1999 in review – January through April


As the year opened, Walt Keller was sworn in as mayor. It was his third time since 1991, when the city incorporated.

Mayors Past

March 1991 Walt Keller

September 1991 Larry Wan

April 1992 Walt Keller

April 1993 Carolyn Van Horn

April 1994 Jeff Kramer

April 1995 Joan House

April 1996 John Harlow

April 1997 Jeff Jennings

April 1998 Joan House

January 1999 Walt Keller

The 1998 Malibu Times Dolphin Awards for outstanding contribution to the city were given to:

Mark Ball

Diane Baldwin

John Harlow

Jeanette Maginnis

Laure Stern

Ed & Dorothy Stotsenberg

Maude-Ann Sunderland

Destination Malibu and its leaders:

Paul Spooner, Duke’s Malibu

Jannis Swerman, Granita

Alan Goldschneider, Malibu Beach Inn

A Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School district report indicated the Malibu public school population has exploded since 1990. From a low of 1000 students, there are now more than 2000 children in local public schools, which also now includes a high school. Malibu High has 1200 students. Point Dume Elementary School (now called the Marine Science School), which closed in 1980 for lack of students and then turned into the Malibu Community Center, now has more than 200 students. The other elementary schools, Webster and Juan Cabrillo, now each have more than 400 students.

“Don’t plan on a look-at- me house, because that’s not what’s going to get approved,” said Planning Director Craig Ewing, reflecting the overall majority sentiment of the Malibu Planning Commission. Several commissioners wanted to bring most of Malibu under their jurisdiction with a slope ordinance and then limit the homes to those they liked. This seemed to mean the right color house, the right color roof, the approved kind of landscaping and a politically correct architectural style. They even took a shot at limiting the amount of light emitting from each house, but even some of their fellow commissioners balked at that bit of overreaching.

A longtime battle perking just below the surface broke into the open when the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which owns Bluffs Park, where the Malibu Little League ballfields are located, announced,”The fields will eventually have to find a new home.” The statement by Russ Guiney, district superintendent, was apparently designed to nip in the bud any thoughts the city might have about acquiring Bluffs Park permanently.

A 52-year-old Trancas-area woman was arrested for drunk driving on PCH. The sheriff’s report disclosed she had a blood alcohol reading of .33 percent, more than four times the legal limit. Apparently, earlier in the afternoon, she had consumed three gallons of wine.

The Planning Commission decided to let a road repair and paving service remain at the Trancas shopping center after several residents, claiming it was an essential service, came forward to support the business. It seems the city fathers, in their infinite wisdom, had not zoned any part of Malibu for light industrial usage, and neighbors were fearful that during storms or other times of need, outside contractors would not be able to get to Malibu to maintain the many private roads.

The City Council broke down and decided to accept a $24,000 grant from Los Angeles County to fund an economic plan study for Malibu.

February 1999

The City Council Land Use Subcommittee, looking for land for a senior citizens center, heard the hard news from a local Realtor. Average lots of an acre were going for $500,000 in the Point Dume area and for a commercial zoned acre more like $875,000 per acre, which meant the land the Malibu Bay Company was offering for the center was probably worth a million, and the total seven acres they had put on the table in the Trancas area for ballfields and such was worth $6.1 million. So far, the city hadn’t responded, but rumors persisted that there were quiet negotiations underway.

Even though restaurants were still among the top 25 sales tax receipt producers in third quarter 1998, they were hard hit by the landslide and repair at PCH and Las Flores Canyon, which slowed traffic and discouraged many casual restaurant visitors over the prime summer months.

Listed alphabetically

AM PM Mini Mart

Hughes Market


Malibu Masonry Supply

Becker Surfboards


Charlie’s Unocal


Coogies Beach Cafe Moonshadows

Coral Beach Cantina

PCH Unocal


Pier View Cafe

Duke’s Malibu


  • on Drug

Fisher Lumber

Taverna Tony

Geoffrey’s Malibu



Trancas Chevron

HRL Laboratories

Trancas Market

Hughes Aircraft

The City Council met in closed session for the fifth time to evaluate the job performance of City Attorney Christi Hogin, and rumors were flying. The most persistent seemed to be about a move by Keller, Carolyn Van Horn and Tom Hasse to push her into resigning. This raised speculation they wanted to put the city investigation into alleged campaign violations by Remy O’Neill into less aggressive hands. Hogin, made of sterner stuff, gave no indication she intended to quit.

In a sign of shifting political winds and the growing strength in the Malibu political process of families with children, the council unanimously agreed to consider negotiating with Malibu Bay Company for a development rights agreement. The Bay Company wanted to develop its properties in the Civic Center, Point Dume and Trancas areas, and the city was looking for acreage for ballfields and civic improvements like a community center and senior citizens center.

