Ryan Embree focuses on Malibu getting more for its money


The council candidate says the city government needs to take a look at how much residents pay in taxes and what they get in return. Also, emergency preparedness and retaining locally owned businesses are a part of Embree’s platform.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Public Safety Commissioner Ryan Embree says he wants to join the City Council so that he can return the local government to being the well-run system it once was. Embree said city leadership has been plagued by unfinished projects, constant staff turnover and a general lack of accomplishment.

“The incumbents are saying they’ve accomplished so much,” Embree said. “I’d like to talk about one of them. But first, I’d like to know what they are. Because I’ve been attending the council meetings and I haven’t seen an accomplishment.”

Embree has been on the Public Safety Commission since it was created 10 years ago. He has also served on various committees regarding public safety and traffic issues, and he regularly attends council meetings to voice concerns about those subjects and financial matters.

The council candidate said he sees the city being financially mistreated by the county and the state when it comes to financing.

“We need to revisit the issue of taxes and how much our residents pay and what they get back from the county,” said Embree, who said it is also improper that the city must pay the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to patrol Pacific Coast Highway rather than the state paying for California Highway Patrol officers to police the area.

Embree said he also sees a problem with the city paying for California Department of Transportation projects such as traffic signal installations. Usually these projects are paid mostly by Caltrans, but the city must provide a small percentage of the funding. Embree said the city should not have to put any money into the projects. And he said the fact that the state does not fully fund them is further proof that the City Council has not improved the city’s relationship with state and county agencies, despite that being a campaign statement by both incumbents.

Another example of that, Embree said, is the Bluffs Park acquisition. After nearly 20 years of negotiation, the city could eventually acquire a portion of that property containing the ball fields (the property is in escrow) for a $2 million cost that will come out of the city’s General Fund. Embree said the city should have gotten a grant for that and could have gotten one if it had a better grant writer and relationship with the state. He added that it is unjustified for the council members to take credit for finalizing that deal because it has been in negotiation for so long, and they just happen to be the ones in power when a settlement was reached.

Embree said the council members should also not take credit for the Chili Cook-Off acquisition, because it has not happened yet (the property is in escrow) and, he said, the city bungled $8 million worth of grant money it could have received to buy the site. In the fall, the city acquired several grant guarantees from various state agencies but lost most of them soon after because of a conflict with the state over the appraisal process. The city will issue $18 million worth of certificates of participation, which are similar to bonds, to garner most of the $25 million it needs to buy the property from the Malibu Bay Co. That money will be paid back over several years through the rent money the city receives from the tenants of the three structures on the Chili Cook-Off site.

“That’s [Councilmember] Sharon’s [Barovsky] legacy right there,” Embree said. “She’s burdened this city and future generations with extra debt plus interest. This is money that could have been used for purchasing other vacant lands and for emergency preparedness.”

The city needs to direct more funds to emergency preparedness Embree said. He said that emergency preparedness should have its own department rather than being part of the city manager’s department and more money must be dedicated to it. Embree said this includes the acquisition of a dedicated facility that would be used as a central station during emergency situations. Currently, the City Council Chambers are used for this purpose.

“[Emergency Preparedness Director] Brad Davis is incredibly qualified for the job that he is doing,” Embree said. “But he does not have the resources and the money to do what needs to be done. I would change that.”

Another major issue for Embree is keeping locally owned stores in Malibu, rather than bringing in major retail. Although he admitted that the city couldn’t prevent major retailers from coming to the city, Embree said the council could do things to encourage the independent stores to flourish, such as approving smaller construction projects. By only approving large commercial projects, Embree said, it means only major corporate retailers can afford to open stores here.

Embree, 42, was born and raised in Pasadena. He moved to Malibu in 1982 to attend Pepperdine University. Embree did not graduate, but he said this was because he was only interested in taking upper-division classes rather than fulfilling the requirements for graduation.

In the ’80s, Embree became self-employed as an installer of home automation and phone systems, something that he still does today.

A self-described “car design aficionado,” Embree has owned 12 cars, including an electric car for the past six years. He said his other hobby is volunteerism.