Contractors survive threat to Saturday construction ban

Siding with local contractors over the complaints of a handful of residents upset over construction noise, the City Council Monday decided against limiting or banning construction work on Saturdays. But the Malibu Association of Contractors promised to work with city staff and the Sheriffs’ Department to develop a plan for voluntarily limiting noise from construction on Saturdays.

The City Council had entertained a Saturday construction ban after residents living near building sites requested council members to do so.

But after local contractors and their supporters showed up at Monday’s meeting in large numbers armed with a 600-signature petition and with predictions of economic loss, inconvenience and even sewage running across PCH, the City Council quickly determined not to amend the ordinance governing construction.

Tom Bates said a Saturday ban would only extend the time for completing a project. “It takes a certain amount of time to build a home,” he said.

John Wall reminded council members that he built one-third of his own home on the weekends. He said, “I would really regret denying my neighbors the same privilege.”

Eli Junior, who owns the local septic pumping business, said most of his business is on Saturdays when everybody is home and homeowners realize their system needs to be pumped. “If we’re not working on Saturdays, we will have the sewage running on PCH,” he said.

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The residents in favor of the construction ban spoke of the need for peace and quiet on the weekends. Linda Jocelyn said that for the last 2-1/2 years, her street has had one construction job after another.

“The weekends are the time when the family is at home and the children and pets are about,” she said. “This is not a time for trucks and construction noise on our streets.”

But Claire Douglas, a psychologist who lives in La Costa, found herself playing to a tough crowd when she complained about the physical and psychological impacts of construction noise.

Loud continual noise over a long period of time “can lead to hypertension, high blood pressure, psychological problems, sexual dysfunction and an increase in stress,” she said, drawing big laughs from the contractors.

William Poole, a longtime woodshop teacher at Malibu Middle School, also drew big laughs when he thanked Douglas “for explaining what’s wrong with me.” On a more serious note, he said a Saturday ban would be costly for the local construction industry.

“It’s already hard enough getting things done in Malibu,” he said. “We all know what it’s like out here: It’s a disaster area.”

Mona Loo, speaking for the day laborers at the Labor Exchange, said Saturdays are the busiest day at the exchange and a construction ban on that day would mean that laborers would lose one-third of their weekly income. And with 90 percent of the day laborers living at or below the poverty level, she said, “life is difficult enough for the majority of workers who use the Labor Exchange without establishing a Saturday work ban.”

Marissa Coughlin reminded Douglas that, as a resident of La Costa, she should expect a lot of construction because of the 1993 fire.

The council briefly considered restricting the hours of construction on Saturdays, on a motion by Councilman Harry Barovsky. But Councilman Tom Hasse persuaded his colleagues to encourage a voluntary effort from contractors. He said because the city and the Sheriff’s Department had only received 12 to 20 complaints over the past year, he did not think amending the municipal code was necessary. He suggested the local contractors association develop a self-policing system for limiting noise on Saturdays and perhaps establish a hot-line for complaints.

“Construction activity provides bread and butter to a lot of people in this town,” Hasse said.

In a fairly open-ended directive, the council instructed the Building and Safety and Sheriff’s departments to work with the Malibu Association of Contractors to mitigate construction noise on Saturdays.

In other matters, the council approved parking restrictions on Fernhill Drive and Greyfox Street, near Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, to improve the safety of children being dropped off and picked up at school.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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