In an attempt to fend off a Coastal Commission lawsuit the city of Malibu would almost surely lose, the City Council Monday approved the terms of a settlement offer that would open the Point Dume headlands to greater public access.
The settlement proposal, in its draft form, calls for a limited number of parking spaces at the headlands and a city-funded shuttle departing from Westward Beach for guided tours of the park.
The settlement offer to the Coastal Commission is a joint proposal by the city and the state parks department, and a product of a discussion held last month in Sacramento by Mayor Walt Keller, Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn Van Horn and state parks Director Rusty Areias. Under the proposal, the state parks department will manage the headlands, post a ranger there and lead the tours of the preserve.
The involvement of the parks department in the city’s negotiations with the Coastal Commission prompted talk Monday that in return for its assistance, the department had secured what it most wants from the city: the removal of the ball fields from Bluffs Park.
But Keller dismissed reports that have surfaced in The Times linking the headlands deal to the ball fields on Bluffs Park.
“I don’t mind criticism, but I appreciate people being fully informed of the facts when they criticize,” said Keller. “I guess you can’t depend on The Malibu Times for that.”
Still, Councilman Tom Hasse suggested that a deal had been made, but it would not win the backing of the majority of council members.
“Bluffs Park was a part of the negotiations, in fact it was supposed to be the subject of the [Sacramento] negotiations,” said Hasse.
Hasse then suggested Van Horn and Keller agreed to a one-year extension on the city’s lease for the ball fields — good until 2003.
“That certainly was not what the negotiating parameters were … for the mayor or mayor pro tem,” he said. “I can’t imagine that anybody, given what has occurred in this city over the past two years, would believe that a one-year extension at Bluffs Park is something the city would accept.”
Indeed, Councilman Harry Barovsky, in supporting the proposal on the headlands, said he did not regard the deal as having any connection with Bluffs Park.
“There is no circumstance on God’s green earth that would cause me to sign any agreement on this headlands issue that would involve the City Council asking our families, our children to vacate Bluffs Park,” said Barovsky. “If we’re going to be kicked off Bluffs Park at some point, it’s going to have to be by the state of California, not the City Council.”
Councilwoman Joan House, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, indicated at the previous council meeting that in closed session she had voted to oppose the headlands settlement proposal along with Hasse.
Hasse said Monday he opposed the deal because, he said, it was inconsistent with what the city had promised Point Dume residents last April. At that time, he said, the city agreed only to a shuttle as part of its settlement with the Coastal Commission and not the opening of any parking spaces near the headlands.
Under the settlement offer, eight parking spaces will be created, two of which are reserved for the handicapped. The commission has been fighting the city over boulders the city placed on Cliffside Drive and the “No Parking” signs in the neighborhood.
The nature shuttle offered in the settlement proposal will operate seven days a week in the summer and on weekends the rest of the year. The shuttle will take guests with reservations up Birdview Avenue to the headlands from Westward Beach.
Van Horn said she does not believe the nature walk will draw large crowds to the headlands.
“I can’t imagine hordes of people … that are going to want to go on this informational walk,” she said.
The draft offer leaves open the possibility that additional parking spaces will be created at the headlands, and that issue was a concern for most of the Point Dume residents who attended Monday’s meeting. They asked the council to delay action on the proposal until after the summer holiday so more residents could review it.
But City Manager Harry Peacock reported Areias had sent a message urging the council to approve the settlement proposal in its draft form. Madelyn Glickfeld, former member of the Coastal Commission and now a policy advisor to Areias, also pressed the council to approve the deal. She said the commission would soon review its litigation schedule and she believed there was a “good chance” the commission would reinstitute its enforcement action against the city over the boulders and the “No Parking” signs.
“The commission doesn’t want to talk without something in writing,” said Glickfeld. “There isn’t the kind of trust there should be.”
If the council did nothing, the commission would probably prevail in court that the boulders and the signs are blocking public access to the headlands. The commission would probably then install numerous parking spaces and levy heavy fines on the city.
The council voted 3-1 to approve the draft proposal and agreed to discuss changes to it at a special meeting Sept. 15 at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School. Areias is expected to attend that meeting.