Build Malibu Better: What’s Wrong With the Planning Commission?

Paul Grisanti

Over the last two weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to think about Woolsey and the amount of time it will take for the community to recover and the scars to fade. 

We have an annual family reunion at a timber farm property near the southern entrance to Yosemite. My wife has been going there with her grandparents, parents, siblings, children, and now with our grandchildren, since she was a small child. In the summer of 2018, there was a large fire in the area that scarred an area inside the timber farm. Pines and firs that had blocked out the sun were reduced to burned trunks that are being salvaged to make way for new growth. Sara remarked that she hadn’t seen any part of the property like that since the late ‘50s. Over time, with good management, the forest had been allowed to heal itself. Sixty-some years later, the pattern is repeating.

We also visited Kona, the big island of Hawaii, which suffered a lot of destruction from a volcanic eruption in the summer of 2018. The damage was confined to the southern tip of the island, but everywhere you look on the island there is evidence of past eruptions, as the entire island chain was formed by a series of undersea volcanos that, over time, breached the surface of the ocean. Over time, lava eroded and plants, animals and humans colonized each of the islands in the chain. The process still continues.

We returned to Malibu last Sunday night, tired and eager to address all the things that need attention after any absence. I didn’t think I would be able to make time to write a column this week but then I watched the planning commission meeting of Aug. 19. Now, here I am at 5 a.m. writing about what irritated me about last night’s meeting.

If I were an elementary school teacher, the report card would talk about an inability to color between the lines, lack of focus, disruptive, slow to accomplish tasks or follow directions. At the parent teacher conference, I would explain that they need do their homework and be prepared for class. 

Commissioner John Mazza talks interminably about perceived flaws or unreported and unagendized Coastal Act violations. Last night, he claimed that the original coastal permit for a property contained a view corridor landscape provision that was being violated. He was unable to provide a copy of the original coastal permit and claimed that the documents in the staff-re-ared package were incorrect. The application under consideration had nothing to do with the landscaping. Having failed in his attempt to dash the hopes and plans of every property owner at the same time with the TDSF [total development square footage] reduction, he appears to have resolved to screw us all, one at a time, no matter how long it takes. His uncontrolled and unfocused bloviating makes the meetings run so long that the commission is often not able to hear all of the agendized items. 

John’s influence has resulted in otherwise intelligent commissioners catering to his whims and only interrupting him now and then to curry favor with him by throwing another unagendized log on the fire.

It is disrespectful and inefficient to make applicants wait months to get on the agenda, spend time and treasure to ensure their consultants are present at the hearing and then inform them after they have been there over three hours that, “We are not going to be able to get to you tonight.”

Is it any wonder that people are hesitant to rebuild?