Council Gathers in Parking Lot for ‘Emergency Meeting’ Tuesday

Malibu City Council met Tuesday afternoon for a special (emergency) meeting, despite City Hall remaining uninhabitable due to smoke from the Woolsey Fire.

The meeting was strictly procedural; in order for a local emergency to be declared, council had to vote to approve the motion. That vote opens up public funds needed to continue the post-fire rebuilding of Malibu’s infrastructure that was damaged and destroyed due to the Nov. 9 fire.

The meeting, attended by about two dozen residents and stakeholders, took place in City Hall’s lower parking lot; the building was undergoing cleaning due to smoke from the recent fire. According to officials, cleaning was especially important because the building houses the Malibu Senior Center.

At the tail end of the short meeting, City Attorney Christi Hogin answered three key questions held by many in the city.

The first question, posed by local resident and developer Norm Haynie, had to do with fire codes—Haynie asked whether fire rebuilds would have to comply with the county’s updated codes, which include requirements for sprinkler systems and more stringent accessways.

“We’re working with the fire department to determine that—sprinklers will probably be yes,” Hogin said. As a follow-up, Haynie asked about onsite septic systems. Hogin said that as long as the systems still work, they can be essentially grandfathered in with the rebuild: “In the same way as your homes, even though they may have been destroyed, are considered legal nonconforming, you may return to that standard—the same is true with your septic system, as long as it works.”

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Paul Grisanti, another resident, asked about water infrastructure and storage in certain Malibu neighborhoods, where water is inadequate.

“We may have to create new storage infrastructure,” Hogin replied. “We’ll think it through, but this is not ‘Catch-22,’ this is a recovery effort. Our whole mission is to make it as easy as possible to get people back in our homes, and we’ll also be looking at those infrastructure things to think about how we can do better.”

Hogin pointed out earlier in the meeting that rebuilds were not going to be treated as new developments.

“Rebuilding your home is not the same thing, from a planning point of view, as building a new one,” Hogin clarified. “When you are rebuilding a home, you are exempt from a coastal development permit, and that process is accomplished by a review of plans … code also allows for increase of about 10 percent of floor area, as long as you’re within setbacks and all that.”

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