Letter: No Good Deed

Letter to the Editor

The Malibu Surfside News published a news story that implied that the City of Malibu had entered into some underhanded favoritism in 2005 when two landslides closed access for 70 homeowners on Rambla Vista. Since I was Mayor at the time and was involved in the negotiations, I would like to clarify the facts.

Fact: The legal sharks circle

The westerly landslide blocked one lane of the roadway and was continuing to move, while the easterly landslide occurred directly below the Arnold and Karen York residence and completely blocked the entire roadway. In order to avoid prolonged litigation on who should repair the retaining wall and landslide, the City and the Yorks agreed to work cooperatively with FEMA and share responsibility for the repairs. The agreements were negotiated between attorneys and was fully discussed and approved by the City Council in accordance with all laws. These agreements allowed the City contractor to complete the repairs and reopen Rambla Vista in a timely manner without the attendant threatened and prolonged lawsuits. Without this agreement, Rambla Vista repairs would have been held up for a prolonged time while the attorneys fed on the misery of the residents.  

Fact: Uncle Sam and the Cavalry to the rescue

FEMA ended up paying for 92% of the repairs and the City and the Yorks split the remainder costs in accordance with the signed agreements. In order to fulfill their obligation, the Yorks agreed to place a $29,000 lien on their property that is due when the home is refinanced or sold. There is nothing unusual about a City placing a lien on a property and the amount of interest lost is worth the price of having the roadway reopened. In working with the City and FEMA, the Yorks provided a benefit to the entire neighborhood by allowing the road to be reopened in an expeditious manner.  

Fact: The Councilmembers were riding off into the sunset  

There was never a political quid pro quo. Over the last several elections since the agreement, The Malibu Times has endorsed winning and losing candidates. In fact, all but one of the Councilmembers that supported the signing of the agreements were termed out and could not run for reelection. What the council accomplished was to open Rambla Vista in record time; however, the Surfside News article proves the old maxim that no good deed goes unpunished.  

Ken Kearsley

Former Malibu Mayor