Malibu has a new mayor.
On Monday, April 26, longtime Malibu real estate broker Paul Grisanti was elected to the position by his council colleagues, 4-1, with Council Member Bruce Silverstein the sole dissenting vote.Silverstein was then elected mayor pro tem, 3-2, with Grisanti and Council Member Karen Farrer casting dissenting votes.
The election of Silverstein to the role of mayor pro tem signaled a change of heart from outgoing mayor Mikke Pierson, who in December did not vote in support of naming Silverstein to the honorary position—which traditionally signifies which council member will next be named mayor, and almost always goes to the top vote-getter in the most recent election.
In December, Farrer, Grisanti and Pierson chose to elect Grisanti, the third-highest vote getter, instead, citing Silverstein’s divisive rhetoric on social media and throughout the campaign as reasons for their choice.
Previous mayor pro tem Grisanti’s election as mayor was largely expected—but not uncontested. Uhring nominated Silverstein for mayor, stating that Silverstein would now be mayor had he been elected mayor pro tem last fall as tradition would have dictated.
But Silverstein declined the nomination.
“As much as I appreciate the gesture by Steve, I can read the writing on the wall,” he said.
Silverstein nominated Uhring in return, calling him “perfect” for the role, but Uhring chose not to vote for himself and instead voted for Grisanti, meaning Grisanti was elected, 4-1.
Grisanti said he looked forward to trying to rebuild the faith in the government of the City of Malibu and city staff’s confidence in the council members. Grisanti’s wife Sarah administered his oath of office.
Grisanti also presented outgoing mayor Pierson with an award for his service. Pierson’s tenure was notable because he was the first-ever all-virtual mayor of Malibu; because of the coronavirus pandemic, he never once presided over a council meeting in person.
Pierson, a local business consultant and lifelong resident of Malibu West, also led the council through a rocky election cycle. Like Uhring, he often sought compromises.
“The last two years, and for my time as mayor, have been anything but boring. I’d probably paraphrase it more as all-consuming,” Pierson said during the meeting. “The thing about being mayor is that you have a bigger opportunity to help people, help your community and to make a positive impact in the world. And city government is not easy. There are so many layers and rules and hoops and hurdles to jump through. But there’s also those moments when you get a chance to make a positive difference and to steer things in the right way.”
View preservation fees lowered by $1,000
In the past, if your neighbor’s trees grew so high they blocked your view, and you two couldn’t work out a compromise, you could get the city involved—to the tune of $2,641. That price tag was reduced to $1,500 following a council vote at Monday’s meeting.
That fee is attached to the process involved with granting what’s known as a view preservation permit. That involves city staff researching historical photos of what the neighborhood looked like and drafting a staff report in order for a resident to ultimately bring their conflict with their neighbor to the planning commission for a final decision.
“That process is barely ever used by anyone,” Assistant City Attorney Trevor Rusin described in a phone call with The Malibu Times. In fact, he only knew of one instance—last year in Big Rock. Those Big Rock residents were the ones who asked the council to lower the fee.
Big Rock resident Jo Drummond called the fee of $2,615 “highly prohibitive” and asked the council to lower it to between $500 to $750. She described how she and her neighbors had been unable to solve a dispute with one “non-compliant” and “non-communicative” family that refused to trim their foliage.
Planning Commissioner Kraig Hill supported Drummond’s call, speaking before council.
“Maybe the reason the city hasn’t seen any view preservation appeals is not because the cases have been settled amicably, but because no one could afford the appeal so went away quietly discouraged,” he said.
“Appeal fees should be set high enough to discourage frivolous appeals but low enough that they’re not an impediment to justice,” he later added.
After much back and forth about what the right amount for the fee was—Farrer wanted it to be on the higher end to recoup the cost of staff time, while Pierson wanted it to be lower—the group voted, 4-1, to set it at $1,500. Pierson was the only dissenting vote.