Local group promises to raise $15 million for Chili Cook-Off purchase


The group includes people ranging from mall owners to entertainers to local activists and leaders of local environmental organizations. In other action, city gives community block grant funds of $13,000 to Malibu Labor Exchange.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy President Steve Uhring announced his group’s ambitious plan to raise $15 million to go toward purchase of the Chili Cook-Off land owned by Malibu Bay Co. at Friday’s City Council meeting.

Uhring said the MCLC has already received commitments from local business leaders, environmental scientists and community activists to form a committee that he said would raise the money and seek grants for a municipal purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. One of the people who agreed to join the committee is Serra Retreat resident Steven Fink, a frequent business partner of software tycoon Larry Ellison. Ellison made local headlines during the past 18 months when he purchased five Carbon Beach homes and later bought the PierView and Windsail restaurants. The council gave Uhring its blessing and named Mayor Sharon Barovsky and Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern to the committee.

Malibu Bay Co. has offered to sell to the city for $25 million the 20-acre property that stretches along Pacific Coast Highway from Cross Creek Road to Webb Way. But the city must come up with the money by Dec. 31. Uhring said the committee, which was expected to begin meeting Wednesday night, would help the city to secure that money plus further funds to purchase other Civic Center area properties that have been offered for sale to the city.

“The City Council will be able to use these business professionals as a sounding board to explore strategies for creative funding to help us secure the properties within the Civic Center,” Uhring said.

The business leaders who have said they would be on the committee, Uhring said, include Fink, mall owner Michael Koss and Realtor Steve Karsh. Other committee members include Mark Gold from Heal the Bay, Tracy Escogue from the Santa Monica Bay Keeper, Fran Diamond from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Suzanne Goode from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, entertainers Dick and Michelle Van Dyke, and Malibu activists Lisa Garrett, Bill Carson, John Mazza, Patt Healy and John Wall. Uhring said the group would be adding more members. In a telephone interview on Monday, he said that could include another significant business leader, but declined to specify who that was.

Still photo shoot days extended

Also at the meeting, the council extended the amount of still photo shoot days allowed at local residences to 20 days without restrictions and up to 50 days if 15 or less people work on the shoot. Previously, residents were limited to no more than 14 days in a 12-month period for filming and photo shoots combined. Several people who spoke at the meeting argued that photo shoots were not a nuisance to neighbors like television and movie filming, and should not be treated the same. Barovsky sided with the residents.

“I’ve had almost no complaints about still shoots,” Barovsky said. “My complaints [that residents have made to her] have been about motion pictures and action filming.”

But Councilmember Ken Kearsley, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the measure, said photo shoots do have an impact because, for instance, if 15 people come to a home to work on a shoot, this could mean there would be 15 additional cars on the street.

“I’m here to protect the rural residential…” Kearsley said. “You’re not there to make money. If you want to make money in your pocket, go rent some commercial property. We have it. Or go to Culver City or the Valley.”

To go beyond 20 days of photo shoots, residents must also prove that all the equipment and vehicles can remain on the site. Additionally, the cumulative total allowed for filming and photo shoots was increased to 50 days. In the coming months, the City Council will address all the filming issues with the passage of a new ordinance.

New coastal permit fees

Also at the meeting, the council adopted new fees for coastal development permits. The fees are supposed to cover the city’s costs. Several costs were increased, including lot merger permits and various compliance checks. In addition, fees were established for Local Coastal Program amendments, which are needed when an applicant seeks a variance on the LCP. The city began issuing coastal permits in December, when it approved them for two municipal projects. Residential, commercial and other municipal projects are expected to go before the Planning Commission for coastal permits later this year.

Additionally, the council gave final approval for granting health benefits to council members beginning in April 2006. The ordinance was passed by a 3-2 margin, with council members Andy Stern and Jeff Jennings dissenting. Stern and Jennings had already announced their opposition at previous meetings.

Lastly, the council voted to grant its entire community block grant fund money eligible to be distributed to public service programs that it will receive for the 2005-06 fiscal year, expected to be $13,448, to the Malibu Labor Exchange.