Candidate says radical change needed in city

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John Mazza

A write-in candidate, John Mazza acknowledges winning the race is a long shot, but said the people must elect Jay Liebig, Walt Keller and himself if they want to get rid of a pro-development council.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

City Council candidate John Mazza is no stranger to Malibu politics. The 58-year-old has attended almost every City Council and Planning Commission meeting for several years. He is a frequent public speaker at the meetings, oftentimes in opposition to the council.

Mazza said the next two years are crucial for Malibu because so many development projects will go before the council. He said he doesn’t trust the current local officials to approach the projects in a way that will preserve Malibu’s rural nature.

Mazza did not become a candidate until March 14, following Bill Winokur’s withdrawal from the race. Mazza said he needed to run to give the voters a third choice against what he called the pro-growth candidates, Councilmember Jeff Jennings, Mayor Ken Kearsley and Pamela Conley Ulich. Because Mazza entered the race so late, his name will not appear on the ballot. He must hope a large number of residents are willing to write his name as one of their selections.

“I think I’m a long shot, but there are enough people in Malibu who remember Measure M,” said Mazza, who was part of the campaign against the measure in November, which was a development agreement between the city and the Malibu Bay Co. The entire council supported the measure.

Mazza said a radical change is needed on the council to save Malibu, which could only be done if the people elect Walt Keller, Jay Liebig and himself. He called Jennings a “radical property rights advocate” and described the rest of the council as weak in dealing with developers, preferring to be collegial rather than doing what’s right for the city. The candidate said that with all the councilmembers on the same page, residents do not get to hear opposing views.

“The current city council is unanimous to a point of nondiscussion on a lot of issues, and they are important issues,” he said.

Mazza charged that the council is hearing proposals from a city staff that either ignores the General Plan or has not even read it. He blamed this partly on the high amount of turnover with city staff. He said another factor is that City Attorney Christi Hogin and City Manager Katie Lichtig have a pro-growth agenda. He attributes this to the fact they are serving a council that demands it. He also said the council approaches issues inappropriately.

“They look at what’s in front of them at the time, and don’t look at the bigger picture,” Mazza said. “And I think it’s all too political. They look at how to please the constituency that is in front of them at the moment.”

Malibu has too much land that is zoned for commercial use, Mazza said, making it possible for the city to be developed to a point beyond what it could handle. He suggests that the city could lessen this problem by purchasing some of the property.

“We have a huge surplus, and we aren’t spending any of it,” Mazza said. “We need to do some acquiring now before it’s too late.”

He also said the city could also increase its revenue through a half-cent increase to the sales tax, which would need voter approval. The city could also charge for parking in certain parts of the city. If the city is able to purchase the properties, it could then build ball fields, recreational parks and a permanent senior center.

Even if the city is able to buy some of the sites, there will still be plenty of property in Malibu with development potential. Mazza said the city must take a comprehensive look at what that potential is. He said this includes analyzing how much build-out could occur, finding out what commercial services are needed and studying how much traffic Pacific Coast Highway can handle.

“The city has totally abdicated its duty to have a rational traffic analysis,” Mazza said. “That was one of the biggest problems with Measure M. They just shined it [traffic] over.”

Mazza said he has never supported having the California Coastal Commission write a Local Coastal Program for Malibu. He said after the Coastal Commission came out with its document in September 2002, he helped to gather the signatures to put the commission’s LCP up for a vote of the residents.

Mazza was born in Trona, a small California town near Death Valley. When he was 10, his family moved to Whittier. He spent most of the year there and the summers in Laguna Beach. Mazza said he became a surfer after that. Although he no longer surfs, he is in the process of starting up a surfing museum that will be located on the Malibu Pier.

Mazza attended Claremont McKenna College, where he graduated with a degree in economics. He then got an MBA from USC. After that, he took a job with William O’Neil + Co., an investment research and brokerage firm, where he remained for 15 years. In 1984, he helped the company launch Investor’s Business Daily, a national investment research publication. Mazza later started his own brokerage firm, Drake Holding, where he still works today in his Malibu office.

Mazza is the president of the Malibu Riviera I Homeowners Association. He is also on the board of directors for the Point Dume Community Services District and the Point Dume Homeowners Association. A resident of Malibu since 1972, Mazza married his wife, Robby, in 1990.