinguished volunteer panel, known as the Parks Forward Commission, will lead the new Parks Forward initiative, designed to implement the directives of the California State Parks Stewardship Act of 2012 and to revive and improve California’s State Parks,” a press release states.
“Parks Forward is an exciting new initiative designed to bring out the very best in our state’s storied parks. This esteemed group will work to improve efficiency, increase accessibility and meet the needs of our growing and changing population,” said Secretary Laird. “California’s State Parks will once again flourish and serve as prized destinations across our cities, mountains, valleys and coastlines.”
The “collaborative initiative” proposes “a top-to-bottom evaluation to improve and sustain California’s underfunded State Parks System,” according to Laird.
Currently, there are 280 California State Parks that encompass 1.6 million acres and draw some 70 million visitors annually.
State Parks is the City of Malibu’s biggest neighbor—Topanga, Malibu Creek, Leo Carrillo and Point Mugu State Parks surround Malibu.
Within the City of Malibu, the agency owns the Malibu Lagoon, Adamson House Museum, Malibu Pier, and Topanga and Point Dume State Beaches.
California State Parks’ Angeles District manages more than 270 park units, and 35,059 acres within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which is managed in collaboration with the National Park Service, which currently holds 22,093 acres, and other local agencies.
According to the report, State Parks return an estimated $6.5 billion to the California economy and supporting 56,000 California jobs. “This system has been the proud result of significant and sustained investment by not only the state and its citizens, but also philanthropic contributors and conservation organizations whose combined efforts built the system we know today,” the announcement states. “But under the weight of budget cuts, added acreage, rising populations, and outmoded systems, California’s parks system is struggling to meet the needs of its citizens.” 
“California State Parks are an essential part of Californians' daily lives. They provide quality recreation and inspiration, and it is our intent to improve it for future generations,” said Parks Director Jackson. “The expertise and knowledge of those representing State Parks and the Parks Forward initiative will provide a unique insight and best practices to ensure our parks move forward into the 21st Century and beyond. We are fully aware the eyes of Californians are on us, and I am committed to making this initiative open and transparent, and one that yields achievable results.”
Signed into law last year, the California State Parks Stewardship Act of 2012, or AB 1589, “seeks to improve management and funding practices at the Department of Parks and Recreation.”
Laird will select between nine and 12 Parks Forward Commission members. He will then select two of the members to serve as chair and vice chair.
The Parks Forward Commission will “work as an independent body and will meet several times during the next two years to guide and review relevant research, analysis, and public input, assess the current system, and adopt plans that will be designed to transform the current system into one that is financially sustainable, appropriately located, and better serves California’s growing and changing population.”
The commission is expected to adopt a number of recommendations made earlier this year by an independent review of the agency conducted by the Little Hoover Commission that found the department to be out of touch, out of date, inflexible, uncooperative and increasingly unable to adequately manage and maintain its holdings. Recommendations included changes to a park policy that has focused almost entirely on promoting personnel with law enforcement backgrounds rather than individuals with management, education, conservation and other essential training, as well as streamlining, updating and decentralizing State Parks management.
The Parks Forward Commission is scheduled to present its final findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature in fall 2014.
More information on the initiative is available at

New City Website Is Strong on User Connectivity, Graphics and Basic Info for Residents

• Project in Works for Months Debuts New Mayoral Format for State of City Speech

The City of Malibu held a soft launch of its new website at the end of last week but municipal news junkies quickly latched onto the site and largely sang its praises.
Prominent on the new site is Mayor Lou La Monte’s 2013 State of the City video address.
The video showcases the city staff—the people who are the heart of the government structure who run the city and are given credit for  the “excellent” financial and structural shape in which the city is said to be.
The site’s self-described goal is a computer tool that will be “user friendly” and serve as the first line of access to municipal information on a range of topics that are expected to meet many residents’ basic local government needs and be able to direct them to where to go next to get more complicated concerns addressed.
The city’s website was designed by a professional firm specializing in government websites.
The new site includes the popular wherewithal to enable those accessing it to create personalized dashboards when they log in and readily input the modules, features and keywords that they might use most often, including calendars, information, reports and emergency alerts.
The site is located at:

Another 3+ Earthquake Rattles Malibuites at Western End of City

• Third Recent Channel Islands Temblor

A shallow earthquake about 29 miles off the coast of Malibu early last Friday morning appeared to be experienced primarily by residents at the far west end of the city.
After prelimary revision, the temblor was registered at magnitude 3.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The earthquake was clocked at 6:24 a.m. at a depth of about a quarter-mile, which is considered shallow and a major factor in the strength and duration.
According to the USGS, the epicenter of the quake was approximately 31 miles from Port Hueneme and 34 miles from Oxnard. In the last 10 days, there have been two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.
The area where these quakes occurred crosses a fault line that regularly experiences smaller temblors that local residents report.
More detailed information is available at  the  USGS website at:

