Malibu Beach Inn: Is Perception Reality?

By Lester Tobias

At Monday night’s planning commission meeting (Dec. 18th, 2017), the owners of the Malibu Beach Hotel had two agenda items up for approval, denial, or (in this case) continuation.

Confusion was the order of the day.  The biggest question on the minds of those watching the proceedings, and of those who had even briefly reviewed the staff report was “how does a project requiring so many obviously deniable discretionary requests even get to a hearing?”

The staff report, and the staff presentations, were both unequivocal.  The project required variances of which the first four findings could not be made.  The new owners wanted to count the historically illegal occupancies of the “guests only” restaurant as “grandfathered”, and only add required parking to any additional seating beyond the illegal seating count.  Not gonna happen. The offsite parking and valet and parking study plan was not approvable in its submitted state.  The project sits in the wastewater moratorium zone, and the existing septic system (and by extension, the permitted use capacities) could not be expanded.  And finally, a “condition” of Public Works was that a flashing light crosswalk would need to be installed, across the PCH, in front of the hotel to provide safe(?) passage for the valet parkers.  Who in their right mind would approve such an impactful device for the convenience of valet parkers? (read on and you will find out…sort of…)

However, owner Simon Mani’s testimony at the hearing painted a different picture.  He made several bold and confident statements.  A mashup of his testimony goes like this:
“The city was with us 100% of the time, to build the pool, to build the crosswalk…we’re gonna get it next week….we’ve done whatever the city has wanted….we are gonna build a crosswalk…it’s not a variance…everything we’re doing is within our rights…we worked with Coastal…we’re not going outside the box…we’re not here to fight anybody….we just want a pool…that’s all we want…”
Drop the mic.
So who’s right and who’s…ummmm…not right?  In order to attempt an answer, the numerous requests must be unpacked.  So, taking Mr. Mani’s statement that, “All we want is a pool” at face value, the answer is that the proposed pool location requires the relocation of 30 parking spaces.  Since the existing hotel has more rooms than all other beach hotels in Malibu combined, and was quadrupled in size (legally) in 1987, there is no room to relocate the 30 spaces on site.  That means that the Mani brothers need to obtain approval for offsite parking which is NOT within their rights. It would require a discretionary approval.  staff-1, applicant-0.
But, Mr. Mani does not just want a pool. He wants the city to accept an historical abuse of the hotel’s use limitations imposed by the CUP as a given, and basically wave a magic regulatory wand to adjust those limitations  UPWARD to his representation of its actual restaurant use  That’s a big ask, and to say that “everything we are doing is within our rights” is eyebrow raising, to say the least.  Staff-2, Applicant-0.
Mr. Mani also wants the existing septic system, installed in 2006 and sized for a 47 room hotel with a “guests only” restaurant, to be relocated (again, to make room for the pool) and to not violate the moratorium’s restrictions.  The only way this can be accomplished is with some serious recalculation of the approved use capacities and then an acceptance of the “actual” versus “legally approved” capacities, then somehow justifying that a restaurant expansion will not add any impact to the system.  So when the moratorium states that one can not increase the loads onto existing systems, and kind of alludes to the fact that new systems are prohibited, and Mr. Mani wants to both install a new system and increase the loads, it seems like those requests are not within his rights.  Staff-3, Applicant-0.
Continuing on, Mr. Mani also wants to remove the “guests only” restriction on the hotel restaurant, although the 1987 and 2006 CUP specifically state those limitations. Clearly not within his right to do this.  In his testimony he went so far as to say “I don’t know who’s been there, who hasn’t been there.  It’s been open to the public.”  Ooops!  Staff-4, Applicant-0.
With regard to the crosswalk, Caltrans is, in fact ready to issue Mr. Mani a permit to install a cross walk across the PCH at the hotel, and this will remove one of the Public Works conditions imposed on the off site valet parking.  Staff-4, Applicant-1.
However, that condition is only one of several other issues with the granting of the approval for the off site valet parking.  Staff-5, Applicant-1.
Getting back to the crosswalk, how did that get approved?  Who knew about it?  Was there a hearing?  Should there have been a hearing?  Who in the city signed off on it without telling the public?  The answer, so far, comes from Paul Shin at Caltrans, who has stated that Caltrans worked with Mr. Mani, the city of Malibu Public Works Department, and the city of Malibu Planning Department.  In his testimony, Mr. Mani has testified that he has done “whatever the city has asked.”  A recent comment by one of the planning commissioners suggested that the crosswalk was actually required by Coastal of a previous owner in some sort of access settlement, yet nothing in the staff report, which provides the historical permit documents, supports this assertion.  Mr Mani testified that he had to “work some things out with Coastal”, but did not elaborate.
In conclusion, the big questions are why do some applicants believe they can attain the demonstrably unattainable, and who the fuck at the city, OUR CITY, approved a god damn flashing crosswalk so that the hotel owner of the biggest hotel in Malibu can increase his parking, increase the use of his restaurant, and turn a low key car rental business into an open air eyesore of jacked up cars? I guess as long as the spaces inside the hotel can create instagram moments for its guest, whatever chaos is caused off site must be worth it.  Instagram rocks if you’re a hotel owner.
Oh yeah, one more question.  Besides the increase in tax revenue that we as residents never see, what is in this deal for us besides increased traffic, and more distractions on an all ready dangerous section of the PCH?  Dinner at the Malibu Beach Inn.  No thanks.  I’m good.
Drop the mic.  Again.
City/News/Politics

