MHS Still Waiting on Measure BB Improvements

Remember 2006? Everyone watched “The Office,” Facebook was in its infancy, the Iraq War was going strong, and Malibu and Santa Monica passed Measure BB, a $268 million bond measure. So why, nine years later, with “The Office” off air, Facebook past its prime and the Iraq War fading into memory, is Malibu High School (MHS) still waiting to see the effects of Measure BB?

While most projects funded by Measure BB — the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) 2006 bond measure that allocated $268 million toward repairs, improvements and updates to the district’s schools — are in their final stages, $35 million allocated toward MHS is sitting untouched, locked up in a battle for which no one seems willing to take responsibility.

According to a report recently submitted to the SMMUSD Board of Ed from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, the bulk of projects at MHS, including a new library, two computer labs, three science labs, four general classrooms, two new classrooms, the modernization of 10 classrooms in Building E and a new IT room, were originally intended to be completed by early 2013. Projections from the 2013-14 school year have kicked the timeline back over five years, now placing the expected completion in mid-2018.

“The project has been held up due to an appeal to the [California] Coastal Commission of the Coastal Development Permit approved by the city almost two years ago,” reads a statement by district spokesperson Gail Pinsker.

Pinsker claims that the appeal, filed by citizen group Malibu Community Alliance (MCA) in 2013, is what’s standing in the way of the improvements to the school. The appeal seeks to revise lighting plans in the MHS parking lot.

“District staff has been asked to resolve the remaining issues with the appellants, mostly around the issues of parking lot usage and lighting,” Pinsker’s statement reads. “The appellants continue to present additional items to us that require either new design or analysis, which continues to delay the project further.”

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MCA spokesperson Cami Winikoff claims that it’s lack of progress from the district that’s holding up the process, since a verbal agreement was made between the SMMUSD and MCA in April 2015.

“We had a meeting on April 21 of this year, and at that meeting, we agreed to all of the various different lighting issues,” Winikoff said. “We had an agreement in principle, and the school district said they would send a plan that we could review.

“Since that meeting … we have not even seen a plan. How could we change anything? They still have not produced a lighting plan.”

The meeting, according to Winikoff, took place at the California Coastal Commission (CCC) Ventura offices. 

This meeting was confirmed by CCC Planning Supervisor Barbara Carey, who stated there was some kind of agreement made at the time.

“That is the time frame that we had the meeting, with both the applicant and the appellant, and there was a lighting plan that was reviewed there and there was discussion of having some different management around the parts of that parking lot,” Carey recalled.

“It seemed that there was some agreement around that, the management of the parking lot,” Carey added.

That said, Carey can’t confirm whether that agreement is still standing.

“I can’t confirm … what their coordination effort has been since that time,” Carey said. “So I don’t really have any information … if anyone’s changed their position or not.”

In the meantime, Measure BB has been at work across the rest of Malibu. All schools have had part of an $18.8 million districtwide technology upgrade, including new projectors, speakers and smartboards, high speed Internet, new computers, and more.

Juan Cabrillo Elementary School used over half a million dollars toward modernization of administrative offices and entry gates. Point Dume Marine Science School repiped all underground gas supply lines. Webster Elementary School received a new fire alarm and had rear/front entry fencing and gates replaced. 

The work on PCB remediation at MHS this summer, including replacing of window caulk and new lighting, came out of Measure ES funds, a separate bond measure passed in 2012, and was not held up due to the MCA appeal.

As for the next steps toward getting money unlocked to begin Measure BB projects at MHS, the gridlock doesn’t show any immediate signs of clearing.

“We are anxious to get this project going for the betterment of our Malibu students and families,” Pinsker’s statement says.

“We are waiting. We are simply waiting,” Winikoff said.

With both waiting, it’s unclear what the next step will be, but according to Carey, there is one way out.

“If the [SMMUSD] wanted to just go ahead and move forward without trying to resolve it with the [MCA] they can do that at any time,” Carey said. That would move the issue out of the dark and before Coastal Commission. 

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