School Prank Causes Car Consternation


Malibu High School senior pranksters appeared to have borrowed a page from Caltech and MIT’s pranking tradition last week, when what appeared to be a small four-door sedan was visible on the roof of the two-story campus entryway.  Closer inspection revealed that the “car” was a shell comprised of frame and panels, giving the illusion of a vehicle but without the weight of the engine, seats, axle or other parts.
Campus security and Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District personnel were said to be less than thrilled with what was described as a highly dangerous stunt, but they reported that campus property was not damaged during the incident and no one appeared to have been injured.
Speculation ranged from allegations that the pranksters used a crane to hoist the car frame on to the roof,  to the theory that the frame and panels of the car body were disassembled and reassembled.
Famous versions of the car-on-the-roof prank include a much-publicized 1994 MIT incident that involved a life-sized mock-up of a campus police cruiser assembled on top of the school’s iconic “Great Dome.”
Perhaps the earliest documented version of the prank involved an Austin Seven that was hoisted onto the roof of the Senate House building at Cambridge in the UK in 1958.
In a letter dated May 13, all seniors were reminded “Malibu High does not sanction any senior pranks and any student involved in senior pranks places his or her participation in the graduation ceremony in jeopardy.”
The letter goes on to state, “Historically, attempts at senior pranks have gone horribly wrong resulting in substantial damage to the campus. As a result, we find it necessary to take a firm stance against senior pranks and will hold students who participate accountable.
There were apparently no witnesses and no suspects in the incident.

Council Reviews City Manager’s Extension


The Malibu City Council, at its meeting next week, is poised to approve a three-year contact extension with City Manager Jim Thorsen.
The council undertook an evaluation of Thorsen's job performance in a closed session on May 28 and instructed the assistant city attorney, presumably City Attorney Christi Hogin was not available, to negotiate the extension of the contract with the city manager.
The new agreement would retain all the terms and conditions of the current agreement, add language required by recent legislation and extend the contract term to May 11, 2016.
Assembly Bill 1344 requires language in the contract that the city provides paid leave to the employee pending an investigation and provide funds for legal criminal defense of the employee and/or a cash settlement to the employee related to the termination of the employee.
The employee shall fully reimburse the city for any and all amounts paid by the city, in the event that the employee is convicted of a crime involving the abuse of his office or position.
Thorsen was hired by Malibu in 2006. He came from Agoura Hills where he was assistant city manager for two years after previously serving as public works director. He had worked for Agoura Hills since 1997. Prior to that Thorsen worked in public works and engineering for the City of Simi Valley for 10 years.
Though he had no city manager experience when he came to Malibu, Thorsen told the local media although he had never been in the position he was ready for the challenge and added his 20 plus years of experience gave him solid footing for the top position in municipal government.
He started in Malibu at $156,000 per year and was making about $250,000 after his last contact three years ago.

Malibu’s Latest Chapter of Judicial History Concludes with Closure of Courthouse

• Judge Decides to Retire with the Change; Given City Commendation and High Public Accolades


It was the first public appearance for retired Judge Lawrence J. Mira last Tuesday night at Malibu City Council chambers when the jurist was given a commendation “in recognition of his service to the Malibu community.”  The Malibu courthouse closed on May 31.
Mira, who attended law school at Loyola Marymount University, was a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County before he was a practicing criminal defense attorney.
In 1998, he followed Judge John Merrick on the Malibu bench and remained  the presiding judge in Malibu for 26 years.
Mira was sometimes known as “the judge to the stars” for the many celebrity defendants who visited his courtroom.
He announced that he decided to retire after the Malibu courthouse closed last week. Privately, he has told people that he is retiring to undertake his first love—music—now that he has concluded a career in law.
Mira told the council members during the commendation ceremony that he appreciated being included by city officials in such a way with the community.
“Malibu is blessed with many things. It is blessed with a city government. I will miss Malibu. I will miss the Malibu courthouse,” he said.
Mira said John Merrick was his mentor and set the demeanor for the Malibu courthouse.
He said he tried to follow the doctrine that justice should be swift and fair, and it should be provided equally to the famous and the not so famous and be applied with compassion.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said that when she learned about Mira retiring, she indicated that she and others got a promise from him that if the city could somehow reopen the courthouse, Mira would return.
Councilmember Joan House said about Mira, “It is people who make Malibu and they make us a little bit better than we could have been.”

