Monday, Tom Hasse and Joan House, our mayor and mayor pro tem were walking the halls of Sacramento, shaking hands and pitching our fair city to all and sundry in the legislature. For those of you less schooled in the art of politics, you might well ask what the heck were they doing in Sacramento when there are lots of things to be done here at home.
The answer is pretty much the same answer Willie Sutton, a famed bank robber, gave when asked why he robbed banks. He said “because that’s where the money is.” That might be said about Sacramento. “That’s where the money is,” which means that’s where they give it away and even worse, that’s where they take it away so it helps to have some friends up there.
Hasse was introduced to Sen. John Burton from San Francisco, the pro tem of the State Senate, He asked Hasse, “When are you people going to get your local coastal plan finished?” He then said that he and the Governor and Speaker Bob Hertzberg are tired of waiting. If you’ve ever talked to John Burton you’d know that I’m not quoting him directly because Burton has a pithy and somewhat more earthy manner of speech. He makes his intentions abundantly clear and he also happens to be the number one player in the State Senate; behind the Governor, probably the second most powerful political figure in the state. Now when you consider that our little town of 12,000, one of 58 in L.A. County, and one of several hundred in the state, is sitting on the radar screen of the Governor, the President pro tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly, easily the three most important political movers and shakers in the state, you begin to get a sense that perhaps we’d better do something about getting an acceptable Local Coastal Plan together, get it O.K.’d by the Coastal Commission and get it passed ASAP. Until we do that, all the land use decisions in Malibu have to get Coastal Commission approval. Lately the Coastal Commission has been on the warpath, practically out of control, and continually raising the bar on what you have to do to build or renovate, which creates all sorts of waves.
What has been happening is that the Coastal Commission has taken to beating up lots of people who come before it, much as it did in the very early days. I’ve talked to people who’ve actually gotten what they wanted from the Commission, but had to spend so much money on experts and consultants to get there and gotten so bruised in the process that they come away seething. Now many Malibu folks are not like ordinary folks. We tend not to take things lying down and, besides, there are quite a few here who have the Governor’s special phone number on their Rolodex, so they call and bitch. Now Governors and President pro tems and Speakers don’t like to have people calling and bitching at them, particularly people who give and raise campaign money, so they’d rather not be refereeing this free-for-all. They’d like the city of Malibu to get an LCP approved, handle their own zoning and get them out of the middle of this ongoing brawl.
Of course to get this LCP approved by the Coastal Commission we’re going to have to give them two things we’ve been reluctant to give. One is coastal access, which means public access to all the beaches, and second–visitor-serving amenities, like parking places, restaurants, and hotels/motels and such.
If we don’t get our act together there are lots of money-hammers in Sacramento and guys like Burton are not shy about using them.
Now this isn’t totally one-sided. The final LCP is the product of a negotiation between the Coastal Commission and the city. If the Coastal Commission continues to play hard-ball, as they have lately, then one day the Governor or the Speaker or perhaps the Senate pro tem will run out of patience and maybe decide it’s time there were some changes in the makeup of the Commission or perhaps their staff. Since four Coastal Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, four by the Senate pro tem and four by the Assembly Speaker, the composition of the Coastal Commission can be changed anytime the appointed authorities decide they want new people.