Jennings, Kearsley, Conley Ulich win council election

Right, Jeff Jennings and Pamela Conley Ulich share the stage at the Malibu Inn Tuesday night to give speeches after winning seats in the City Council election. Ken Kearsley (pictured at left) led the pack, garnering almost 20 percent of the vote. Tracy Domingo / TMT

The three candidates garnered 56 percent of the vote, with Ken Kearsley leading the pack, receiving almost 20 percent.

By Laura Tate/Editor

The two City Council incumbents, Jeff Jennings and Ken Kearsley, have been re-elected to their council posts and Pamela Conley Ulich, a newcomer to the Malibu political scene, has been elected to fill the seat left vacant by Joan House.

The semi-official election results Tuesday night showed that Ken Kearsley led the balloting with 1,941 votes. Jennings came in with 1,866 votes, and Conley Ulich brought in 1,647.

The three candidates who ran on a slow-growth slate, former Mayor and councilmember Walt Keller, businessman Jay Liebig and last-minute, write-in candidate John Mazza, attempted to gain seats in what they have termed a developer-friendly council. Keller received 1,564 votes, Liebig earned 1,390 and Mazza got 1,234. William Winokur, who dropped out of the race in March, received 92 votes.

Conley Ulich said she is an independent candidate, although some say she has aligned herself with the incumbents. The mother of two was at the election party Tuesday night at the Malibu Inn with Jennings and Kearsley.

Jennings previously served on the council from 1994-1998, and from 2000 to the present. He served as mayor from April 2002 to April 2003. Kearsley, who has been the mayor for the past year, was elected to the council in 2000. The two councilmembers supported Measure M, the Malibu Bay Co. Development Agreement. With the deal the city would have been able to purchase the Chili Cook-Off site for $25 million. Conley Ulich has refused to reveal how she voted on Measure M, having said it’s irrelevant to this election.

Keller, Liebig and Mazza were opposed to Measure M, and have said the fact that Jennings and Kearsley supported it shows that the two are pro-development. Voters rejected the deal in November. During the campaign, Kearsley said one of his goals would be to try to work out a deal for the city to still be able buy the Chili Cook-Off site.

Ball fields and parks have also been a strong emphasis in Jennings’ and Kearsley’s campaigns and the two have been working with State Parks to try to keep the fields at Malibu Bluffs Park, or to work out a deal to buy land elsewhere. Conley Ulich has suggested that the council should generally encourage all the major Malibu property owners to donate some of their land to the city for parks and ball fields.

Jennings and Kearsley have also been working on the city’s Local Coastal Program, which was approved by the council Monday night. The city plans to submit it to the California Coastal Commission, which recently wrote a letter to the city saying it will look at the LCP as proposed amendments to the plan the commission drafted for Malibu and approved in September 2002.

The LCP was the subject of heated debate between the two election camps-the council opposition candidates, and Jennings and Kearsley. Malibu voters passed a referendum asking that the Coastal Commission LCP be put up for a vote of the people. The state challenged the referendum and won the first round in court. The city has since appealed the Los Angeles Superior Court decision. The council opposition trio said that the council lost local control when it “discarded” a 2000 LCP draft that was prepared by a citizens committee. Jennings and Kearsley said the draft was so poorly written staff did not have the time to go through it. The trio say the Coastal Commission never got a chance to look at it, and Keller said had the council not discarded the 2000 LCP, the city would not be in the mess it’s in now—in development limbo until the current LCP litigation is over. They said the city should drop all the lawsuits over the LCP, and approach the Coastal Commission with amendments. (The commission and the city have been fighting over who is responsible for issuing coastal development permits, with neither side doing so until a separate court decision is made on that issue.)

Conley Ulich said she favors approaching the commission with the LCP Malibu has drafted, as amendments. She said she does not believe the city should drop the lawsuits, as they can be used as leverage.

Out of 8,779 registered voters, a total of 3,424 voters-39 percent-cast ballots in this election. See box below for breakdowns on how Malibu voted.

Andi Peterson contributed to this story.