The issue of code enforcement, which lately has become a very hot election issue, got even hotter this week with the formation of a new Malibu Political Action Committee called “Malibu Homeowners for Reform.”
Members of the new group, which consists of many of the same people who have been the most outspoken critics of the city’s code enforcement policy, were deeply upset, according to spokesperson Anne Hoffman, because they felt many of their activists were overlooked when the council members made their appointments to the newly formed Code Enforcement Task Force. They attribute their exclusion in part to a statement made by City Manager Harry Peacock at the Feb. 28 council meeting, when he advised the council to determine whether the applicants they appoint to the Code Enforcement Task Force come into the process “…with clean hands or just as dirty as sin.”
The newly formed PAC telegraphed its intentions to very aggressively investigate the specifics of the city’s code enforcement policies by serving a demand letter upon the city’s building official Vic Peterson March 1, demanding the city produce, pursuant to the public records act, “The first page of each code enforcement letter sent by the Code Enforcement division to Malibu property owners describing the violations noted by Code Enforcement during the period from Feb. 1, 1999 through March 1, 2000 for all code violation cases that became closed at any time during that period.” They told The Malibu Times they were beginning with the closed cases because the open pending cases don’t have to be disclosed by the city; however, they would be attempting to reach those people also and will be requesting they contact their new organization.
At the next council meeting, the council will probably approve the membership of the Code Enforcement Task Force and its charter, which addresses zoning code issues including “grandfathering,” “permitted uses,” “guest houses vs. second units,” and a number of issues related to the code enforcement process. Where some observers saw the city’s prompt action as a sign of the city’s good intent to reform or at least take a close look at the process, others in the newly formed PAC were far more skeptical. They feared their exclusion from the task force, coupled with the Building Department’s series of meetings with contractors, Realtors and others, was evidence some on the council and staff were trying to put a nice face on a bad situation at least until after the election next month, and they questioned their willingness to really address the problems.
The formation of the task force grew out of an earlier City Council meeting held at the Malibu Community Center auditorium. A number of the 200-plus Malibu residents present vented their frustration that the code enforcement people seem to be targeting many structures and uses that had gone unchallenged for years, were being very selective and very heavy handed, and tended to focus on older, smaller and less affluent households.
The stated purpose of the new PAC is to “reform the zoning code and the residential permit process for the city of Malibu with the goals of reducing the financial and regulatory burden on the single-family homeowners, while preserving public safety and the environment.”
The group can be contacted through its principal officer, David Hansen, at 317.2172 . The group has an ambitious agenda. It plans to launch a public information campaign, distribute mailers, produce a video, hold a citywide rally one week before the council election and gather signatures to put a referendum on the ballot in November.