From the Publisher: The Pot Boils

For a few months now, ever since a new majority was voted onto the city council, the pot has been simmering and we’ve all been waiting. Monday night at a meeting that lasted past midnight, the pot finally boiled over and the new majority flexed their muscles, although the result was a bit strange.

The issue was Malibu Bluffs Park and how it is to be used, or built out, or not, in the future. The prior council had earlier agreed to a tentative land swap in which the city gave the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy the 532—acre Charmlee Park, which the conservancy agreed to keep in open space, and the conservancy agreed to give the City of Malibu 83 acres of Bluffs Park to be used for whatever the city wanted, with the approval of the Coastal Commission, of course. The city then spent several years and considerable funds on consultants to come up with alternative uses for Bluffs Park that included things like a public pool, a community center, ball fields, a skateboard park, a dog park and a number of other possibilities. The plans involved multiple meetings and community input. The council was at the point of deciding what to do, when the composition of the council changed.

Last night, part of the citizenry turned out about 100 strong to lobby the council for the various uses of the park. The opposition was there also, and apparently their plan is that nothing is the best alternative of all. 

The issue is basic to Malibu and Malibu’s future. Most seem to agree that we want to keep Malibu as a small town rural enclave with as little new development  as possible; however, small town rural can mean very different things to different people.

Clearly to Rick Mullen and his supporters it meant that the best option was the nothing option — no fields, no pool, no anything. He was quite clear in an exchange with Mayor Lou La Monte that, whatever the thoughts were in the past, with the new election results that was all ancient history and “that was then and this is now,” from which we probably can conclude that’s what he believed the voters meant when they elected him with the most votes. I was told that he was apparently quite dismissive of those who had come to lobby for various parts of the plan, referring to some of the development people as “gold diggers” and some of the citizenry as unwittingly changing the environment.

Those who were lobbying for the plan were a couple of groups; kid sports people including soccer, baseball, basketball, and skateboarding. Currently there are about 260 kids playing basketball, 615 kids playing soccer and 300—plus kids playing baseball, and they are short of playing and practice fields, often sharing fields to get practice time. There was a swimming contingent consisting of coaches, swimming teams, water polo teams and senior citizens who swim. The pool at the high school is in bad shape and they are limited to 10 hours per week, plus they do not have adequate changing rooms.


They finally decided to send it back to staff for further study, perhaps additional geology, or even an EIR. The politics of the final 3-2 it were a bit unusual. La Monte, Mullen and Peak were the three and Wagner and Rosenthal were the two, although everyone appeared to have different reasons for voting the way they did.

But the coming choice is pretty stark in Malibu, because there are a lot of competing constituencies. There is clearly a strong environmental constituency, but they are not just environmentalists, they are also parents or senior citizens or sports fans. Are they prepared to say, “NO” to additional ball fields or a skate park or a swimming pool or a community center? Some have said they view themselves as stewards of the environment and anything is too much.

Is that being just about right, or is that fanaticism? The issue is going to be pretty clearly put out for all of us to decide in the coming year or two. In the interim, I expect it’s going to make for some very contentious council meetings.

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

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