Something Happened On The Way To The Forum (I Mean Quorum): Roman Corruption and Deception Is Alive and Well In Modern day Malibu Politics

Respected historians have summized that while it was not one single, dramatic event that led to the decline of the Roman Empire, internal corruption and political incompetence played a major role.

And, history seems to be repeating itself here in Malibu as greed and power dominate the political landscape, threatening our way of life in a town that used to be a rural coastal gem. Malibu’s global reputation is becoming that of a an overpriced, bougie Bevery Hills by the sea attracting overseas money to buy (and build) mansions, and developers looking to maximize their investments by “paving paradise to put in a parking lot”.

Unless a drastic move is made by the community to save Malibu from the pro-development politicians that are currently running this town, our coastal utopia may be headed for the same fate as our European counterpart.

Malibu Gets Sacked

Just as Rome was in the hands of someone other than the Romans during the first time it was sacked, it was painfully obvious at the September 11th City Council meeting that Malibu was in the hands of someone other than a third generation Malibuite (Mayor Skylar Peak) when Council voted 4-1 to approve funding for the Environmental Impact Report for Bluffs Park, one of the last remaining coastal bluffs in California. A perfectly planned – and executed – sack on the community and the majority voters who re-elected Peak as part of the pro-environment ”Team Malibu”. The slate’s most important task when they took office was to keep their campaign promise to protect Bluffs Park, a space designated for passive recreation by the Coastal Commission, in order to protect the sensitive ESHA and wildlife habitats. Developers and the enemies of open space were well orchestrated at the September 11th meeting and out-gunned the majority preservationist sentiment in the city. And now, with Mayor Skylar Peak’s open defection to the pro-development side, there seems to be a significant paradigm shift overall.

Since the new Council took to the dais, you could get dizzy watching Mayor Peak going from one side to the other. His astounding ability to be consistently inconsistent is now picking up speed. Instead of his flip-flops taking months, they have dwindled down to only weeks.

At the May 8th City Council meeting,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1X06tVBwoo, Peak supported the pro-ennvironment sentiment against developing Bluffs Park:

“Something I am frustrated with is, if we are going to go and put something like in that area, are we going to try and ask for them to please allow us to do something we know they are not going to allow us to do? I a tired of wasting time.” – Skylar Peak

“We need to really focus on seeing how we can acquire further land to deliver these items in an efficient time frame to the community”-Skylar Peak

“I don’t feel comfortable right now saying we are going to do an EIR for something that I already see and foresee with so many problems that is not going to give us the soccer fields that are requested by any means.” – Skylar Peak

When Council Member Rosenthal asked why Peak thought the EIR would cost more than $150 -200,00 dollars: “One of the people that came here tonight told us that it would cost upwards to a million dollars “- Skylar Peak

Peak’s ramblings in one direction, yet voting in another, suggest subtle intimations of a mind diseased, yet as time reveals, it may be even more likely the calculations of a much more darker undercurrent.

Mullen chimed in as well citing numerous reasons for voting down the funding at the same meeting relaying public sentiment as a major factor to why Council should not to fund the EIR.

