‘No Growth’ squares off against ‘Slow Growth’ at PARCS

The announcement of a new land use plan for the Civic Center less than three weeks before City Council elections brought about the first real cross fire between the “no growth” and “slow growth” candidates in this election season.

Sponsored by the activist group PARCS, People Achieving Recreation and Community Services, last Thursday’s debate had incumbents Carolyn Van Horn and Walt Keller squaring off against incumbent Joan House and challengers Ken Kearsley and Jeff Jennings over conflicting use of Civic Center land and Bluffs Park ballfields.

With the death of Mayor Pro Tem Harry Barovsky, the future of permanent active recreation in the city remains unclear.

Keller and Van Horn also staunchly defended their negotiations with State Parks Director Rusty Areias last summer, maintaining the state would not kick the city off Bluffs Park as long as the city was working to acquire other ballfields.

PARCS board member Laureen Sills flung down the gauntlet when she asked Keller why residents should trust him and Van Horn after they ignored residents’ input on use of Charmlee, the city’s first park.

Keller and Van Horn accepted all deed restrictions set by the LeChuza Homeowners Association, represented by attorney Frank Angel, without considering anyone else, claimed Sills. The homeowners wouldn’t even allow Girl Scouts or camping.

Angel is a board member of the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy, which last week unveiled its plan for combined wetlands/open space/and playing fields in the Civic Center. The land would be purchased, they maintain, with private donations, and state and federal money such as the recently approved park and water bonds, Propositions 12 and 13, and federal grants for flood mitigation programs.

Handing Keller a copy of the Sept. 20, 1998, minutes referring to city acceptance of the park, Sills said, “Pat Greenwood, Barbara Cameron and I begged the City Council to hear our concerns. No one considered the rest of us would be interested. What can you do to assure us that you will never again negotiate without public hearings?”

Keller replied the city had been facing a deadline, that Charmlee was a place for passive recreation, and he would trade Charmlee for Bluffs Park.

“I have been begging with Areias” to see what can be done about the ballfields, Keller said. “Areias told me that as long as we keep looking, he will not set a deadline.”

“What is wrong with Girl Scouts singing “Kum Bah Yah” around a camp fire?” asked Kearsley, referring to the classic folk song. “That’s how they get involved with the ecosystem. You have to be passionate about kids seeing the park day and night. To keep scouts and church groups out is a bad mistake.”

Replied Van Horn, “You have to keep the natural area alive. You need the integrity of Charmlee for that feeling and beauty 45 minutes away from downtown Los Angeles.”

In another testy exchange, House asked Van Horn what she “specifically” planned for parks and recreation amenities if the Malibu Bay Company plan is turned down and the state refuses to extend the lease on the Bluffs Park playing fields.

Van Horn replied she has continued her dialogue with Areias on the regional need for Bluffs Park; she is “going after the money” of Propositions 12 and 13; she is working with the California Coastal Commission and the state to get ballfields in Winter Canyon and near the Crummer property adjacent to Bluffs Park; and she is working with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

House shot back Van Horn should be “realistic.” Look at the feasibility criteria of Propositions 12 and 13, House said. You need a willing seller, which will drive up the cost of the land. The city has no money to buy it.

FEMA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers support the purchase because of liquefaction and endangered species in the area, replied Van Horn. They want Malibu to “take the lead” in bringing back the historic wetlands.

“You can have both,” she said of the combined wetland/open space/ballfields concept. “Unless you believe in the vision of the General Plan, you will not get it.”

Kearsley, who now chairs the Planning Commission, which is set to consider Malibu Bay Company’s proposed development in the Civic Center, said the city could not count on the “dog-and-pony show” of Keller and Van Horn talk.

“You can’t run the city on ‘if,'” said Kearsley. “We have to make active plans now, or kids will be playing on Pacific Coast Highway.”

In response to a question by PARCS board member Shari Latta on the dearth of child care facilities, Kearsley said he wants day care included in the city’s zoning ordinance.

Jennings added with the Malibu Bay Company deal, the city could specify the type of use in any area, and child care facilities could be paid for by the developer.

In response to a question by PARCS board member Doug O’Brien about how Jennings would keep Bluffs Park available, Jennings said he would ask the state why it wants the city out and pursue the possibility of shared use.

Needling Van Horn about her statement that she couldn’t support the Malibu Bay Company deal until she sees the final agreement, Jennings said Van Horn was not shy about her opposition to it only days before at a different forum.

Challenger John Wall kept out of the fray by saying he supports sports because they raise children’s self-esteem. When asked by PARCS board member Paul Major why he objected to parks and recreation in the General Plan, Wall replied they are not required by state law and drafting the General Plan took too long to include them. However, parks and recreation could be included now in zoning because the General Plan has to be reviewed every few years.

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

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