Zumirez appeal denied

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The road realignment project, which was appealed by a public safety commissioner, will go forward.

By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times

In what has been an often times heated issue, the City Council Monday rejected Public Safety Commissioner Ryan Embree’s appeal of the Zumirez Drive realignment project with a vote of 3-0.

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern recused themselves from the vote due to suggestions that they had conflicts of interest. They both claimed they were legally exempt from a conflict of interest, but chose to recuse themselves so as not to hold up the process.

Now that the project is back on track, it will consist of realigning Zumirez Drive at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and the installation of a four-way traffic signal. Presently, the offset of the north and south segments of Zumirez Drive creates both functional and safety concerns with left turns to and from Pacific Coast Highway.

Embree appealed the project because he said a proper hearing was not conducted to determine whether a traffic signal was needed at the intersection.

The discussion of the appeal in public comment was impassioned and at times personal. Malibu resident Laurie Oxx bestowed many criticisms upon the appellant Embree in her public comment.

“I am outraged that a project with universal support can be held up with a single appeal” she said. “[This is just Ryan Embree’s] slavish devotion to procedural minutia. His objections are ridiculous. We have the opportunity here to reduce deaths. Almost everyone but Embree thinks it is a good idea. Everyone needs results. Time is of the essence.”

“The role of the Public Safety Commission is to increase public safety, not procedural perfection,” she continued. “Ryan Embree needs to rethink his role as a Public Safety Commissioner.”

Oxx’s comment received loud applause from many of the community members at the meeting.

Mayor Sharon Barovsky intervened. “I don’t usually interject myself into public comment,” she said. “But I want to ask you to direct your comments to the issue and not the personalities [behind it].”

Embree defended his appeal in a 15-minute speech.

“This is not where I want to be tonight,” he said. [The Zumirez Drive realignment project] is a project that I wanted. The City Council deserves a project where all of the information can be presented. This is not the way to enact a public safety project.”

Although they voted against the appeal, all three council members present defended Embree’s right to appeal. Councilmember Jeffrey Jennings said, “Ryan is taking a beating. [He] has the right to make his case. Whether there is merit or not, [the City Council] will decide. We want to know when we make mistakes.”

Councilmember Ken Kearsley said “gadflies [like Ryan Embree] provide the survival valve for the city.”

According to a staff report, there have been 17 collisions at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Zumirez Drive since January of 1999.

Embree also has the option to appeal the project with the California Coastal Commission. When he was asked at the meeting whether he has decided to pursue this route, he said he was unsure at this point in time.

Also at the meeting, the City Council decided to continue the item that would place a measure on a ballot asking Malibu residents if they would support the city accepting a donation of about 1.2 acres of land and $500,000 for construction of a City Hall in exchange for allowing a 12,000-square-foot increase above that allowed by the city code for construction of office and retail buildings on the La Paz property, located between La Paz Lane and Civic Center Way.

Lastly, it was announced at the meeting that April will be designated as “One Book One City Malibu” month. Frederick Kohner’s “Gidget” is the book.