Malibu mayor voices city’s concerns at Ahmanson hearing

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If a lawsuit is initiated to stop the Ahmanson development, Mayor Jeff Jennings says the City of Malibu may join in.

By P.G. O’Malley /Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings took the city’s concerns about Ahmanson Ranch to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Dec. 10, but didn’t get much of a response.

The occasion was the first of three scheduled hearings to be held by the supervisors before their vote on whether to certify the supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) for the project, effectively giving the development the go-ahead.

Jennings was given three minutes to complete his testimony, which considered the downstream effects of the 3,050-home, two-golf course project.

“I’m sympathetic that they have a lot of speakers to get through,” the mayor said. “They also had a rather narrow issue to consider, and a lot of us were speaking to points that were peripheral as far as the supervisors were concerned.”

Jennings was among a group of elected officials that included Assemblymember Fran Pavley, representatives from state Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s office and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Like the other public representatives, Jennings told the Ventura supervisors that Malibu was concerned about the increase in traffic from the project.

“When the 101 gets crowded, commuters use Pacific Coast Highway,” Jennings told the supervisors, who joined Pavley and Yaroslavsky in insisting a new traffic study of the 101 Freeway corridor should be undertaken.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion within the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments about the regional effects of this project,” Jennings insisted. “This one development will eat up a huge chunk of our regional transportation resources.”

Jennings also delineated the city’s concerns about natural resources, including Malibu Creek and Surfrider Beach. Specifically, he voiced the city planning department’s concern that the Army Corps of Engineers, which has permit power over the project, will not be strict enough in imposing storm water runoff standards to protect Malibu Creek and Lagoon and the ocean from project-related contamination. (When completed, Ahmanson Ranch will be Ventura County’s 11th largest city). Jennings also noted that until the Ahmanson Ranch sewage treatment plant is built in Phase D of the project, wastewater would be processed at the Tapia reclamation facility in Malibu Canyon. The city is concerned that this additional load could spark violations of the Las Virgenes Water District’s Malibu Creek discharge permit and that the SEIR relies too heavily on the water district’s ability to come up with alternatives for discharging effluent from sewage treatment.

“The challenge here is that the project will be built in one county and the brunt of the effects will be felt in another,” Jennings said. “It’s unfortunate that the decision-making process didn’t allow some means to accommodate the people who will be most affected.”

Asked what the city will do if the Ventura board votes as expected to certify the SEIR, Jennings projected Malibu might join a lawsuit if it were initiated by another agency.

“Malibu has no jurisdictional power, so we have to look outside ourselves and join agencies like the Regional Water Control Board to safeguard our interests.”

The first of the Ventura supervisors’ hearings drew an overflow crowd of more than 200 people, some of who watched the proceedings on closed circuit TV.

Steve Weston, attorney for The Ahmanson Land Co., led a parade of consultants who testified on the developer’s commitment to protect the San Fernando Valley spineflower and the red-legged frog, two endangered species that triggered a revision of the original environmental impact report that was certified in 1992. Opponents have used the review process for the supplemental report to focus on a number of what they consider unresolved issues, including the discovery of perchlorate, a potentially carcinogenic chemical recently found in a well on the Ahmanson property.

The hope has been to delay the current hearings until Supervisor Frank Schillo retires at the end of December and is replaced by Supervisor Linda Parks, who opposes the Ahmanson mini-city.