Candidates, on dais, start taking stands


Joan House took the gloves off at the Malibu Township Council forum of City Council candidates Saturday, attacking fellow incumbents Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn on a litany of issues.

In her opening statement, House passionately defended her 11-month negotiation of a proposed long-term development agreement with the Malibu Bay Company, the city’s largest landowner. When asked about issues she cares about most, House attacked Keller and Van Horn for compromising the council’s credibility with the state by not aggressively looking for alternatives to the Bluffs Park playing fields.

Van Horn agreed with challenger Ken Kearsley’s suggestion of buying the 90-acre Civic Center with bond issue, Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy and government funds. Kearsley, displaying the Malibu Village and Malibu Country Park Environmental Impact Report for development of the Chili Cook-off and Ioki parcels, said if the council did not approve the MBC agreement, there could be development without amenities within a year.

Jeff Jennings said a project’s impact rather than its floor-area ratio (FAR) should be considered. A drive-in might have a 0.005 FAR but could hold a swap meet during the day and a rock concert at night, while a high-tech company (such as a fiber-optic switching company) might have a huge FAR but no significant impact.

Responding to a question about alternatives to the MBC agreement, John Wall said if it was not accepted, parcels would be considered individually, and they might be approved with smaller square footage. Because of liquefaction at the Civic Center, too much fill at the Portshead site, and too small a commercial site at Trancas, it might be impractical for the MBC to develop the land anyway, Wall said.

As for Bluffs Park, Keller and Van Horn thought there was a good chance the state would not go through on last summer’s warning that the leased ballfields would be reclaimed in 2002. Keller said the city, having spent more than $300,000 to refurbish the fields, had a “right” to them, and that the city has been operating the park as a regional visitor center. State Parks Director Rusty Areias has not said yes or no to taking them back, Keller said.

When asked whether she would go to court over Bluffs Park, Van Horn said Areias told her there was no time limit for taking back the ballfields as long as the city was looking for other sites. Kearsley said, “We are out of Bluffs Park in two years.”

Jennings said a shared use solution was the answer. “No one agency should use 100 percent of the land 100 percent of the time,” Jennings said.

Wall did not have a specific comment on Bluffs Park. He said the mix of personalities on the council is not working, and that the council should focus on “big issues” and delegate authority to commissions. “The council hasn’t picked people they really trust,” Wall said.

Referring to fiscal responsibility, House said she was the only incumbent who voted against the $250,000 buyout of former City Attorney Christi Hogin’s contract. The council could have let Hogin go after three months, and, with the additional $150,000 the council was paying for a contract attorney, the move amounted to fiscal irresponsibility, House said.

Kearsley called the $250,000 buyout of Hogin an “important situation,” and Jennings, the only attorney among the candidates, said Hogin’s expertise saved the city a great deal of money.

House said she was the only incumbent who favored the smaller, 106-room version of the Adamson Hotel, and that Keller and Van Horn did not support the Malibu Lagoon Dye Study, which proved that pollution emanates from upstream.

The proposed agreement, which includes a 10-year moratorium on Civic Center development and reduction of development according to the city’s Interim Zoning Ordinance, “was the only realistic chance to get the amenities of a community center and ballfields we need and want,” House said.

Responding on the proposed agreement, Keller said he did not want to see condominiums and large shopping malls in the city. In a reference to a 1998 campaign video, he said he wanted to preserve the city’s natural beauty “so we don’t turn into Laguna Beach.” He also said he would like to see the proposed agreement on the November ballot so there could be a city referendum on the issue.

For a list of candidate positions and contact information, see accompanying chart.