A code in the head

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    To the Malibu City Council:

    All I know is what I read in the paper, and from what I read in the paper I am 1) strongly supportive of Jacobson’s desire to protect the present character of the neighborhood, 2) strongly opposed to Streisand’s desire to erect an out-of-character “my house is bigger than your house” structure on an unbuildable lot and 3) deeply disappointed in the people we have in both the Planning Department and the Planning Commission. Either they are honest people who just fail to realize the inappropriateness (euphemism for stupidity) of the logic they are using to make their decisions, or they are just honestly star struck and overwhelmed by some of the names they can then drop in conversations. In either case, they are just not doing the job of maintaining the character of Malibu.

    The foregoing can be said with complete assurance that the developers, the moneyed mansion aspirers and the “property rights” folks will rise up in righteous fury in defense of these planning people. But using the Streisand/Zumirez Drive fiasco as an example of the decision making capability of the planning people, let’s look at what they said and what they did.

    The planning director has stated that his role is to enforce a zoning code, but he apparently fails to recognize or realize that every time a variance to code has been granted, a new code has been established. And the same failure is evidenced by the members of the Malibu Planning Commission. When the chairman of the commission wanted to build a house that was not allowed by the code, the code was changed for his benefit — that is, a variance was granted based on: “All I’m asking for is the right to build to the neighborhood standards,” and, “It would be punitive for the commission to reject these plans when it had approved the similar project next door.”

    The planning staff and commission do not enforce the code, they are constantly revising the code.

    With reference to the Streisand affair, when the planning director says, “If you say no to the 28 feet, you have to identify why that is adverse.” He is wrong. You don’t have to identify anything other than it is not allowed by code.

    And his threat that, “You are at risk if you treat her differently than someone else,” also makes me wonder what he really thinks his job to be. If no variances are granted and she is constrained to build to code, where does the risk arise? Of course, I deduce from the articles in the paper that “no variances” would mean that setbacks from the bluff edge and from the lot boundaries would make the lot unbuildable. And if that is true, again, where does the risk arise? When one buys real estate, the purchase does not carry with it an automatic variance to any or all code requirements. It is not the responsibility of either the planning department or the planning commission to revise the code as necessary to allow her to build as she wishes or to allow her to build at all if she cannot build to code.

    E. C. Spevak