Lately, everybody seems to be picking on our fair city, or so our City Council members seem to think. Actually, they’re not wrong. At this past council meeting, they ordered up a verbatim transcript of the last California Coastal Commission meeting, and I’ve got to tell you, it wasn’t pretty. Several Coastal Commissions members were taking shots at Malibu, and the others were laughing.
After reading the transcript, Councilman Harry Barovsky said, “We’ve got some fences to mend.” That will probably go down as one of the great understatements of the year. Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas, who is a major player in California coastal politics, got Coastal Commission approval to send a letter demanding that Bluffs Park be returned to state use. To put this in simpler language, it wants our ball parks off its land.
The state owns Bluffs Park. It paid cash for it some years ago. About 10 or so years back, the ball fields were located in the area that is now the lower portion of Malibu Lagoon. When the state kicked the kids, primarily the Little League, off the land so it could restore the lagoon, it said the Little League could use Bluffs Park as an interim measure while we located new sites for ball fields. The state was never crazy about the deal because it always felt the ball fields were a local use and not a regional or statewide use.
Nevertheless, a group from Malibu lobbied for it, the kids went downtown in their uniforms, there was lots of press coverage and the state Department of Parks and Recreation relented, although it actually took a special act of the legislature to get it done.
In the meantime, the citizens of Malibu put a lot of dollars and sweat equity into the fields to make them usable and did a heck of a job in the process. Many feel, and with good reason, the state is being a little shortsighted. It’s a big piece of land, big enough for ball fields and the uses the state may have planned.
Meanwhile, the city of Malibu didn’t seem to be in a hurry to find acreage for the new ball fields, primarily because land is expensive. Now, to get that land, the city is probably going to have to cut a deal with the landowners, which it is loath to do.
Recently, the city hired a Sacramento lobbyist. One of the things it told the lobbyist to look into was the city acquiring Bluffs Park from the state. I’ve been told the state parks people figured they were being double-crossed and went ballistic because as far as they were concerned, we were trying to acquire our ball fields by stealing their land. That’s when the state withdrew its application for a coastal permit to build the tots park and other improvements at Bluffs Park. I suspect it is fearful that the deeper we get into the land, the tougher it’s going to be to get us off, probably with some justification.
It’s not the only agency we have problems with. The Regional Water Quality Control Board is also mad at us for refusing to do a study to find out to what extent Malibu contributes to pollution in the creek and the lagoon. We balked and stalled. We even said it didn’t have the authority to tell us what to do and besides it was Tapia’s fault anyway. It finally threw up its hands and started legal action against us and threatened to stop authorizing new septics or even require a sewer. We sent it a caustic letter saying we don’t do sewers. Now, after stupidly starting this brawl, the council is caving in and sending a plan for a study up to the RWQCB to meet its demands.
We are sending messages that we’re a renegade community that cooperates with no one, that the only time we act is when we have a legal gun put to our heads and that when we give our word we rarely keep it.
Unfortunately, that reputation, although not totally true, has enough truth in it that we practically are not on speaking terms with most of the agencies and local cities that we have to deal with.
Many of them feel that we’re a bit of a nut case. If you’re skeptical, I’d suggest you ask some of them.