New activist group seeks to include prodevelopment faction in discussions

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Formed only recently, Malibu CAN has not yet set an agenda on how to accomplish its goals.

By Jonathan Friedman/Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Community Action Network (CAN) is still in its infancy, but the group has already attracted attention. About 85 people attended the organization’s March meeting. The group was formed by people who say they are looking for answers to questions that came up last fall when the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) came out for the Malibu Bay Company Development Agreement. As they were submitting questions to the city, they decided to have a meeting to discuss some of the issues. Malibu CAN’s leaders include John Mazza, Ozzie Silna, John Uhring and former Mayor Walt Keller (who refused to be interviewed for this article), people known in Malibu to often challenge development. But Silna insists this is more than just a group of the same old names.

“This hasn’t germinated into a full-fledged operating organization yet, but there are a lot of people who you are going to start hearing from in terms of coming to meetings or writing letters to the editor,” he said.

One of those people Silna included among the newly active people in Malibu was Robert Carmichael. An avid surfer and outdoorsmen, Carmichael said he moved to Malibu in the mid-80s because he was attracted to the clean air and water. He said he wants to continue to live in a Malibu where progress is not considered growth.

“Malibu CAN offers to the citizens the awareness of how dense the development process is potentially going to be through the Malibu Bay plan,” he said.

But Carmichael said he is aware that it is impossible to avoid all development in Malibu. He said MBC’s Jerry Perenchio could go down as one of the city’s greatest heroes if he would lighten up on his development plans. MBC did not return phone calls for this article. But for now, Carmichael sees a dangerous future for the city’s rural atmosphere if the development agreement were to be approved as it now stands. He added that the city is not helped at all by its current political representatives.

“The City Council has recently become very much pro-development, much more than the previous ones with Walt Keller,” he said.

Mazza said he does not want this group to be considered an anti-development organization. He said they are against nothing, and that is why they have chosen the positive sounding name, Malibu CAN. Mazza said what he hopes to see for the group is a forum where different factions from within the city can come together to get things done.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people have earned reputations in Malibu,” he said. “There’s a lot of finger pointing in this town, and because of that nothing ever passes”

Like Carmichael, Mazza said he knows there is going to be development in Malibu. But he said he wants to see development where there are going to be positives for the people and the developers. Uhring said he agreed with that.

“It’s not being against development,” he said. “It’s making sure that development doesn’t overpower what Malibu is today.”

Silna said he believes the general consensus is for the City for Malibu to have a great deal of open space, parks and other natural surroundings. He said most of the population wants to see a Malibu that sticks to the vision statement found in the city’s General Plan. It states that, “(Malibu) citizens have historically evidenced a commitment to sacrifice urban and suburban conveniences in order to protect that environment and lifestyle, and to preserve unaltered natural resources and rural characteristics.” Silna said Malibu CAN has the ability to be an organization to work toward keeping the vision statement true to Malibu.

But Mazza stressed that Malibu CAN will not be a political group. He said there is a general agreement among the leaders to keep it that way. Malibu CAN will not nominate candidates. But Silna said the group has put support for the school district’s parcel tax on its agenda. He said that is because it is a positive thing for the community.

Mazza said he hoped to attract people to the group who may lean more toward the pro-development stance. That would go along with his idea for creating a community forum. He said with that there was more likely a chance for things to get done. Paul Almond, who has attended the group’s meetings, said it is a good opportunity to get as many people involved as possible.

“The one thing that will kill Malibu is apathy,” he said. “If people are for development, they should come in and express that. But don’t stay home and leave it in the hands of a few people.”