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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.