Council postpones vote on view restoration ordinance

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After more than an hour of public comment and two hours spent trying to hammer out an agreement on a view restoration ordinance, the Malibu City Council Monday voted to continue the item to a future meeting. The ordinance would establish a private right of action for property owners to restore views that existed at the time of cityhood in 1991, but that have since been significantly obstructed by tree and other foliage growth on neighboring properties. The council will likely take up the issue again at its Oct. 24 meeting.

The ordinance stems from an advisory measure in 2008 voted for by 60 percent of Malibu voters which asked: “Should the Malibu City Council adopt an ordinance that would require the removal or trimming of landscaping in order to restore and maintain primary views from private homes?”

The major disagreement among the council centered around the issue of retroactive restoration of views that have become obstructed by foliage growth subsequent to cityhood in 1991. Councilmember Lou La Monte wanted to strike all language about restoring views from the ordinance, and advocated solely enforcing views that currently exist from now on. La Monte said retroactively restoring views would lead to a number of lawsuits that could bankrupt the city.

But Councilmember Jefferson Wagner and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal disagreed. Wagner noted that the voters specifically voted to “restore” views when they approved the referendum by a 60 percent vote in 2008. Wagner and Rosenthal appeared to be in a minority, with Mayor John Sibert and Councilmembers La Monte and Pamela Conley Ulich in favor of scrapping view restoration in favor of view preservation.

The council did make progress on several issues. For one, the council appeared to agree not to offer free mediation for neighbors attempting to come to a resolution over tree removal. The mediation sessions had been potentially projected to cost the city more than $1 million.

Another idea proposed by Rosenthal was a tree height ordinance. The ordinance would specify a maximum height for trees that block primary views of neighbors. Some potential maximum heights discussed were 16 or 18 feet. The tree ordinance would not apply to trees which do not block neighbors’ primary views.

The council also agreed the planning commission, and not a newly created view restoration commission, should make view determinations about which views individual property owners were entitled to. Plans for the proposed view restoration commission were scrapped.