The recent recommendations of the Code Enforcement Task Force to the City Council are commendable, with one exception. Their suggestion that the city approve all unpermitted structures on a property as if they were constructed at the time of the original home is not exactly what we had in mind when we called for a clarification of the city’s grandfathering rules.
Grandfathering is universally accepted in municipal codes and textbooks to mean that structures that legally met the zoning codes at the time that they were built can continued to remain after the date that the zoning codes are changed. This is why the 1993 date, when the current Interim Zoning Ordinance was adopted, is so critical. The primary objective of the code enforcement reform movement for the past few months has been to enact true Grandfathering and protect owners of structures built before 1993 from having to meet current zoning codes and having to meet expensive layers of planning and building approvals that apply to structures built under city of Malibu rules.
If the Task Force’s recommendation is adopted, quite a different situation will result. For example, if a person with a home originally built in 1960 adds a guesthouse five feet from the neighbor’s property line without a permit and finishes it yesterday without getting caught, the proposed rule would require the city to let the building remain and allow the owner to apply for a permit. This would encourage widespread breaking of the zoning laws and people will quickly be erecting guesthouses with the hope that they can pass them off as grandfathered.
This isn’t fair to the people who have followed all the rules since 1993. More importantly, it does harm to homebuyers who have spent a great deal of money to live in Malibu with the expectation of low density and privacy to allow neighbors to build guesthouses within five feet of their property lines, as was permitted in the days of the County.
I urge the City Council to pass on this recommendation and simply allow “as built” or “after the fact permits” with health and safety checks for buildings that were built in compliance with the zoning rules before 1993. To those who think that some of the current permit requirements are unreasonable, I suggest you work with the city to change them.