From the Publisher: Coming back

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Arnold G. York

We just returned from an East Coast family vacation in the Hamptons, and if there is one place that rivals Malibu in cost of living it’s there, Long Island’s gold coast and Manhattan’s summer playground. My measure of comparison is based on the cost of a cappuccino and cinnamon bun standard, and I must admit they have us beat and that’s even with smaller local stores. However, the political battlefield looks the same as Malibu. The Hamptons are really a half-dozen different towns and they all seem to be handling the issue of national chains differently. Some have said Yes to national chains and some No, and in those towns there is not a Starbucks to be found. 

So returning to Malibu to see that the battle over the proposed formula retail ordinance was going hot and heavy was not terribly surprising. What was a bit surprising was that the Planning Commission, by a vote of four to one, turned down the staff ’s recommendation to approve the proposed ordinance. That sends it back to city staff to either change the ordinance or send it to the council for further and more detailed instructions, or perhaps it really means lose it in a bottom drawer somewhere. I’m not quite sure which, but I suspect that no matter what the council decides, this issue is going to the ballot box via an initiative and in the final analysis we, the voters of Malibu, are going to make the call. 

In that connection, there is something the developers and landowners can do, whether they are owners of existing centers or people who want to build out new centers, and that is “make us an offer we can’t refuse.” What I want to see created is a Malibu Dolphin foundation, one that raises enough money so we can help support the schools, the churches, the charities, the children, to beautify Malibu, to offset some project impacts that will make our lives less habitable. I’m not talking about $50,000 dollar contributions either; I’m talking about serious money. 

Let me give you an example. Recently, a local developer was before the Coastal Commission and one of the commissioners said, “I have some environmental problems with your project. However, I could vote for the project if the developer would agree to put one million dollars into a fund to protect the coast,” which the developer agreed to do. As the discussion continued, another commissioner further down the table said he also had reservations, but could be persuaded. However, he didn’t think one million was enough and wanted a second million to offset the environmental damage the project would cause. Reluctantly the developer agreed, providing that was the end of it. My own thought is the developer was probably lucky there are only 12 members on the Coastal Commission, because if there were 16 commissioners it probably would have cost him another million to get out of the room. 

There are some of you who might question both the morality and the legality of what I’m suggesting, but I’m a pragmatist and I accept the fact that this is the way business is done in America. Malibu is an enormously valuable brand, a brand that brings with it great additional value to anyone who develops here. I think we, the citizens of Malibu, should also share in that enhanced value, the value that we all have helped to create. 

Consider that recently the city decided to give the Malibu Volunteers on Patrol the authority to write traffic tickets. We wrote a little story on that decision and suddenly it went viral. Everyone’s phones rang off the hook. Not just domestic media but also foreign media worldwide. It hit newspapers, magazines, TV, cable, the web and just about every other outlet including, I’m guessing, a few late night opening monologues. Malibu is not just a place, it’s an idea in the mind of the world, and that has great value to a developer. All I’m suggesting is that we should all share in its value. 

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Keep your eyes on the Coastal Commission. I’ve heard rumbles that there are some major splits in the commission and, in fact, one the commissioners wanted to make a run at the chair, currently held by Mary Shallenberger, who was the former environmental deputy to Senator John Burton, who is no longer in office. No change happened, but this story is far from over. Recently, a Coastal Commissioner, Steve Bland, resigned and was apparently very unhappy with the direction the Commission has taken since the death of Peter Douglas. Depending on whom you ask, some seem to feel the Commission has lost some of the fire in its belly. Other have said that Commission is finally beginning to be less knee-jerk doctrinaire and act more reasonably. Where the governor figures in all of this is hard to say, but rumor has it that he wasn’t overly enamored of the old Coastal Commission, and his appointees, unlike the others, serve at his pleasure.