Point Dume family alleges ‘economic cleansing’ of Malibu

Claiming city bureaucrats have allowed the poor to become the targets of their wealthier neighbors, a Point Dume family told the City Council Monday that fishing expeditions to expose code violations and to raze long-standing structures amount to an “economic cleansing” of the city.

Deborah Purucker took the podium for the public comments portion of the meeting. She alleged city staff have engaged in selective enforcement aimed at the eviction of long-term residents. By insisting “guest houses” be brought up to code standards or be demolished, the city has created a “lose-lose” situation, she said, contending these homes traditionally are the only form of low-income housing in Malibu.

She urged the council to create an arbitration or mediation board to resolve disputes involving structures that predate the city’s incorporation. Another option, she said, is a grandfathering law, or a statute of limitations that would preserve structures that are now some 30 to 40 years old.

Mayor Carolyn Van Horn said the question of code enforcement proceedings brought for retaliatory motives would be added to the council’s quarterly meeting in January.

John Purucker seconded his wife’s remarks and described a letter he received from a neighbor’s attorney urging him to tear down the 750-square-foot structure in which he lives with his wife and four children.

He said the city ignores the neighbor’s use of a gully as a landfill. “There’s really nobody steering the boat,” said Purucker, in describing the city government. “We get bounced from one committee to another.” He said his family plans to build a 1200-square-foot structure at the 1-1/4 acre site, but city officials insist the present building be demolished even without approval of the new plans. He said the city planners also vacillate on whether a two-car garage must be built.

Purucker charged the bureaucracy pits neighbor against neighbor, and that many similarly situated long-term residents remain “hiding in the corners,” afraid to talk about the problem lest they become the target of retaliation. He also cited conflicting standards enforced by the California Coastal Commission.

City Planning Director Chuck Ewing said he was unaware of the specific facts but said there are pending some 1200 code enforcement cases in the city. “They’re not all the same,” he said, noting the city is seeking to lessen the paperwork. He added the city already has a liberal attitude on grandfathering existing structures.

Environmental and Building Official Victor Peterson suggested the city council was not an appropriate forum to discuss the matter and said staff was available to sit down to try and come up with a solution at any time.

“We are bound by the code,” warned Peterson, stressing the issue is whether the structure is a dwelling unit and not a chicken coop. He said much of the information supplied by the Puruckers was subjective and questioned the age of the structure.

Meanwhile, the council will likely take up in the year 2000 the plans of Point Dume resident Barbra Streisand to build a new blufftop home on Zumirez Drive. The appeal of neighbors Eric and Cheryl Jacobson was originally slated for the Dec. 13 meeting. The hearing will be held Jan. 10 to permit proper notice to the neighbors.

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

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