“In my view, an overwhelming majority of Malibu residents do not want Bluffs Park developed.” Mullen said “I got 28 e-mails from pro (park development) people and 87 emails from the against people.“

On June 22, 2017 Peak puts the previous vote against the City funding for the EIR on Bluffs Park back on the proverbial chopping block.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Joe Edmiston of SMMC/MRCA and the City has it’s own issues. Edmiston recently threatened to take back Bluffs Park, ending the swap, if the City doesn’t meet his demands regarding the Puerco Canyon Camping sites.

So, how does Peak respond to Edmiston’s threats? By facilitating the acquisition of more land for Edmiston of course! Peak was instrumental in the introduction of philanthropist Alex von Furstenburg and the donation of 38 acres to the conservancy expanding the potential camp site at Charmelee (http://www.malibusurfsidenews.com/open-space-donation-adds-key-piece-coastal-slope-trail), meanwhile the City of Malibu has yet to aquire even one new piece of land that can go toward the use of recreational facilities for the Malibu community.

The baggage in the relationship between Edmiston and the City seems to be busting at the seams… so let’s try to unpack it shall we?

1976: The California Coastal Commission adopts its list of land acquisitions for public purchase. 130 acres at Malibu Bluffs in put in the number one top priority category.

1979: The Malibu Bluffs are purchased with State taxpayer dollars for use as a State park for all the residents of California and visitors from throughout the world. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/ventura/malibu-qa.pdf

1982: Malibu’s ball fields are located at Malibu Lagoon. While they are being restored, The Coastal Commission approves a temporary (five years only) coastal permit for construction of the ball fields at Bluffs Park. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/ventura/malibu-qa.pdf

1985: The Coastal Commission denies a permit amendment request to develop a community park on the entire 94-acre property. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/recap2/chapter4.pdf

2002: The Malibu Coastal Program is certified and designates most of Bluffs 84 acres as ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas – not developable). States that ball fields should revert back to State and allows relocation of the ball fields to adjacent private lands.

2005: The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy ( SMMC) accepts a deal to acquire 600-acre King Gillette Ranch in Malibu Canyon, along with Bluffs Park. In order to pay for that ranch, SMMC agrees to sell the 10-acre developed ball-field portion to the City of Malibu for $2.5 million.

2007: The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy designates the 84 acre of Bluffs as an “Open Space Preserve”. They propose possible camping on the site. 2008: A paragliding company conducts illegal grading on about one acre of ESHA land in the center of Bluff’s Preserve. (land now filling back in with native habitat).

2010: City Council decides to fight to stop camping development plan on Bluffs. In letters filed, City attorney lays out the clear legal reasons that Bluffs Park can never be developed. Included are statements that Bluffs is primarily ESHA and along with wildlife laws is not developable.

In 2012, Council members held secret a back-door meeting to gain control of Bluffs Park by giving away Malibu’s 535 acre Charmlee Wilderness Park to SMMC. A leaked in-house SMMC email confirmed a secret meeting was held by then Mayor La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House. They offer SMMC Director Joe Edmiston a swap.

Then in 2013, a second secret meeting is held between SMMC’s legal team and Malibu City’s “to hammer out the details” of the swap. Edmiston, so assured of Council backing, recommends his two Boards approve the swap and coastal development permit application for new campsites at Charmlee. This second meeting occurred on January 7th – a full week before the City Council’s first open public meeting on the proposal.ret meeting was held by then Mayor La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House. They offer SMMC Director Joe Edmiston a swap.

Affected residents never received any public notice of this swap by mail, nor did the City publish notice in the local newspapers. In this is absolutely illegal January 14th City meeting, Council goes ahead to authorize swap. Moving at warp speed, they direct City Attorney to “negotiate agreements and implementing documents”. Residents fill city hall to overflowing capacity to protest swap – demanding that if City planned to give away over 500 acres of residents’ land, it must go to a ballot. Council denies request and forges ahead.

CALIFORNIA STATE LAW VIOLATED: State law and City policy require three Council members (a majority) to approve a City action at a public meeting, yet these negotiations occurred before any public meeting was scheduled. Before Christmas 2012: (a) at least two of the Council members conducted secret negotiations on behalf of the City, and (b) at least three Council members had secretly obtained shared knowledge, through City Attorney Hogin, of the swap proposal promoted by House and La Monte. That is a violation of the Brown Act, the state law requiring government business be conducted in the open so the public may participate and offer timely input on local government decisions. Due to this illegality, the local environment group, The Malibu Township Council (MTC) formally requests City Council set aside its actions. Council rejects this.A Brown Act Violation lawsuit is then filed by MTC against Rosenthal, La Monte, Sibert and House. This is House’s third violation. This lawsuit is still in the Courts today.

