Malibu City Council ticked off a laundry list of agenda items during its Monday, July 13, virtual meeting—the only council meeting scheduled for the month (council traditionally takes its summer recess the second week of July).
At the top of the meeting, Mayor Karen Farrer handed over the reins of the city to Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson, who will serve as mayor for approximately the next nine months. The council election—in which the five council members vote for a mayor and pro tem—followed the expected rotation, with Pierson becoming mayor and Council Member Skylar Peak sworn in as mayor pro tem.
Both Pierson and Farrer were elected to council in November 2018, just days before the Woolsey Fire, and have so far steered Malibu through two disasters, which they both referenced in statements at the top of the council meeting.
It appeared that, at least for the immediate future, that rotation would continue, as council decided not to pursue a city charter for a directly elected mayor or strong mayor, with most council members saying only a small number of vocal residents expressed a desire to change the form of government in Malibu.
“Obviously, these things should be needs-driven,” Council Member Rick Mullen said, adding that the proposal to change the form of government was “a bit of the tail wagging the dog.”
But Council Member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner took exception to that characterization.
“The reason this came up is because a number of people, not a handful, a number of people have mentioned this to a number of us, whether you recognize it or not,” Wagner said, later adding, “To overlook this and simply cast it aside, I think you’re going to make a number of people aggravated that they didn’t even get a chance to vote on a charter city.”
Pierson agreed with Mullen, suggesting perhaps residents submit a petition if they feel strongly that the city should consider becoming a charter city.
“Jefferson said he’s had a lot of people approach him and, to my surprise, I have not,” Pierson said. He added that those in favor were not “wrong,” but that they should make their voices heard if they want the city to move forward toward a directly elected mayor or city charter.
Peak and Farrer agreed with Pierson and Mullen that it was not the time to pursue a change in city government.
Speed humps on Point Dume
Low turnout seemed to be the theme of the evening Monday, as only two members of the public expressed opinions on a proposal to construct speed humps on Dume Drive and Fernhill Drive on Point Dume.
Planning Commissioner John Mazza spoke in favor of the project, describing that it was borne from the increase in traffic due to the merging of Juan Cabrillo and Point Dume Marine Science elementary schools into one, combined Malibu Elementary.
“The genesis of this came when the schools merged and the planning commission gave them a CUP [conditional operating permit] to operate the two schools; it became apparent with the projected number of students that there’d be a big influx of traffic, because traffic before was all local,” Mazza described, adding, “I hope you approve them. The school district is very much in favor of this and it will solve a lot of problems.”
The sole speaker against the project was Point Dume resident Jane Albrect, who pointed out that speed bumps and speed humps also slow down police and fire department response times—in addition, Point Dume residents vocally opposed the implementation of speed humps on the point just a few short years ago, Albrecht reminded council.
“Interestingly, in the conversation so far, I’ve heard nothing about anyone talking about the residents of Point Dume,” she said—but previously, residents did not support the move. “They were well attended; residents came. Some were in favor, some were opposed, but by far, many were opposed at that time. We’re talking only a few years ago.” The traffic calming measures were last discussed in 2016.
But council members Farrer and Peak agreed that speeding on the point had gotten out of control.
A unanimous (5-0) vote by council approved the speed hump project to be added to the city’s work plan for this year, with construction to start very soon. “I have a contractor who’s actually working and I can have them do it pretty quickly, probably in the next few weeks, if the council wants to move forward,” Malibu Public Works Director Rob DuBoux said at the meeting.
Letter penned in support of LASD
Just weeks after upheaval over the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, council had before it on Monday a proposal to send a letter to LA County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Alex Villanueva to address the local sheriff’s department’s use of force policy.
“At the June 8, 2020, City Council regular meeting, the council discussed the tragic death of George Floyd who died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck as he lay on the ground unable to move. Protests and civil unrest immediately spread across the country decrying the excessive use of force by law enforcement, particularly against African Americans,” a staff report for Monday’s meeting read. “The council requested an item be brought back for discussion and to consider sending a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Alex Villanueva regarding the sheriff’s department’s use of force policy.”
“I think we as a council should make a hard stand and address police brutality, and maybe send a letter,” Peak suggested during the June 8 meeting.
On July 13, council agreed to send a letter—not addressing police brutality, but rather voicing support of the LASD.
“I’d say the war on cops is backing this one,” Mullen suggested, adding that law officers have a “very difficult job.”
“I would say firemen are more popular, but you can live without firemen and you can’t live without police officers,” Mullen continued. “They are the ones that keep the wolves at bay. They are the thin blue line.
“My experience with them is they are all very professional and they have to be very careful about the things they do,” he continued, adding, “I would be cautious to say anything that says anything shy of, ‘We appreciate our law enforcement.’”
Pierson added that, although sometimes officers may “go sideways,” “from what I can see, our local sheriffs do a very good job.”
In the end, council voted to authorize the mayor “to send a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva expressing appreciation for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and its work during the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraging specialized training on the use of force for all deputes to assist them in their dedicated service to the community.”
By-district elections off the table
Residents will not be asked to vote on council districts in Malibu this fall, according to City Attorney Christi Hogin, due to factors including the ongoing health crisis, national census and the precedent-setting legal decision recently handed down in Santa Monica.
“Given that the law is in flux and the process of developing the maps was disrupted by the pandemic and would be better off after the census data is available, the city is not going to move forward with a ballot measure for the 2020 election,” Hogin said, meaning that at-large elections will continue in Malibu—at least for now.