Planning Commissioner Speaks Out After Removal, Replacement Announced

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Council Member Mikke Pierson has removed his planning commission appointee, Kraig Hill, from his position. During the city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 24, Pierson announced that Malibu resident and attorney David Weil will be replacing Hill on the commission.

During public comment, multiple residents spoke in favor of Hill, opposing his removal.

“The removal of Kraig Hill as planning commissioner is truly a negative thing for Malibu and its rural character and its governmental transparency,” one resident said.

“I would like to know the reason for his removal. We need, really, transparency. We need to know why someone is removed after such a short time,” another resident added.

The discussion regarding Hill’s removal as planning commissioner was the last agenda item for Monday’s meeting.

“It feels pretty outrageous to make people wait to address this item,” Hill said, adding that the news of his removal had been out five days before the council meeting.

Hill said other residents had come with the intent of opposing his removal, but could not wait and left. According to Hill, those residents were “deprived of due process.”

Pierson had cited communication issues as the reason for Hill’s removal from his position.

“When either of us had advanced concerns about specific items, we would speak on it, and never did you say, ‘Hey, you’re thinking about this all wrong,’” Hill said, addressing Pierson. “So, what I’m hearing would be that the next level would be to give a direct order or that I should be a mind reader about something that wasn’t spoken. Neither of which are legitimate.”

Hill said a commissioner’s judgment should be independent of what a council member recommends.

“In the end, I remain puzzled about why there was no explicit warning, and about how and why no more constructive solution was sought,” Hill said.

Planning Commissioner John Mazza thanked Hill for his service, but said council members have the “absolute right” to pick their commissioners. Mazza said “complicated issues” are heading to the planning commission in the coming weeks, and said he hoped the appointed commissioner knows the codes.

“Your permanent commissioner will have time to learn, but these next two meetings are a really big deal. So, I hope you’re going to appoint somebody who’s either done it before, or convinces you that they actually know what they’re doing,” Mazza said.

Pierson clarified that his decision was not a pro-development decision, which some speakers accused it of being earlier during public comment, since Hill is known to prioritize Malibu’s “rural character” during planning commission decisions.

“I am selecting another, a new, planning commissioner,” Pierson said.

Pierson briefly described Weil’s background in Malibu and his professional experience.

“David’s been in Malibu over 60 years,” Pierson said. “He has a law degree, he has run entertainment businesses. As far as in Malibu, he’s been a member of the La Costa Homeowners Association, including, he worked on the overlay district after the ‘93 fire, which was to limit development, by the way.”

Weil was also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Law School and an active volunteer with Meals on Wheels, a program delivering meals to senior citizens and people with disabilities, Pierson said. Pierson also described Weil’s upbringing in the Malibu Colony, working as a paper delivery boy for the former Evening Outlook and as a dishwasher at the Malibu Colony Coffee Shop, which closed in 1988.

“He has a strong, long history in Malibu,” Pierson said.

Per state law, the new commissioner must be a temporary appointment at first, according to City Attorney Christi Hogin.

“Under state law, we post notice of an unscheduled vacancy, and we’ll collect resumes in response to that notice,” Hogin said. “But, in the interim, under the circumstances, with so much on the city’s agenda, you can appoint someone to serve on an interim basis until you make your permanent appointment.”

The appointment can be made permanent by the next city council meeting, Hogin said.