Update on Malibu Township Council Brown Act Suit click here: Malibu Township Council Seeks Supreme Court Review

“What plan can happen and what plan we can provide you, the parks you desire, for your children and our children, is by this council TO GET OFF ITS BEHIND and PURCHASE some property that has NO INCUMBRANCES what-so-ever – NO LEASES WITH JOE, No California Coastal Commission’s oversight, that is completely surrounded by commercial properties and purchase the property and deliver you the parks.TELL THAT TO YOUR CHILDREN. THANK YOU.” – Jefferson Wagner, Sept. 11, 3:07

While abuses of power and bribery were simply a way of life in Roman times, it seems as though its business as usual for Malibu City Council as well. Historical references of the shady kind were uncovered recently when The Local learned one of the candidates took the old adage “When in Rome…” a little too far and was literally caught mid bribe (during the campaign) with a developer, (negotiated via his campaign manager). This developer has seen many concessions granted to him by the City this year.

Everything was for sale on the road to the Roman collapse: public office including army commands, judges’ verdicts, tax assessments, access to authority on every level, and particularly the emperor. The traditional web of obligations became a marketplace of power, ruled only by naked self-interest.

And modern day Malibu politics is no different than its failed European counterpart with the modern day Malibu Emperor’s naked self-interests out there for the world to see.

Well almost naked…do speedos count?

Mayor Peak has most certainly shown favortism with his personal relationship with developer Richard Sperber. Peak presided over, instead of recusing himself from the March 13th meeting where Sperber’s property was on the agenda for blatantly violating their CDP. Peak is sure to face further scrutiny with the recent decision by Council to waive Sperber’s attorneys’ fees in a frivolus lawsuit against the City leaving the taxpayers holding the bag.

I mean if you’re going to drop the charade and go full out to protect developers, why not go all the way right?

The settlement of Sperber’s lawsuit against the city states that “Each Party agrees to bear his, her or its own attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the Lawsuit.” This means city taxpayers are holding the bag for the city attorneys’ fees for defending against Sperber’s lawsuit against the city and its officials. Curiously, the staff report does not disclose that the city is burdened with those fees. It also kept secret the amount of fees Sperber’s frivolous lawsuit cost the city.

Attorney Frank Angel is representing Malibu resident Chris Farrar in a lawsuit with Sperber regarding the use of his CDP affecting Farrar’s property (as well as a Marine Protected Area that Peak’s late father Dusty, fought for decades to protect). Angel had this say about the recent decision made by council to waive Sperber’s attorneys’ fees:

“I say frivolous because Sperber’s lawsuit complains about a stop work order (long since lifted) caused by his own violation of the grading limit in the CDP the Planning Commission had approved for him in January 2015. The lawsuit settlement’s fee clause, in these circumstances, is eyebrow-raising, to put it very politely. When the city settled the litigation fees in the case it, the Coastal Commission, and the SMMC were engaged in over the SMMC’s public works plan, it claimed and received $150,000 in fees from the SMMC. Why not here? Do we need to hold out a tin cup to ask for spare change to help Mr. Sperber pay back the city treasury?”

Recently, The Local co-founder Steve Woods reached out to Mayor Peak to give him a chance to clear the air about Bluffs, the Sperber project and the rumors he is cock-blocking (sorry, no subtle way to put it) the purchase of the Yamaguchi property, among many other decisions he has been involved with and that the community is concerned about.

Peak, in true shady form, kept up the charade – and get this – threw shade at The Local voicing his displeasure at our reporting. Go figure! Peak even went as far as to call our reporting “opinion” – and accused us of taking his Bluffs Park campaign speech at Michael McDonald’s house out of context.

Not so fast Mayor Peak, we happen to have it all on audio – and here’s the link:http:/youtube.com/thelocalmalibu

Can you imagine if the Romans had access to audio (and video) during the fall of the Roman Empire?

