Malibu receives F in history


No one likes to receive an F. But that is exactly what the Los Angeles Conservancy gave the city of Malibu when it issued its first report card, ranking the city’s attempt to preserve historical structures. Malibu was in good company. Among the county’s 89 cities, 44 received Fs, including Agoura Hills, Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes. Calabasas was not far behind, earning a D.

A survey was conducted during the summer to determine the grades. Interviews were conducted with historical societies and neighborhood preservation groups throughout the county. Also, the conservancy said it spoke with city officials who identified themselves as contacts for historic preservation. City Clerk Lisa Pope and Planning Division Specialist Patricia Salazar were listed as the contacts for Malibu. Both said they did not recall talking to the conservancy. But Parks and Recreation Director Paul Adams said they were not the appropriate people to speak with anyway.

“It doesn’t sound like they [the conservancy] even spoke to the planning manager, let alone any elected officials,” he said. “That’s who they should have spoken with.”

Planning Manager Michael Teruya did not return several phone calls for this article.

Adams said he also disagreed with the criteria used to determine the grades, which included such things as whether a city had an ordinance to appoint structures as historic and whether it had historic preservation departments, commissions or officers. Malibu does not have any of those.

“We’re a very small city,” Adams said. “We don’t have that many structures or districts within the city to allow for that.”

Adams pointed out that the city code does allow for the creation of overlay districts, which allow for specific zoning rules to be created for an area. This gives the city the opportunity to create a historic preservation area, but also a variety of other types of overlays that accomplish the same thing.

“So instead of having five or six different ordinances that may get used once or twice in specific situations, we have one ordinance that allows us to do a variety of things based on the specific circumstances that are involved there,” he said.

One of the city’s historical structures is the Adamson House, which is a state park and also holds a national registry status. Ken Bernstein, the conservancy’s director of preservation, said the fact the city does not have any specific preservation ordinances makes him concerned about the house.

“It’s a state park, but it’s not being protected by the city preservation ordinances,” he said. “We’re looking at the city’s protection.”

But Adams said, even if the city had an ordinance, it would not affect the Adamson House. He said the city does not have the ability to extend its laws to state property.

Adams said it is also unfortunate the report card only showed a city’s commitment to structure preservation. He said Malibu focuses a great deal on cultural preservation. The city has an active Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee. Adams said there might be things the city can do to do more for historic preservation. But he added, that would be something for the Planning Division and the City Council to decide.