City council ushers in 20 years of cityhood in new city hall

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Elected officials, former leaders assemble to honor city’s progress.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The Malibu City Council celebrated 20 years of cityhood Monday with its first meeting at the new Malibu City Hall. Elected officials from the state, county and nearby cities paid tribute to the city’s progress with plaques, proclamations and speeches. And past council members joined the present ones onstage for pictures in a reminder of the journey that city has taken since its inception in 1991.

Three of the city’s first council members also attended the celebration: Carolyn Van Horn, Missy Zeitsoff and Walt Keller, the first mayor of Malibu.

Mayor John Sibert read a message of congratulations from Mike Caggiano, another member of the first council who now lives in Costa Rica, and honored deceased council members Harry Barovsky and John Harlow. The past council members then joined the current members on what used to be the Malibu Performing Arts Center stage for photo ops.

Former Councilmember Ken Kearsley presented the sitting council with a thick feasibility report from a nuclear reactor that was to be built in Corral Canyon in 1964.

Kearsley said he originally came to Malibu 50 years ago with his wife “to go to the beach.” But the threat of a reactor galvanized him and other citizens to start the Malibu Citizens for Good Community Planning. The group later took on other issues, “and I never got to the beach. But that’s history, and we should remember that history.”

A slew of dignitaries spoke, offering plaques and commendations for Malibu’s first 20 years.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky recalled what his predecessor, Ed Edelman, told him when he took the job.

“He said, ‘Malibu is 2 percent of your population, it will take up 60 percent of your time.’ It hasn’t turned out that way… Thanks to the leadership of your council, your predecessors, and your really outstanding professional staff, we have a great relationship.”

However, Yaroslavsky added: “The city has become, I wouldn’t say normal, but it’s moving in that direction. And it’s really a privilege to represent you on the board of supervisors.”

Calabasas City Councilmember Fred Gaines said, “Malibu is more than just a city, it’s a dream. Growing up in Los Angeles, everybody has a Malibu memory, whether it’s fishing on the pier with your granddad, or a sunset, or a star-sighting at one of the shopping centers.”

Gaines said the city would always be important to him, because his father proposed to his mother here in 1957. “The Malibu magic took over, and here we are.”

Keller asked that those assembled remember the work of the people who first led the charge to make Malibu its own city.

“I think we should thank and recognize the hundreds of members of the Malibu Committee for Incorporation, which worked so hard to get us here,” Keller said. “We wouldn’t be here, I don’t think, if those people hadn’t helped us.”

Sibert agreed, noting that without activists such as Mary Frampton, the late environmental activist who helped lead the charge for cityhood, Malibu would not be what it is today.

Sibert also touted the new city hall, which the city purchased in a bankruptcy auction in 2009 for $15 million. Another $5 million was spent renovating the building, which used to be the Malibu Performing Arts Center, to qualify for LEED certification, a green building certification system.

“Over 300 tons of material were taken out, and 95 percent of that was recycled. We had to change out all the ventilation and air conditioning to make it efficient… it allows the office to work in this environment at lower energy costs. There are water conservation improvements, recycled products throughout the building,” Sibert said.

In addition to housing all city government entities, the new facility will include a multiuse theater space and rooms for a senior center, emergency operations center, and a Sheriff’s office. Sibert said they were also able to save approximately $300,000 by furnishing the cubicles and offices with used furniture.

“This 34,000-square-foot building has been transformed into a permanent home for our city, and I think it will be a welcome change from where we were before,” Sibert said.