Oh to be fly on the Imperial Palace wall!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just to be fair, before we threw mayor pro-tem Mullen under the chariot for supporting the Bluffs Park EIR vote, we did make an effort to reach out (see email below) and get his side of the story. This is what we got…

 

 

City/News/Politics

Residents demand Recall Effort

A Stunning Rise Could Also Be Even More Abrupt Collapse For                             Malibu’s Youngest Mayor.

 

Peak giveth and -update!- Peak taketh away.

In his never-ending effort to shake things up, Mayor Skylar Peak made a seismic misstep recently with his flip-flop on the development of Bluffs Park.

Peak’s decision to revisit the City funding of the Environmental Impact Report for one of the last remaining coastal bluffs in California sent shockwaves through the community and is probably the quickest round trip on a major campaign promise this town has seen yet.

It is not clear when and how Peak started to back out on protecting Bluffs Park, but it is clear the controversy to win the power over this precious open space is the the white hot center of Malibu’s environmental universe right now.

Peak went pro-development by going back on his promise to protect and preserve, leaving the future of Malibu’s rural coastal character in certain jeopardy. And now, and many of Peak’s supporters want him out.

This breach of trust by Peak is nothing less than monumental, creating a strong resistance from the pro-open space supporters who voted to re-elect him and a growing number of residents are now calling for his removal.

As the pro-preservation slate took to the dais in January of this year, Mayor Skylar Peak has unapologetically made some disturbing decisions going against the promises he made while campaigning for re-election.

Without question, Peak took Malibu voters for a serious ride down Disappointment Drive. And now, here we are at Regret Road.

Unfortunately, it looks like we may be stuck here a while, as efforts to recall Malibu’s current and youngest mayor take shape.

Calling His Bluff

At this point, with his whiplash move on Bluffs Park, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Mayor Peak might believe one thing in private and say another in public. On the campaign trail back in October 2016, the Team Malibu slate spoke at a rally at Point Dume resident Michael McDonald’s home where Peak got on his environmental soapbox in order to lure voters; “If I’m elected, I want to be with people who preserve open space.” Peak said.

As he continued to woo the crowd with his pro open space speak, Peak went in for the slam dunk to sway voters at the rally that he was against the development of Bluffs Park and gave a stern warning to proponents; “Wake up people. You’re never going to get it.”

Oh they, got it alright. Right between the eyes.

For the record, this was a sucker punch I knew eventually would come. When the slate first formed, the community was at a loss for true pro-environmental candidates. This meant I had to go against my instincts to publicly support Peak.

Lesson learned.

Note to future City Council candidates: Don’t make campaign promises you don’t intend to keep. It’s proves to be a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose.

Numbers Don’t Lie

One would think the statistics showing how Malibu’s youth population is rapidly declining would be enough to deter Peak from destroying Bluffs Park. Or better yet, how about a parent telling you so. Longtime Malibu resident Kathleen Mudd, mother of 3, spelled it out for Peak:

“Malibu population of children is SHRINKING!!! Don’t believe me??? Ask Shari at CCW she is down to ONE classroom now for the first time in 30 years!!! She also had to let (Joannie), a long time loved teacher of 18 years, go!!! She has NO WAIT LIST!!! Why why why do we need to ruin Bluffs Park when there were only 3 U14 boy’s soccer teams this year and 4 U12. Do we need more fields for 4 teams? NO.Or what about baseball? Again 4 teams in each division. Why?NOT DUE TO LACK OF FIELDS, RATHER DUE TO LACK OF CHILDREN!!!!”

So, how is Peak rationalizing his change of position from the thousands of voters that re-elected him to preserve open space over a diminishing demographic with a very acute focus?

More importantly, why is Peak aligning with the proponents of developing Bluffs Park, who he knows distorted the results of the Bluffs Park survey to suit the minority and shrinking Little League lobby?

Why would Peak ignore the substantial geological deficiencies for the Bluffs, which he knows would be a virtual impossibility to push through the Coastal Commission?

Because, as I explained in our last issue, it has never been about the kids and it never will be. It’s about Politics, Power and Paybacks.

Peak jumped into the swamp and decided the water was just fine.

Will he learn the wisdom of Lord Acton, about how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?

One can only hope, but with the information we have learned, I’m not holding my breath.