All Sides Will Have Plenty of Time to Prepare for the Next Phase of Process on a Local Formula Retail Ordinance

• Controversial Issue Expected to Attract Large Turnout at Planning Commission Session


Malibu Planning Department officials have indicated that the proposed formula retail ordinance that has been slowly wending its way through the bureaucratic process is expected to be on the municipal planning commission’s agenda on July 15.
The commission would be expected to make a recommendation for action at that time and send the matter on to the city council.
Planning staff have been going through hundreds of comment letters. The deadline for comments on whether the city should adopt formula retail controls on local businesses occurred in April.
Comment letters have been received from a vast array of interested individuals, including former Malibu City Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, whose idea years ago initiated the process,
Preserve Malibu, a loose coalition of residents concerned with Malibu quality of life issues, 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 written comments have been posted.
The proposed draft 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 decor, standardized facade, 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, if not all, of the shopping center owners in the Civic Center are opposed to additional regulations and steadfastly maintain that the actual numbers of existing formula retail stores in the various centers speaks volumes about a lack of the  need to regulate something that is not proliferating.

Alien Invaders Wreak Havoc in Critical Habitat for Native Amphibians

• Newts and Frogs Need Protection from Aggressive Advance of Invasive Crayfish Species Introduced as Bait


They’re fast, aggressive, have ferocious pincers and powerful tails, and just like their fictional sci-fi movie monster counterparts, these alien invaders are running amok and wreaking havoc on defenseless populations.
Procambarus clarkii, the red swamp crayfish, is taking over streams and pools in the Santa Monica Mountains, and killing off native amphibians.
Lee Kats, Pepperdine University Professor of Biology, Vice Provost For Research and Strategic Initiatives, Associate Dean for Research and Frank R. Seaver Chair of Natural Science, has studied the local California newt population for 20 years and has found that invaders like the crayfish are currently the biggest threat to this species of special concern.
“Crayfish have cleared the newts out of Malibu Creek,” Kats told the Malibu Surfside News. “When the amphibians are gone, the insects are gone, too. The crayfish gobble them all up.”
“Trancas near and dear to my heart,” Kats said. He explained that the pristine canyon, which has been a National Park Service priority for acquisition and conservation, remains prime habitat for native amphibians-newts, California tree frogs and western pond turtles, with only one major threat: crayfish that have escaped from fish ponds at the golf course located up stream.
“The golf course is the source of most crayfish in the Trancas watershed,” Kats said. He explained that the ponds were stocked years ago with bluegill and bass, and that crawfish, used as live bait, have colonized the ponds and escaped into the stream.
“For years I attempted to contact the owners of the golf course, with no response,” he said. “Recently, the new owners contacted me. They are committed to draining the ponds.”
The new owners have also invited Kats and his students to survey and remove the invaders from the pools.
“We freeze them,” Kats said. The crustaceans are then donated to local wildlife rehabilitation facilities, where they are used as food for recovering animals.
Kats has four students currently working on the newt and crayfish study. Data collected over the past 14 years reveals a correlation between rainfall totals and newt numbers.
Kats explained that crayfish thrive and newt eggs vanish during years with low rainfall and that newt populations rise and crayfish decline during wet winters.
The crayfish, which need still or slow-moving water are washed away during rainy years, leaving native amphibians an opportunity to successfully breed.
Kats moved to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago and was introduced to the charismatic and rare local species of newt by a friend. “He took me to Cold Creek. I saw the newts there and said, that's it, my students and I are going to study newts.”
Kats found that he had the field largely to himself. “It blows my mind that an animal in a populated area is so little studied,” he said.
Kats has been gathering research on the newt population in the Santa Monica Mountains for 20 years and has made some astonishing discoveries. Some specimens tagged as much as 14 years ago as part of the research project, are still alive and well, returning to local streams to breed each year.
“Egg masses are the best indicator of newt activity,” Kats told The News. “Egg masses stay in place for six-seven weeks, so its easy to find them.”
“They are extremely long lived,” Kats said. “They live a long time, and have been around for a long time unchanged.”
Scientists speculate that the California newt rode the Pacific tectonic plate north from South America over the course of millions of years. The Santa Monica Mountains population are like living fossils that survive in an increasingly smaller and smaller range and may now be living on borrowed time if invasive species like the crayfish continue to expand unchecked.
“The same individual newts return each year to breed,” Kats said. “The longevity of the newt is helping it to hang on.”
Kats says it is an increasingly fragile balance. Campaigning to ban crayfish as live bait in California is one course of action that can help newts and other native amphibians. Volunteering to help remove the crustaceans from local streams is another way residents can help. Although special permits are required to remove even invasive species from waterways on public lands.
Malibu residents who have streams on their property can keep an eye out for the alien invaders and also make sure that they do not inadvertently contribute to the newts’ decline by releasing other non-native species, like mosquito fish, into Malibu’s creeks and streams.
“It’s all about making the mountains better,” Kats said. “The more we think about this part of the ecosystem, the more we know, the better it is.”