City looking to amend zoning code

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Changes would clarify and streamline the Interim Zoning Ordinance, say

commissioners. Associate Planner Sheila Powers leaves post after three years, with her last

meeting full of criticism from irate resident seeking to have neighbor’s trees cut down.

By Jonathan Friedman/Special to Malibu Times

With the goal being to clean up the city’s zoning laws, the Planning Commission will be making a series of recommendations to the City Council in the coming weeks on amendments to the city’s Interim Zoning Ordinance (IZO). Called Zoning Text Amendments (ZTA), they could bring some relief for everybody involved in Malibu’s planning process.

“The ZTAs, regarding the IZO, will clarify it, streamline it, and make it more effective,” Commission Chair Richard Carrigan said in an interview earlier this year.

The IZO has been a target of blame for many people frustrated with the planning process in Malibu, saying its ambiguity and occasionally contradictory content make it difficult for clear decisions to be made. In an interview earlier this year, architect Ed Niles said the IZO had a lot to do with Malibu’s high turnover rate in the Planning Department.

The ZTA amendment proposals came about at Monday’s meeting when the commission discussed the city’s regulations on wireless telecommunications antennas and facilities. The application and installation process for wireless facilities became a concern for some people two years ago when the Public Works Department issued permits for Sprint PCS to put eight wireless facilities in the public right-of-way. But the public became inquisitive when Sprint was required to notify the public that it had permit waivers pending with the California Coastal Commission for its facilities, but nothing was required from the city.

This led to a series of Public Works Commission hearings during 2001 and 2002 in which the public and wireless company representatives participated, eventually leading to the ZTA proposal.

The Planning Commission chose to hold off on making a recommendation after hearing from two wireless company attorneys and resident Ryan Embree, who is also a Public Safety commissioner, at the meeting. They brought up several concerns, including possible legal issues. The commission asked for city staff to come back with information to clarify those concerns, and it will then vote on a recommendation at its next meeting.

This week’s meeting marked the final one for Associate Planner Sheila Powers. She is leaving her position after three years to join the planning staff in the city of Temecula. But her last meeting was an eventful one as Powers saw herself become the focus of Harold Greene’s appeal of Eric and Colette Brooks’ plan to add a second-story to their home.

Greene alleged that Powers had written a sloppy and misleading staff report that included several fabrications. During his nearly 15-minute talk, he accused Powers of everything from misrepresenting his objections to not going through the proper planning procedure.

But the commission was unimpressed with all of Greene’s arguments, and called his accusations of Powers inappropriate. They voted 4-0 against his appeal; Vice Chair David Fox was not there. But the Brooks’ attorney, Alan Block, said the reason for what he and the commission considered to be a baseless appeal was because Greene’s purpose for it had nothing to do with the construction of the second-story at all. He said it was an attempt by Greene to get the Brooks to remove eucalyptus trees on their property that blocked some of his ocean view.

The Brooks said the eucalyptus trees provide privacy for their home. During the testimony, Colette Brooks said she would be open to trimming five or six feet of the trees if they could still preserve their privacy, but only if Greene would drop the appeal. Carrigan said he hoped the two families could still work something out that would satisfy both of them, including the possibility of trimming the trees.

“If you guys don’t end up being careful, you’re going to end up owning property in paradise, but living in Hell,” he warned them.