“If I’m elected, I want to be with people who preserve open space.” – Skylar Peak, October 2016

Conflict Of Many Interests

Peak, who along with the slate campaigned on draining the swamp at City Hall, is now partially responsible for flooding it. In spite of City Manager Reva Feldman’s staggering deficiencies (one of the main reasons why the majority of voters looked to the slate to clean house), Peak, just days after the election, was already defending Feldman’s complete disregard for public safety as community members were alarmed the City issued no alert to residents after a fire broke out in Corral Canyon.

It’s no secret that Feldman’s agenda is to eradicate any and all City employees who are truly committed to the community, including the calculated elimination of one of the most dedicated employees to the Public Safety, former Emergency Services Director Brad Davis. Protecting the public is the FIRST responsibility of government and the City Manager and, at this point, there is no question Feldman has been severely derelict in her duties with regard to the public safety of our town. Malibu went 9 months with no one at the helm of Emergency Services (now “Public Safety Department”) during the most dangerous time of the year. This kind of city managing is undeniably dangerous.

Feldman, who has been with the City since 2005, is no stranger to procedure and protocol. Yet city hall has become increasingly conflict-ridden under her supervision and this decision maker is making decisions that don’t seem to be in the broad public interest. And with all that taken into account, Peak was one of the deciding votes to extend her contract, with an INCREASE in pay. Feldman is paid substantially higher than most U.S. Senators.

Sometimes you’ve got to say: is this is a joke? Or maybe, the joke’s on us.

“I have been been more than satisfied thus far with her performance on this.” – Peak on Feldman’s track record making sure safety alerts are issued in a timely manner – which to date has not materialized, leaving residents to fend for themselves and take to social media to inform the community.

Fiscal Failure

Peak wasted no time showing his true allegiances and at the first City Council meeting as part of the slate, Peak was unwilling to oust Lou LaMonte from the Administrative & Finance committee allowing LaMonte to linger long enough to run the current 2017/18 budget, effectively allowing The Swamp to remain in control for another fiscal year.

Peak has allowed the old pro-development regime of LaMonte and Rosenthal to continue to control the city’s relationships with outside agencies and governments. They have remained the city’s appointments to the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments, The Southern California Associated Governments, The League of California Cities, California Coastal Cities Assoiciation. After an orvelwhelming victory in the last election nothing has changed as far as the world outside Malibu is concerned, due to a clear lack of leadership by Mayor Peak.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Devastate Our MPA

Mayor Peak, a third generation Malibuite, was raised by a true steward of the land, his father Dusty Peak, a pillar in the community who spent his entire life protecting the creeks that went into the tide pools on Point Dume, which are considered to be a federally protected marine resource (Marine Protected Area or M.P.A.).

So imagine our disbelief, or come to think about it, maybe not so much, when we learned that Peak went out of his way to accommodate neighbor/developer Richard Sperber’s project on Wildlife at the February 13th City Council meeting – essentially sanctioning the desecration of such precious environmental area.

Why would Peak allow such leniency you ask? As I think back to the night before the election watching Sperber engage with Peak at a local restaurant and follow our group to another venue, (continuing to schmooze with Peak one on one) I had to wonder, “How deep does this relationship go?”

Pretty deep – and lands right in a Marine Protected Area that Peak’s father fought for decades to protect.

Sperber’s project was passed by the planning commission with restrictions on grading. In a behind the scenes move, the planning department “fixed” the plans to follow what Sperber wanted by allowing massive grading in a process called “substantial conformance”. After a huge pile of dirt towered over his neighbor, the planning department was forced to reverse its decision (a.k.a. “favor”). Sperber also filed a lawsuit against the City when the City revoked his building permit when it was also discovered that Sperber pushed too much soil out near the creek without the required runoff barrier, during the rainy season. These soils (silt) leached into the MPA which resulted in devastating the tide pools.

Peak absolutely should have had the presence of mind to recuse himself given his personal involvement with Sperber which could pose too many ethical headaches. Yet he chose not to, and instead, to appease Sperber, a majority Council vote 3-2 forced resident Chris Farrar (whose property was being affected by the project), to file a complaint against Sperber with the California Coastal Commission.

Another Bites The Dust

With the interest of running the City more efficiently, Council member Jefferson Wagner proposed the office of the Ombudsman during the 2016 campaign.

The City of Malibu is in constant jeopardy of continued litigation. An ombudsman may be able to negotiate a fair decision between two conflicted parties, eliminating costly court and legal fees for both parties. The ombudsman would be an independent resource hired by the city on an at-will basis.

