Alternative to appeal

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    With regards to last week’s letter about me, I thought I should clarify a few things. I grew up in Malibu in the ’60s and ’70s, was married in Malibu, and have returned to Malibu to raise my family. This is not a claim to fame but recognition that I was fortunate to have parents who recognized Malibu as being a great place to raise a family. Over the last 40 plus years during which time various members of my family have called Malibu home, we have always supported both cityhood for Malibu and the Coastal Commission. We were not always in agreement what each entity did or were always successful in what we were advocating. For instance, we were advocating cityhood in the ’70s which turned out to be a little before its time. However, we never felt it was an either or decision. Supporting the City did not preclude supporting the Coastal Commission.

    After I returned to Malibu to raise my family and decided to build a home on an undeveloped lot, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the dynamics of the Malibu LCP. My advise to the City Council with regards to not appealing was not based on my desire to support the Coastal Commission, but my assessment of what was the optimal way to achieve the city’s stated goals. Obviously reasonable people can disagree on strategy.

    I do have a problem when some of the “facts” used to justify the appeal and some of the benefits of winning the appeal are incorrect. The rallying cry that Malibu is the only city on the California Coast where the Coastal Commission wrote the LCP is not true. In fact, the Coastal Commission wrote the city of Carlsbad’s LCP. When I spoke to Carlsbad’s current city attorney, he was unaware of any litigation as a result of this process and indicated that Carlsbad had amended the LCP over the years to more closely reflect the city’s needs. I thought this strategy would have been the optimal for Malibu as well.

    Secondly, the belief that we will be able to eliminate the Coastal Commission’s ability to appeal decisions on ocean front property if we win our lawsuits is unrealistic. Appealability is common to all certified LCPs that now cover more than 85 percent of the coastline of California. Of the 25,000 coastal development permits issued by communities with certified LCP, 65 percent were in areas that were appealable. Of that, only 4 percent were appealed. I don’t mind those odds. It seems exceedingly unlikely that the only LCP on the entire coast of California certified by the Coastal Commission that does not allow appeal to the Coastal Commission would be Malibu’s.

    If the City wins the lawsuit, 100 percent of all Coastal Permits will have to be issued by the Coastal Commission until we have a certified LCP. If we were trying to stay out of the clutches of the Coastal Commission, I would think 4 percent immediately is better than 100% potentially indefinitely. As the Coastal Commission believes that the current Malibu LCP accurately reflects the provisions of the Act, there is nothing to compel them to issue permits subject to standards less stringent than the current LCP. A certified LCP gives residents much greater certainty as to what the Coastal Act means for them specifically and keeps them out of the clutches of the Coastal Commission 96 percent of the time.

    As the City Council has decided to appeal and assuming we can find a judge to hear our appeal, I would urge the City Council to begin issuing permits in a timely manner. The financial consequence of not doing so could be catastrophic for the city. For the more than 75 people who need Coastal Development Permits, the cost of having the City not issue Coastal Development Permits could be in the millions of dollars so for. There is a limit to citizenship and patience, particularly when the benefits and burdens are so unequally distributed. The city’s justification is a petition that the court has ruled as legally irrelevant and legal analysis the court has ruled as “fatally flawed.”

    David Visher