The year is slipping away

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From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

The year 2004 is rapidly slipping away from under our feet, so maybe it’s time to look back a little bit and see how Malibu has scored in this past year.

Some things never seem to change. Year after year everyone talks about the Chili Cook-Off site, the Malibu Pier and Bluffs Park, but now, at the end of 2004, everything looks pretty much like it did at the end of 2003 and even 2002. I keep hearing things are moving ahead and I’d like to believe it, but it seems to me that we keep fighting about things that never seem to happen.

The Chili Cook-Off site is said to be in play. Malibu Bay Co. President Jerry Perenchio has said he’s willing to sell it, and the city has said its willing to buy it, and they’ve even agreed on a price of $25 million or so. The idea is to build a central park and it’s not quite clear to me what the problem is other than the city doesn’t yet have the money. To get it, they’re probably going to have to agree to a waste treatment facility in the area (exactly where is not clear). Then there is the opposition that want wetlands in the Civic Center area, which seems kind of silly to me, but the battle could tie up this thing for years.

The Malibu Pier was supposed to have been open by now with a high-end restaurant at the Alice’s location and a café at the ocean end of the pier (right now, Moe’s café is open on weekends). After the state initially repaired the pier, almost immediately an entire new group of pilings went bad and they’ve had to expand the repair and put in some additional new pilings and that seems to be about done. I’ve heard the master concessionaire has signed the lease and it looks like the café on the ocean side will be open by next summer, but the Alice’s location, which still has a bunch of work to do, isn’t going to be open until after the summer of 2005.

The plan for Bluffs Park has changed several times. There was a giant three-way swap in the makings where the ball fields would move to a different part of the park; the state wanted a visitor center overlooking the ocean where the ball fields are now located, and Crummer Trust, which owns land next to the park, was to get home sites or dollars, or some combination of both. Then the money dried up in the budget crunch and all the urgency seems to have gone away. Perhaps the plan can be resurrected, but I’d be surprised if it was anytime soon.

The fight over the Malibu LCP seems to be winding down, and essentially we lost this entire round. The courts have pretty much said that the Legislature is the 800-pound gorilla and there is not a damn thing we can do about it. We’re stuck with the LCP the Coastal Commission wrote for us even if a great deal of it makes no sense and parts of it are of dubious legality. I’ve heard our Planning Department explain how they’re going to try and work with it, but there is one thing you can depend on. It’s going to be a nightmare and, truthfully, the Coastal Commission wants it that way, so I don’t see much chance for any significant amendments. Nevertheless, the battle is far from over. I suspect if the Coastal Commission created a nightmare for us, they’ve created an even bigger nightmare for themselves and there is going to be a flood of appeals and litigation, and all sorts of guerilla warfare until it gets amended to something that’s workable. But that’s a long way away and will never happen while Peter Douglas and Sara Wan and their cronies are still at the commission, unless the White House can be persuaded to step in. I wish I could hold out some legislative hope, but I think we have to accept the fact that both Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Assemblymember Fran Pavley represent the coastal bureaucracy and not their voters. I truly believe if they wanted to see a reasonable solution we all could live with, they could achieve one in an hour since both have enormous budgetary and policy clout by virtue of their environmental committees. Kuehl won an enormous environmental goody when the water issue was switched from the Agriculture Committee to her Environmental Committee. Sometimes it’s hard for us city folk to understand, but in California, water is king and that little internal shift in the jurisdiction of the senate committees makes Kuehl far and away the most powerful person in the environmental community in California. The trick is to get her to use some of that power on our behalf and help us solve this Coastal Commission problem.

That’s enough for now. I’ll pick up some of the rest next week.