Malibu Realtor Brady Westwater was hot on the trail of Los Angeles writer Mike Davis, whose books “City of Quartz” and “Ecology of Fear” made Davis a worldwide literary celebrity for his bleak, apocalyptic view of Los Angeles. Brady, a leader in the revisionist movement challenging many of Davis’ facts, began to get coverage in the major newspapers and magazines and forced a new look at Davis’ works.

March 1999

The first annual Malibu Film Festival kicked off with a gala party at the Malibu Castle, overlooking the Civic Center. The gala was given by the castle’s new owner, Lilly Lawrence, and was complete with trumpeters and celebrities ranging from Gary Sinise to Mr. Blackwell. The festival honored director John Frankenheimer (“The Manchurian Candidate”) with a Lifetime Achievement Award. It screened entries from independent producers and directors from all over the world in a makeshift festival tent set up on Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Planning immediately began for the sequel.

Malibu political activist Gil Segel, under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for alleged campaign violations, was apparently undaunted and launched a new environmental group called the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy, whose stated purpose was to acquire land for environmental purposes. It was looking at the Civic Center.

The unanimous City Council decision to open negotiations with Malibu Bay Company that might include trading land for development rights in the Civic Center and at Trancas was almost scuttled when Councilmembers Keller and Van Horn had a change of heart. Hasse, who had been pushing the negotiations, stuck to his guns and was able to convince Councilmembers House and Harry Barovsky to go along, so the negotiations were apparently still a go. An ad hoc committee of Hasse and House were to begin meeting with the Bay Company.

While denying they were trying to push Hogin out of her job, the council majority, Keller-Van Horn-Hasse, hired an employment law, sexual harassment and wrongful termination legal specialist from the tony law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to advise them, at the startling rate of $420 per hour.

Webster Elementary School turned the big 50 and looked not very different from when it opened its doors in 1949 to 120 students, a teaching staff of four and six classrooms.

As part of its investigation into possible campaign finance violations during the last City Council race, the FPPC subpoenaed financial records and donor lists from Segel and his Citizens Group, who promptly filed a motion in court to block the subpoenas. Their attorney, Brad Hertz, charged, “The issuance of the subpoenas is in violation of the rights of Malibu citizens, who have never injected themselves into the political campaign process.”

April 1999

After fits and starts, the Bluffs Park playing fields, which had undergone a highly controversial renovation and several rain delays, were ready for the start of Little League season. Even with the fields back in service, there was a shortage of playing fields, and the softball diamonds at Malibu High School were recruited into service. The soccer teams split their play, with half the games at Bluffs Park and half at the high school, if the fields were available.

A 7:30 a.m. blast at Tivoli Cove Condominiums, caused by a leak from a gas fireplace, blew out large windows in two units and narrowly missed some residents. Fortunately in one condo, a family who had moved in only two days before were sleeping on futons because their furniture hadn’t yet arrived from storage. “When gas is leaking, it doesn’t take much of a spark — a light switch, a heater switching on or off, even static electricity,” to ignite the gas, said Fire Capt. Don Schwaiger.

The investigation by the FPPC into the circumstances of the 1998 City Council election took a sudden, unexpected turn with the introduction of the name of megastar and Point Dume resident Barbra Streisand into the controversy.

According to court documents, Segel, a friend and former business associate of Streisand, had obtained a $1000 contribution from the star before the last election, which was allegedly used to purchase five full-page, anonymous ads in the Malibu Surfside News. Attorneys for Segel and the group known as Malibu Citizens for Less Traffic on PCH maintained it was an educational, issue-oriented advocacy group and therefore entitled to keep donors’ names secret, and not bound by Malibu’s $100 campaign limit.

The city’s proposal for a passenger shuttle, an attempt to make peace with the California Coastal Commission, which cited the city for installing “No Parking” signs on Birdview and placing boulders that block access to the Point Dume headlands park, was roundly opposed by local residents at the council meeting.

The council was trying to eliminate parking on Birdview. The passenger shuttle, which would have run 4.9 miles up to the headlands and back, was seen by the neighbors as overkill, and the proposal was cut back significantly. No one was sure if that would satisfy the Coastal Commission and get it to back off its enforcement action against the city.

Realtor Rick Wallace reported the hot market of 1997-1998 continued into this year. The market, which first heated up in spring 1997, kept at a torrid pace for 18 months, with prices rising at about 1 percent per month. The market seemed to rest the last few months of 1998, but a hot economy, a shortage of property and low interest rates had their impact. Prices were once again rising, and sales were brisk.