Basement issues to be visited once again


After a one-month hiatus, the City Council is back in session on Monday with several significant items on the agenda.

The council is scheduled to vote on a proposed ordinance regarding basement, subterranean garage and cellar development standards. That does not necessarily mean the vote will take place. Several times this year the item has been on the agenda, which has led to hours of discussion, but no final vote.

The basement ordinance has been in the works for four and a half years, with the goal being to restrict the size of these structures and to make them less visible, including a loophole that allows people to build a quasi-third floor. Most of the major issues have been decided upon, although in July when the council last met on this issue, it asked for city staff to come back with more information on some of the more technical details.

A major feature of the ordinance proposal is that the underground structures’ square footage is counted toward the calculation of the total square footage of the home. Currently, any underground structures’ size is not counted toward the total. A home’s size in Malibu is limited to 15 percent of the lot size. According to the proposal, one square foot would be counted toward the square footage of a home for every two square feet the underground structure is larger than 1,000 square feet. According to city staff, this would limit the visual impact of exposed walls from the underground structure. Also, exposed walls from the underground structures would be limited to no more than four feet above the ground. In addition, established definitions would be made to differentiate among basements, subterranean garages and cellars.

Council compensation

The council will be presented with an ordinance proposal for councilmembers to receive medical benefits. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich first proposed the idea last month. She said at the meeting that she thought more candidates might have run in the last election if councilmembers were better compensated for the long hours they work. According to the city, the cost to provide councilmembers with medical, dental, vision and life insurance is $374 for a single person and $1,076 for a family of three or more. Councilmembers currently receive $300 per month for their work.

Emergency review

At the request of Mayor Sharon Barovsky, the council will discuss the city’s emergency preparedness program. The program has been in the news lately because a Malibu doctor, Victor Dorodny, said the city has failed to organize teams of doctors and nurses that could respond effectively to emergencies, and that the city does not have enough defibrillators, the portable devices that can resuscitate heart attack victims. He has proposed the creation of a Malibu Medical Reserve Corps, which he said would address those issues.

Although Malibu Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Brad Davis said he welcomes volunteers like Dorodny to help out, he told The Malibu Times last month that the city already has prepared a network of doctors and nurses to be available in case of an emergency. He added that the city’s Community Emergency Response Team program also has helped prepare the community for an emergency. The CERT program is offered by the city four times per year to offer free training classes to residents on life saving skills in the event of a disaster.

Taking a stance

The council will be voting on endorsing and opposing two measures that will appear on the state ballot in November. The city staff has recommended that the council endorse Proposition 1A, also known as the Local Governments Revenue Initiative. Its passage would prevent the state from taking money from local government agencies in the future. The state agreed to put the item on the ballot in exchange for receiving a $1.3 billion contribution from local governments over the next two years. If the proposition were approved, the state would not be able to borrow any further money from local governments until it has repaid the $1.3 billion as it is supposed to do in the 2006-07 fiscal year. Also, the proposition would make it more difficult for the state to relocate property tax money among local governments by increasing the required legislative vote to do this from one-half to two-thirds.

The city staff has recommended to the council that it oppose Proposition 68, the Non-Tribal Commercial Gambling Expansion Initiative. If approved, it would require tribal governments with casinos to pay 25 percent of its revenues to the state and agree to be bound by state court judgments, comply with a multitude of state laws and make their books public and subject to audits by the State Gambling Control Commission.

If the tribal governments do not agree to those terms within 90 days of Proposition 68’s passage, then certain race tracks and card clubs in the state would be allowed to build Las Vegas-style casinos. The city staff report states that if this were to happen, it would create “threats to public safety associated with casino gambling, including increased crime rates and additional traffic congestion on already over-crowded freeways and streets.”