No place like home

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    Now that we have a City Council that is receptive to code enforcement reform, Malibu residents have an excellent opportunity to support a highly beneficial resolution before the City Council to place a limited moratorium on code enforcement cases for non-permitted buildings (grandfathered structures) and home office violations. The moratorium is proposed to be in place until a code enforcement arbitration body is established and, until the current rules regarding these two issues are properly reviewed and revised if necessary. The proposed moratorium protects the health and life safety of the public as it provides for continued enforcement of the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings and the Fire and Life Safety provisions of the California Building Code and Health requirements, including septic requirements, for unpermitted structures.

    Under the current application of the grandfathering provision, homeowners incur extraordinary costs, including studies in the range of $15,000-$20,000, when they are required to bring even the smallest unpermitted ancillary buildings into compliance. Various task forces and committees are currently developing recommendations for clear and more resident-friendly policies for legalizing grandfathered structures. While new policies are under consideration, relief from the financial hardship of the permit process for these auxiliary structures would benefit thousands of Malibu homeowners.

    The current Home Occupation regulation of the Municipal Code forbids non-residents from working on-site in a home business and states that “a home occupation shall not include an office, sales room or any other space open to any business visitors, customers, or clients. . .” These limitations criminalize home business meetings and make violators out of residents who routinely use their homes to engage in innocent, very low impact business activities such as:

    entertaining employees and clients for purposes of enhancing one’s home occupation; collaborative writing, design or other work projects performed at home; having personal training at home for improving one’s work performance; home-based meetings of the creative team for film and video projects; consulting with clients at home regarding real estate services, financial services, legal advice and other professional services.

    The purpose of the moratorium is to provide widespread relief to thousands of homeowners who are subject to citation for a misdemeanor crime for having business meetings in their homes and for having assistants, while regulations which penalize these activities are being reviewed or until such time as a Code Enforcement Arbitration Body is established.

    The moratorium protects the residential character of neighborhoods by continuing the existing ordinance’s prohibition against industrial, manufacturing, retail operations or dangerous conditions in a residential zone and limiting the moratorium to home offices. Furthermore, the moratorium requires on-site parking for potential employees or visitors related to business.

    Many residents of Malibu believe if homeowners are allowed to have an unlimited number of servants such as gardeners, nannies, cooks, housekeepers, caretakers, etc. who may spend up to 24 hours per day on their premises, residents who work at home for quality of life reasons or for their livelihood should be allowed to have assistants or business meetings.

    The ability to work in pleasant surroundings in one’s home is a major decision factor influencing buyers of homes in Malibu, and for many Malibu residents, their home is an attractive alternative to the typical workplace. Rather than commute long distances or lease space, a growing number of people in the community find it more convenient to conduct their business at their residence and enjoy more time with their family and for community activities.

    The City Council is expected to vote as to whether to approve the proposed moratorium on Monday, June 12. For every person in Malibu, who would like to see the restoration of a more community friendly zoning code, please attend the meeting and call your Councilmembers to show your support.

    Anne Hoffman