Build Malibu Better: The Two-Permit Week!

Paul Grisanti

Two weeks ago, on May 21, the Leonard family pulled the first full rebuild permit issued in the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire.

Last week, on May 29, Dave Kessenich of Seaview Development and Construction pulled Malibu’s second Woolsey Fire permit for the rebuild of a couple’s home in Point Dume.

I have heard that a third permit was also issued last week but have no details as of deadline.

The first two families both mentioned having to deal with delays relative to getting clearance for soil contaminant levels. The solution in both cases was to have the technicians take soil samples from locations that were not under the house. In one case, the background level sample was taken from three feet under a cement driveway. Another involved taking the sample by drilling into bedrock near an undeveloped corner of the lot. If you, or a representative, are present when the CAL OES (California Office of Emergency Services) technician takes soil samples, request that they take a “background levels” sample from an undisturbed portion of the property.

These pioneers assisted the city in developing the new permit process as the new standards were developed and rules adopted. Things seem to be running smoother now and I hope to report increasing numbers of permits in successive weeks. 

The city logged more than 50 permit interactions last week and the traffic is only gathering speed. Last Saturday, they tried some Saturday appointments, which resulted in one very productive two-hour session with an applicant and their team as well as other shorter ones. They have not made any decisions about future Saturday appointments, but the staff is holding weekly meetings about smoothing the permit process.

It will never be easier, faster or less expensive to get a permit than it is now. The city wants you to rebuild. Last Tuesday, city council approved a budget with a line item large enough to provide 100 percent permit reimbursement for about 150 fire rebuild permits in the 2019-20 budget year. The budget year runs from July 1 to June 30. The enabling legislation will specify that reimbursement is for owner-occupied primary residences no larger than the pre-fire size plus 10 percent. It should pass in one of the next city council meetings. Nothing would make them happier than to have to add money for more permits.

On Thursday, June 30,  I attended a meeting for the Encinal / LaChusa Highlands homeowners, Water District 29 and LA County Fire at the city. Water mains that do not currently flow 500 gallons per minute (GPM) will be replaced beginning in October 2019 to be completed by Spring 2020. The upgrade of the rest of the water mains to a size that will support 1,250 GPM is next. The water tank replacement will complete the project by 2023. The 10 homes that can demonstrate a 500 GPM flow can start now. The remaining seven homes must wait until the commencement of the mains replacement in October 2019. The two projects that have been stalled for the last 10 years are going to have to wait until 2023.  The solution is a huge step in the right direction.