Clearly, Malibu is in dire need of a program like this as our City manager prides herself in creating conlict and directs city staff to follow her lead.

Wagner is currently at a loss, needing council support to execute the office of the Ombudsman. Although Peak reached out to Wagner, suggesting they move on the proposed Ombudsman office, it still has not yet made it as an agendized item at either Zoraces or the Planning Commission.

The office of the Ombudsman is a necessary conflict resolution program which council member Jefferson Wagner promised on the campaign trail. Peak, who suggested to Wagner he was in support, has now switched gears leaving Wagner falling short on his campaign promise.

Hindsight is Always 20/20

As I look back at the efforts made by a core group of devout Malibuites to assemble a team of three candidates with the intent on protecting our rural coastal town, it is now abundantly clear to everyone that Peak was the riskiest, most controversial investment of the campaign and we were swindled into a slate by Peak that is now unequivocally pro-development.

Nobody likes being lied to and manipulated.

Malibu was sold swampland by Peak when he told us he was dedicated to draining the swamp.

The community has definitely soured on Peak suggesting the animus is now personal.

There will be a steep price to pay without question.

City/Lifestyle/News

The Battle For Bluffs Park

The Deceptions By Pro Development Politicians and What Their Political Power Base (The PARENTS), Doesn’t Know.

Malibu’s fight for the preservation of open space reached a fever pitch recently when the pro-environment slate of Skylar Peak, Rick Mullen and Jefferson Wagner voted down the City funding for the proposed Environmental Impact Report for Bluffs Park. This was a critical move to preserve one of the last remaining coastal bluffs in Southern California.

While this can arguably be chalked up as a win for environmentalists who voted the slate in by a landslide last November, (largely based on their Save Open Space platform), it also triggered panic and a swift backlash from the Little League/AYSO parents who have been perpetually shell shocked by the empty promises made by local politicians over the last two decades.

However, mayor pro-tem Rick Mullen made good on yet another campaign promise recently by taking the lead at the May, City Council meeting suggesting the La Paz property for the long anticipated skatepark. This is the first attempt made by any Council to take action in securing and formally designating a property – and one that can be fast tracked – specifically intended for the recreational needs of the City of Malibu.

While preservationists hoped this gesture made by Council would relieve some of the pressure off Bluffs Park, it seems the controversy to win the power over this precious open space is far from over.

Which leads us to ask some very important questions…

Why is The Machine trying to subvert the will of the majority of Malibu constituents who voted for the open space slate council members?

Why is The Machine distorting the results of the Bluffs Park survey to suit the minority and shrinking Little League lobby?

Why is The Machine conjuring up complete fabrications and why are they in total denial of the council vote to reject the EIR, as well as the substantial geological deficiencies for the Bluffs, despite all printed, oral, and visual evidence to the contrary?

Why won’t they just take NO for an answer?

Ready for the cold water?

It’s never been about the kids.

It’s always been about POLITICS, POWER and PAYBACKS.

And it’s a strategy The Machine has been cultivating for a decade.

Now it’s time for the community to read between the lines:

2012

Malibu City Council members hold secret, back-door meeting to gain control of Bluffs Park by giving away Malibu’s 535 acre Charmlee Wilderness Park to SMMC. A leaked in-house SMMC email confirms a secret meeting was held by then Mayor Lou La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House. They offer SMMC Director Joe Edmiston a swap.

2013

A second secret meeting is held between SMMC’s and Malibu City’s legal teams “to hammer out the details” of the swap. Edmiston, so assured of Council backing, recommends his two Boards approve the swap and approve a coastal development permit application for new campsites at Charmlee.

This second meeting occurred on January 7th – a full week before the City Council’s first open public meeting on the proposal.

No public notice was sent out to residents who were affected by this swap.

At the January 14th City meeting, Council goes ahead to authorize the swap. Moving at warp speed, they direct Malibu City Attorney to “negotiate agreements and implement documents”.

Residents fill city hall to overflowing capacity to protest the swap. They demand that if the City planned to give away over 500 acres of City owned land, it must go to a ballot. City Council denies the request and forges ahead.

