Paradise Cove election forum focuses on mobile home issues

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The city’s financial condition was also among the topics. Candidates Laura Rosenthal and Lou La Monte say Malibu is in good financial shape, while John Mazza, Steve Scheinkman and Mike Sidley say things are not so rosy.

By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times

Rent control and Paradise Cove zoning dominated the conversation at the Malibu City Council candidates’ forum on Saturday at the Paradise Cove Mobile Home Park. The eight candidates who attended the event (Matthew Katz and Jan Swift were absent) pledged they would never eliminate rent control and they would not change the zoning of the land to a hotel or any other non-residential designation.

Just as was done at the 2008 election forum, the candidates were asked to make a guarantee that if they had a change of heart and decided they wanted to change the zoning of the property, they would resign rather than make that vote. Five candidates said they would do so, with candidate John Mazza, Planning Commission vice chair, adding he would move to Afghanistan rather than vote on the issue.

Candidate Ed Gillespie, Planning Commission chair, declined to answer the question because he said doing so could bar him from voting on such an issue at a future Planning Commission or City Council meeting. Harold Greene said he would not resign. Mike Sidley said he would not make that guarantee because he did not want to back himself into a corner.

“What if the residents come to me and say they want to change the zoning for whatever reason?” Sidley asked. “I’m not going to say, ‘I’m not ever going to change any zoning.’ I don’t want to turn Paradise Cove and Point Dume [Mobile Home Park] into a hotel. I won’t support it. I don’t intend to support it. I can’t imagine any circumstance ever supporting it. But if the residents of this community come to me and say they want a zoning change for whatever reason, I’m not going to resign because of that.”

Several members of the 50-person audience asked questions about various rent control issues. A number of candidates said they would like to see Malibu’s Mobile Home Rent Stabilization Commission meet more often, giving these issues public hearings. The commission met after a five-year hiatus in March 2008 and has not met since that time.

Laura Rosenthal said Paradise Cove residents should apply for seats on the commission, since its decisions affect them. But Gillespie quickly pointed out that city law prohibits that from happening.

The dominant issue of this campaign, the city’s financial state, was also discussed at this forum.

Lou La Monte said, “I don’t think the city is in as bad financial shape as everyone is trying to make you believe it is.” He praised the city hall purchase, stating, “Most of you own your homes. The reason we own our homes is so we don’t have to rent. We’ve been renting a city hall since we became a city. And I think it’s time we grew up and had our own city hall. And we’re doing that.”

Rosenthal, who has most of the same supporters as La Monte, noted Malibu’s top-level credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, something shared by only 14 cities in California.

Steve Scheinkman responded, “We all have FICO scores, and we’re all proud of them. But when you get a good FICO score, that doesn’t mean you go out and buy a whole bunch of limousines.”

Scheinkman and Mazza, who are running on a slate, have been critical of the current city council’s financial decisions. They say the $45 million of debt Malibu has acquired through the selling of bond-like certificates of participation, or COPs, to acquire Legacy Park and the new city hall building, as well as for related projects, has put the city at financial risk. Council members and their allies counter that argument by saying the city is in a good position to pay off that debt.

Sidley, another critic of the current administration’s financial practices, said, “We have a serious financial crisis in this community. The city hall, in my opinion, was a bad decision … I believe at the end of the day, they are going to regret this decision to purchase a city hall.”

Kofi noted there are many wealthy people in Malibu who make large donations to universities and charities outside Malibu, but give little to nothing to municipal projects such as Legacy Park. He said he is friendly with many of these people and can “bridge that gap” to bring more money into the city.

Katz did not attend the forum because he observes the Jewish Sabbath. He has not been at any Saturday forums. Swift, who has missed all the forums, said in a phone interview on Monday that he is still recovering from a burst appendix he suffered last month. He said he plans to attend the two forums this weekend if he is healthy. But he will not drop out of the race.

The Point Dume Mobile Home Park Association will host a forum at the Point Dume Clubhouse on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Malibu Park Homeowners Association is sponsoring a forum the next day at Malibu Methodist Church at 3 p.m. The Malibu Rotary Club is hosting two forums, one on March 24 and one on March 31, each at which five candidates will appear at the Fireside Room on Pepperdine University campus. Election Day is April 13.