Coastal plan creates political stir

The prospect of an outside land use plan that would remove local authority entices potential candidates to run for City Council seats. Planning Commissioner Andrew Stern says he will run.

By Sylvie Belmond/Staff Writer

This Thursday, two busloads of Malibu residents and city officials, as well as others traveling by car, will fill the meeting room of the California Coastal Commission as it conducts a hearing on its draft land use plan for Malibu.

The land use plan, or local coastal plan (LCP), has raised the hackles of many in the city, as some feel the commission completely ignored Malibu’s input and needs when it drafted its version of the Malibu LCP.

The LCP has also stirred political interests, inspiring a few city officials to consider running for City Council seats in April.

The commission was given the authority to draft the LCP for Malibu when Bill AB988 was passed by the Legislature, because the city was taking too long to draft its own plan.

Many feel that the commission’s draft provides too much development, and would increase the amount of tourists and traffic.

It also demands that accessways to local beaches be opened up every 1,000 feet, which some think is outrageous.

A recent meeting at Webster Elementary School with Coastal Commission staff, where residents shared concerns but commission staff said nothing, was not conducive to any real solutions, said Ken Kearsley, city councilmember. Moreover, while the city is being sued because it allegedly did not hold enough hearings on its own draft LCP, it only gets one hearing from the Coastal Commission’s LCP, he said.

If the LCP goes through as proposed, the City Council and the City of Malibu will be under the authority of the Coastal Commission and “the great pasha, Peter Douglas [CCC’s executive director], is going to make the decisions,” said Kearsley.

Kearsley also feels the commission’s LCP may have adverse impacts on current development agreement discussions between the city and Civic Center property owners.

While Kearsley is still hopeful for some compromise, he felt both the Coastal Commission and the city would have to give and take some before they can truly come to the negotiating table.

But the LCP is not written in stone yet. This is the beginning of the process and the Coastal Commission has until Sept. 15, 2002 to finalize and adopt the LCP under Bill AB988.

Planning Commissioner Ted Vaill highlighted that AB988 requires coastal commissioners to consult with Malibu before they finalize a plan. The commissioners are required to deliberate and take into consideration what Malibu has to say about the plan, said Vaill, not just listen and nod their heads.

As they prepared for the commission hearing, Mayor Joan House and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Jennings met with a consultant and with California Assemblymember Fran Pavley, hoping to resolve the issues with the Coastal Commission before the LCP is finalized. House and Jennings also plan to meet with Sen. Sheila Kuehl on the matter.

“Because Pavley was a Coastal Commissioner for three years, she should be able to help facilitate this impasse,” said House.

The LCP’s policies intend to protect natural resources and protect public access. To accomplish that goal, both the Coastal Commission and the city need to work together, said House.

LCP triggers interest in council seats

But before everyone sits down to discuss LCP with the commission, some changes may take place on the council. The LCP matters triggered the interest of two Planning Commission members who feel they would be qualified to help the city as it faces this particular challenge because they know how to deal with land-use issues.

Andy Stern, planning commissioner, announced he would run for a City Council seat in April 2002. Stern said his 3-year experience on the Malibu Planning Commission would be a valuable asset as the city faces unprecedented land-use challenges.

Stern wants to help the city navigate through these troubled waters and said he can be a stabilizing force on the council.

The LCP as proposed by the Coastal Commission threatens local control and will impact individual homeowners, said Stern. Furthermore, the city also faces the challenge of dealing with the pending development of nearly every vacant lot in the Civic Center area, said Stern. It has to deal with the ramifications of the defeat of Measure K, which adds to the land-use crisis because the city will lose the only ball fields it has, which are located at Bluffs Park.

“I am determined to do everything in my power to help find solutions that will meet the many challenges facing Malibu,” said Stern. “It’s a critical time.”

Ted Vaill, also a planning commissioner, is not sure whether he will run yet. Although he would personally like to run for a council seat, his family is not in favor of the idea because they are concerned about the dirty politicking that takes place when a campaign goes on.

Vaill has taken an aggressive position on the LCP, which he vehemently opposes. He has been quoted, saying the LCP was “a declaration of war on Malibu.”

As the political lines are drawn, Vaill said, if he runs he would be a candidate in the middle between conservative and liberal forces.

Robert Roy van de Hoek, who ran for council in November 2000, also announced he would run again in April. He favors environmental issues and, in contrast to the other candidates, supports the Coastal Commission’s position on the LCP, as evidenced in a recent guest editorial published a few weeks ago in The Malibu Times.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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