CALIFORNIA STATE LAW VIOLATED: State law and City policy require three Council members (a majority), to approve a City action at an agendized public meeting, yet these negotiations occurred before any public meeting was scheduled. Before December 2012: (a) at least two of the Council members conducted undisclosed negotiations on behalf of the City, and (b) at least three Council members had secretly obtained shared knowledge of the swap proposal promoted by council members House and La Monte.

The underlying legal drama?

This is a willing violation of the Brown Act. California state law requires government business to be conducted in an open forum so the public may participate and offer timely input on local government decisions. Due to this impropriety, The Malibu Township Council (MTC) requested that the City Council set aside its actions. The Council rejected the request to set it aside, and subsequently a Brown Act Violation lawsuit was filed by Malibu Township Council in L.A. Superior Court. The suit named council members Laura Rosenthal, Lou La Monte, John Sibert and Joan House. Realizing that the first approval was illegal, the council set aside its action, and then five minutes later reinstated it. The judge declared the council’s reversal action was a complete misdirection. This lawsuit is still in the courts today. It has cost taxpayers $1.5 million to date, and continues to accrue additional costly legal fees.

A few months later in 2013

An undeterred City Manager, Jim Thorsen, along with Council members Rosenthal, La Monte, Sibert, and House, made statements in person and in print, expressing new and creative ways the City plans to develop Bluffs Park, claiming that the Bluffs uses are “unlimited” (Malibu Surfside News, 2-21-13).

Local environmental activists confronted the City on the fabrications perpetuated by the City Manager and council members.

Preserve Malibu Coalition sent out a citywide email informing the Council, and residents, of the these facts about the 83 acres of Bluffs Preserve:

1. Per City rules: City of Malibu’s Local Coastal Program unequivocally states that building uses are NOT PERMITTED on the open Bluffs acres.

2. Per the CCC: Developing Bluffs for sports fields is appealable to California Coastal Commission, allowing for lawsuits.

3. Per the City’s own statements: The majority of Bluffs is ESHA, with wildlife constraints and is not developable.

What’s the bottom line?

The City has been fully aware since 1985, that the development of Bluffs is an environmental impossibilty. If it were attempted, it would get a quick slapdown by the Coastal Commission with the likelihood of lawsuits filed by pro-preservation and homeowner groups.

In a recent agendized council meeting City staff admitted in print that only 5.3 acres in their opinion, can be developed even with their broad definition of ESHA.

The Machine’s unprecedented lack of leadership executing the needs of Malibu’s youth has been in play for more than 20 years. They continue to pay lip service to the parents, suggesting the Slow Growth Advocates are stopping them from making good on their promises of more ball fields for the kids.

They have been most effective by riling up their power base. They have been leading them off their intended course of supporting the acquisition of approriate land for recreational uses. Instead, enticing them to believe that Bluffs Park is the best and most suitable option.

All the the lies, contradictions and deceptions can’t hide the fact that multiple opportunities have been presented to past Councils. Parents have been lobbying Councils for a decade to create the perfect venue for urban park amenities. Yet former Councils have either passed on, or completely ignored every single one of them – and have not led a single action to acquire other properties for youth recreational activites. For The Machine, it’s Bluffs Park or nothing.

A recent example; in 2008, City Council passed on the opportunity to purchase 10 open acres of land on PCH for $2 million from then owner Zan Marquis. Instead, City Council left the door wide open for developer Don Stirling to purchase it.

The decision by Council to forgo purchasing the property was after the ad hoc committee called the Blue Ribbon Task Force which included council members Jefferson Wagner and Pamela Conley-Uhlich, who evaluated and reccomended the property. This was an ideal fit for park amenities and was sizeable enough to fit everything in one place; ball fields, a skatepark, senior center, teen center, additonal gardens etc…located in the most densly populated area of Malibu who have families with young children. For many, this was a heartbreaking decision.

Council member Laura Rosenthal who has been advocating for public schools, a solid supporter of AMPS and the creation of Malibu’s independent school district, neglected to consider or inform residents of the additonal 40 acres at Malibu High School currently being leased by the City as a suitable venue for additonal ball fields.

The potential public open space could soon by owned by the City, should Malibu hopefully become our own school district.

Council members Peak, Mullen and Wagner have demonstrated their commitment to pursuing available properties suitable for youth sports. Their criteria is to acquire property that can be developed for these purposes during their terms.

The moral of this story?

If you aren’t trying to win – for the kids – and for the environment…
DON’T PLAY.

 

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