The summer season is just about over and things are getting back to normal, which in Malibu typically means that all of the political players are coming back, rested and ready for battle. I’m going to take you on a quick tour through the battlefronts so you’re prepared for your fall reading.
The battle, really more of a brawl, over The Right to Vote on Development Initiative, coming up on the November ballot, keeps getting larger and including more players. I just received a multipage document from the Malibu Township Council (MTC), which supports the initiative, apparently attempting to refute some of the questions raised by the Malibu city attorney. City Attorney Steve Amerikaner sent a recent memo to the council outlining his concerns with what he sees as the legal weaknesses in the initiative. Unfortunately, there is no way to evaluate what the MTC says, because what they sent out is both unsigned and you can’t tell whether it represents a knowledgeable attorney’s opinion or whether it’s just a political response to try and discredit the city attorney.
It appears to me that the city attorney has raised some legitimate legal questions about a very complicated area, the gravamen of which is — if we pass this initiative we’re entering one expensive legal quagmire. I would think that the appropriate response from the initiative people would be to produce their own legal opinion from a large, well-known and respected law firm to refute what the city attorney has said. I must admit, I actively practiced law for 22 years and I haven’t got the faintest idea if the city attorney’s judgments are correct, because the legal area of initiatives is hyper-technical and takes specific legal expertise. A bunch of non-lawyers sitting around a kitchen table voting to tell me not to worry doesn’t give me a high degree of comfort.
According to the initiative people, their initiative was drafted by some well-known, high-priced lawyers and, if so, they should be willing to put their opinion in writing onto the table, so we can all make an informed judgment.
There is another little twist to this picture. There apparently are some time limits for city action on proposals set by both the Permit Streamlining Act and the Subdivision Map Act. The city attorney thinks that poses some problems. Apparently, the time clock on these acts starts running once their application is complete. What I just discovered is that there are a bunch of Civic Center projects for which the time clock is already running. They are:
Project Complete application
Pepperdine Wave office complex June 2000
Schultz Retail and office September 1999
La Paz Retail and office June 2000
Crummer Tract Map (on the Bluffs) May 1999
Malibu Country Park (Ioki) December 1998
Malibu Village (Chili Cook-off) December 1998
From what I understand, the rule is there is one year to do the Environmental Impact Report and six months to decide. The parties, I assume, have in the past agreed to extend the time, but that probably will change if the initiative passes. The question is, even if the initiative passes, is it in time to affect these projects, which are most of the Civic Center proposals? That question deserves a real answer from a professional who knows.
Aug. 31 there is a hearing before the Regional Water Quality Control Board about some sort of water-related permit Pepperdine needs, and the city is going to battle. The city has even hired Greg Aftergood, the attorney for the Malibu Road Property owners, a veteran of many water battles with Pepperdine, to represent the city. This seems to me to be a message to Pepperdine that the city is not in a particularly conciliatory mood. Many on Malibu Road are convinced that Pepperdine has been dumping water illegally for years and that this is somehow linked to some of the geology problems on the road. On the other side of that ledger, I’ve been told by some old-time real estate types that Malibu Road has been sliding for years, even back when it was Roosevelt Highway, and all this hoop de la is nothing but that. Others, unhappy with the planned Pepperdine expansion, are looking for any way to slow down that locomotive, and the water permits coming up now and again in the next month or so are the most likely tactics.
That’s the bill steamrolling through the legislature that has just been in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is really a 1,000 pound hammer to let the City of Malibu know that they better work out a Local Coastal Plan fast, or the Coastal Commission will do it for them. As the bill is presently written, the Coastal Commission has to consult with us, but this, if they want, can mean consult a lot or consult a little, depending on whether they think we’re cooperating or not.
To be continued.