Proposition 12 could be a watershed decision for Malibu


While the city of Malibu currently struggles to maintain ball fields for little league and keep its once-proud pier from falling into the Pacific, California voters may bestow a windfall on Malibu and nearly every other California city that could make such problems vanish.

Proposition 12, the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Coastal Protection Bond Act, calls for the issue of $2.1 billion in bonds to fund recreational and environmental projects at the state, county and municipal levels.

Though opponents, including State Sen. Ray Haynes, claim Proposition 12 calls for irresponsible deficit spending, the measure commands wide support from groups interested in preserving outdoor space in both wilderness and urban areas.

“It represents the biggest opportunity in 10 years, and it’s the largest park bond in U.S. history,” said Hayden Sohm, State Parks superintendent for the Malibu sector. “It enjoys bi-partisan support, and it is an opportunity to invest in local and state parks. If it doesn’t pass, we’re going to lose the opportunity [for a long time].”

Supporters include the California Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters and the Malibu City Council, which recently endorsed the bill, according to City Manager Harry Peacock. Proposition 12 funds may augment the budgets of a diverse array of public and private agencies, and they would directly impact Malibu’s parks and recreation budget.

“The city would get a block grant of $170,000 to use for parks development and acquisition,” said Peacock. “Spending of the $170,000 would depend on our priorities under the parks master plan.”

But the eventual contribution may amount to much more. Peacock said there is a “major category for competitive grants for applications for projects,” and successful grant applications could generate millions of dollars for specific projects, ranging from park construction to land acquisition and open-space preservation.

Malibu may have a good chance at winning competitive grants because “people at the state level say they’d be willing to help us put grant proposals together,” said Peacock.

Projects that could garner extra funds include the restoration of Malibu Pier and the historic Adamson House, both of which fall under state parks jurisdiction. “We hope to work with the city to get some of that competitive grant money,” said Sohm. “We’ve been asked to establish priorities. The first priority is $4 million for the pier. Restoration of the pier would have a tangible economic benefit to the city through concessions.” Sohm is also “particularly interested in property that surrounds Leo Carrillo and Malibu Creek. We’re trying to provide protection for watershed, viewshed and to buffer urban impacts.”

Furthermore, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy would receive $35 million for acquisition and maintenance of land in the Santa Monica Mountains surrounding Malibu. And Heal the Bay executive director Mark Gold said $25 million has also been earmarked for protecting the Santa Monica Bay.

“Obviously [Proposition 12] is something that a lot of folks, including Heal the Bay, are very, very supportive about,” said Gold. Gold and the Malibu City Council also support Proposition 13, the Safe Drinking Water, Watershed Protection and Flood Protection Bond Act. Though Haynes claims passage of Proposition 12 would result in nothing but a $3.7 billion debt and a “boondoggle” dedicated to “rats, weeds and insects,” Sohm said, “It needs to be looked at as an investment. People who come to parks are going to spend money in the local economy. Parks in general in California represent about $2 billion in business annually.” Sohm expects passage of Proposition 12 will create even more revenue.