Delays create tension at task force meetings

As time passes on, the code enforcement task force is becoming less able to agree on recommendations and priorities, and undercurrents of tensions are present at meetings.

While they near the City Council imposed deadline, the task force is stalling on details in their attempt to preserve property values, while making the process of obtaining permits easier for residents in older homes.

And, according to some, issues recently revisited by the group are beyond the scope of the task force’s purpose.

“The basic recommendations have already been adopted,” said James Schoenfield, task force member, indicating that only one more subcommittee report is to be finalized and voted on before they finish their work.

But on Monday, the task force was once again revisiting old issues. Terry Lucoff, task force member, prepared a motion pertaining to guesthouses. Guesthouses do not have kitchens and are intended to accommodate guests on a temporary basis. But people have been known to use these structures for rental purposes in that past.

Lucoff’s motion stated that the city should take no action to prohibit the rental of a guesthouse built with a permit.

Disagreements came up as some thought this would be too permissive and would open the door to increased density in neighborhoods.

“Most of us pay good money to live out here and rentals (especially without cooking facilities) may decrease values and increase parking problems,” said Schoenfield, who was visibly aggravated about prolonging the issue.

“If you don’t want to see people that are poor in Malibu, pay them more,” responded Lucoff, a Realtor who has been an advocate to relaxing the rules as much as possible.

The task force finally voted down the motion by 8 to 4.

In other business, at the previous meeting on Sept. 5, the task force debated on staff and minority reports.

Judy Decker, a retired citizen, chose to be part of the task force because she heard horror stories about the process; she wanted to make a difference.

“It needed to be addressed,” said Decker, as she talked about the current code and its enforcement.

One of the issues that she felt needs to be addressed concerned staff influence on the task force as they prepare the recommendations.

“My feeling is we seem to have input from staff more than we should,” said Decker, who believes that the group has to come up with some workable solutions on a code enforcement method that will alleviate the fears and preconceptions of the public that initiated the creation of the task force in the first place.

Decker said the process following the recommendations will give ample opportunity for staff to review the suggestions after they have been made by the task force, should not be influenced by staff until then.

The task force should still work on parameters for the enforcement officers, she said.

But others did not agree with that thought. John Miller, chair of the task force, said he was very surprised, because every time they had a subcommittee meeting these concerns were discussed.

Miller concurred that there is assistance from staff, but no influence.

“We are independently reaching these conclusions,” he said.

“The work products are probably gonna give the staff heart burns,” said Miller, as he spoke about the recommendations.

However, some task force members still feel that Malibu code enforcers’ boundaries are too broad and suggestions should be made on that matter.

“We need to be able to give a level of comfort to the citizens,” said Decker, stating the council should give some direction to staff on these matters.

Miller said changing the rules is his primary focus. He said problems exist because of the rules themselves.

There are a lot of older structures that are problematic in today’s environment, said Miller.

“We are trying to give them a helping hand,” he said.

Some regulations were so onerous they promoted the problems. “Only people with lots of money could do something in Malibu. That’s not fair,” he said.

Another concern the task force is dealing with is minority reports. Since attendance at meetings has fluctuated over the weeks and only 9 of the 17 members were present to vote on Sept. 5, Jeannette Magginnis was concerned that the City Council would not be fully aware of the true vote on each individual issue when they receive the recommendations.

At the meeting, Miller said the number of members present and voting on items will be indicated with the recommendations and those who do not concur can have a minority report submitted to the council as well.

Miller and Schoenfield were visibly frustrated with the direction of the discussion. They were hoping to move on with the agenda so that recommendations would be ready for City Council by the end of the month.

Some members did not feel their opinions and concerns had been discussed enough.

“People are concerned that the proposed solutions thus far are not going to work,” said Robert Hart, a retired electrician.

Although some may have pet peeves they would like to see addressed, the task force majority felt they were legalizing as many things as possible.

“Some people want the city to ignore everything, but we can’t do that,” said Schoenfield.

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

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