Remove code’s absurdities

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    Last week’s letter from a city official epitomizes the core issue in Malibu’s current Code Enforcement crisis–when challenged by facts that don’t support their position, city officials often simply make things up. Their public statements frequently contain a great deal of misinformation designed to form public opinion and persuade people that unreasonable practices are reasonable.

    As a matter of public record, city officials have said that they aren’t forcing children to be evicted–and they are; that they are allowed to enter people’s property without permission–and they aren’t; that all cities require permits for minor repairs and pre-existing structures–and they don’t; that these regulations are required by state–and many are not; that inspectors don’t go out looking for violations–and they do; that the code enforcement records are not public information–and they are, and that all these regulations serve the public welfare–and many do not.

    The letter argues that the home occupation ordinance does not criminalize business meetings. In actuality, Malibu’s law (read IZO) states that a resident with a home occupation must obtain a Conditional Use permit, subject to the review of the Planning Director, and that it is illegal to have a business visitor, assistant, customer or client related to your home occupation at your residence. How can a business meeting be legal at your home if it’s against the law for your business visitor to be there? Why should it be the choice of the Planning Director whether or not you are allowed to work at home alone on your computer? Why should you have to pay for a Use Permit (different than a business license)? For many in Malibu, the right to work at home would be protected if the ordinance were modified to remove these absurdities and legalize a business visitor or assistant now and then, as is already taking place, while continuing to keep neighborhoods peaceful.

    This points to a second technique often used to convince the public that the zoning code is perfect the way it is–officials always say that we don’t have to worry about these potentially intrusive laws in Malibu, because usually they are in a good mood and won’t enforce them. Except when they’re in a bad mood and give citations to little old ladies for things like planting the wrong kind of plants, building a playhouse, or placing stepping stones from Home Depot on the ground without planning approval, all of which have happened.

    The letter states that in each of the three current home office cases, complaints were received by neighbors. At least one of the residents under investigation contradicts the official position by revealing that none of the neighbors have complained and the city refuses to allow the resident to see a copy of these so called complaints “without a court order.” It would be a lot easier to trust our city officials regarding this issue if they would produce the evidence to support their claims.

    The more important question is–when will the city stop standing firm to defend the status quo and start responding to the public’s desire for a change in code enforcement as expressed in the recent election.

    Anne Hoffman