Malibu may face another lawsuit over coastal plan

While representatives of the City of Malibu and the Coastal Commission gather to discuss the Local Coastal Plan for Malibu, some groups feel left out of the equation as they are not invited to take part in discussions.

By Sylvie Belmond/Staff Writer

In an effort to break a deadlock between the City of Malibu and the California Coastal Commission regarding a coastal plan drafted by the commission on behalf of Malibu, several meetings were arranged to help both sides find some common ground. But some Malibu residents and citizens’ groups consider these efforts clandestine and lawsuits may follow.

“The City of Malibu and the Coastal Commission need to work together instead of focusing on who is in charge,” said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who attended the first meeting with city officials at the Agoura Hills City Hall along with Assemblymember Fran Pavley.

The two should focus on individual issues and attempt to solve problems instead of arguing about who thought up the plan, she said. “It’s about finding a real solution.”

Kuehl explained that the commission staff was committed for two days to work with the City of Malibu on the Local Coastal Plan (LCP).

“At this point, the two parties only have the choice to work together, otherwise they run the risk of having another legislative bill imposed on them,” noted Kuehl.

Pavley, who hosted the meeting two weeks ago, said she wanted to bring both sides together so they could narrow down disagreements. Other than that, she and Kuehl were not involved with details of the LCP.

Peter Douglas, the commission executive director, Sara Wan, commission chair, and Commissioner Cynthia McLain-Hill were also in attendance, while Mayor Joan House and Mayor Pro-Tem Jeff Jennings attended on behalf of the city. Staff for both sides was also present.

In an effort to help Malibu, Pavley said she requested that the commission not make a decision on a final draft of the LCP until Jan. 15 so Malibu could review the proposed plan. Both sides also discussed the possibility of some flexibility for Malibu after the Jan. 15 deadline.

Pavley said she wants to see a coastal plan approved that is sensitive to Malibu and that abides by the Coastal Act.

But these are not negotiations, these are discussions on the document, she clarified. Ultimately, coastal staff will make recommendations and the commission has the full authority to decide on the LCP.

Meanwhile, as multiple meetings take place between various entities, some feel left out of the loop. Residents and local citizens’ groups want to see more public involvement on the local level because the Malibu lifestyle is at stake.

“I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” said Frank Basso, Malibu Township Council (MTC) president. “City councils come and go, but the population stays and we are the ones who have to live with whatever comes out of the plans. We should be totally involved.

“Even if it’s legal (the closed LCP meetings), it’s morally wrong,” continued Basso.

Others disagree with the governmental process even more. They feel the meetings are clandestine and undemocratic because the public was not invited to participate.

Corin Kahn, a land-use attorney representing Taxpayers for Livable Communities (TLC), said he is opposed to what the city is doing.

According to Kahn, the city prepared an extensive re-draft of the coastal plan without public participation. But any step requires maximum public participation, he argued.

On Dec. 5, Efrom Fader, MTC vice president, was asked to leave one of the meetings after he happened to wander in and started to sit down.

“When a well-known member of the environmental community comes to a meeting and is told to leave because they don’t like his views, that doesn’t sound like public participation to me,” said Kahn.

TLC is considering filing a lawsuit, said Kahn, because the city met on several occasions for about six hours with invited people only.

But some believe that public involvement can sometimes delay matters.

“Jennings and I held one private meeting together with city staff and from my point of view we invited people who gave substantive information about the LCP,” said House.

“All of Kahn’s claims are not justified,” she continued. “MTC sued us and we have little fires on all fronts [on] whether we should be able to write our own LCP,” said House, who thought these lawsuits only hinder the chances for Malibu to create a viable plan that may be acceptable to the commission.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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