City files lawsuit to compel Coastal Commission to issue development permits

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Constitutionality of the commission’s Local Coastal Plan for Malibu will also be challenged in court.

By Sylvie Belmond/Special to The Malibu Times

The City Council, in closed session before Monday night’s meeting, gave the green light to City Attorney Christi Hogin to file a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission to compel it to issue coastal development permits while the validity of the citizen’s referendum to repeal the Local Coastal Plan (LCP) is pending. The decision was made to help coastal permit applicants get through red tape and out of development limbo.

Aside from suing the Coastal Commission to prompt it to act on permits, Malibu will also challenge the LCP’s constitutionality in court because the city does not believe the commission has the right to rule on a locality in the manner it did when it drafted the LCP, which subsequently obliges the city to enforce the plan.

The city insists the LCP is a legislative act that can be subject to referendum even though the Coastal Commission states it only performed an administrative act.

The city will also challenge the legality of AB988, the bill that gave the commission the right to draft the LCP, because it believes the Legislature cannot assign its legislative activity to an appointed body; it has to be the one that legislates.

“It’s like a cop telling a civilian, here, you go arrest that guy,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ken Kearsley, in a later interview.

But to cover all fronts, the council also prioritized LCP amendment projects to guide city staff and the Planning Commission as they attempt to put the new plan in line with existing city zoning text.

Planning Director Drew Purvis asked the council to list its priorities for a number of zoning text amendment items that city staff is currently working on. As the zoning text needs to be in conformance with the coastal plan, some of the amendments will require significant adjustments so they don’t deviate from the LCP’s general idea.

From development permits to wireless telecommunication matters, the list comprised nine subjects. Hillside ordinance amendments were listed as a priority, followed by development permits and landscaping concerns.

As it struggles to develop a coastal program strategy, the council also reevaluated its role in the process. It determined that Mayor Jeff Jennings and Mayor Pro Tem Kearsley should continue to informally discuss the issues relating to the LCP with the Coastal Commission, political representatives and the public so their individual points of view about the LCP are included. However, these roles would not include any decision-making matters, which would be up to the entire City Council.

In dealing with the LCP, the city also expressed its need to have better public relations so that its positions would be properly represented in the media.

The council than juggled its need to have a lobbyist speak on its behalf in state-related matters, and it reviewed a service contract proposal with LSA, a biology consulting firm that assists Malibu with its Local Coastal Program concerns. LSA consults with Malibu on the science and biology used in the new ESHA (environmentally sensitive habitat area) designations because the city does not feel the biology of the ESHAs used by the Coastal Commission is adequate. This is also one of the amendments the city will request from the commission.

Councilmember Joan House questioned the costs of lobbyists, consulting firms and public relation representatives, noting they are not listed in the current budget.

Odyssey School requests fee waiver to use park fields

After it addressed some logistical concerns, the council granted a park usage fee waiver to Odyssey School.

The Odyssey School, a private, nonprofit school located on Las Flores Canyon Road that serves autistic children, uses Bluffs Park field for outdoor physical activity purposes. However, the school has had to pay a fee of $35 to use the fields and school administrators want to have the fee waived.

As public schools are exempt from this fee, this matter appeared to be of minimal concern at first, but Mayor Jennings pulled this request from the council’s consent calendar because he was concerned it could create a predicament for the city in the future.

“It could put the council in an awkward situation,” he said, proposing the city should create policies and guidelines regarding fee waiver requests as opposed to dealing with individual requests.

Fire safety addressed

Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief Paul Schuster made a brief appearance before the council to talk about wild fire preparedness. Although Malibu is a challenging area to defend in a fire, Schuster noted that all public agencies in the area are prepared to respond quickly if necessary.

He observed that, in a fire, the department has to make a multitude of tactical decisions but it is always focuses on saving lives first. Structure protection and the environment are also considered.

The council told Schuster that it is working on a plan that would ask residents who have a pool or a spa to install a visible placard in front of their property so the department would know if there is a water supply source available.

Seeking Civil Grand Jury volunteer

Mayor Jennings received an inquiry from the secretary of the Civic Grand Jury in Los Angeles, asking him to recommend someone who wants to serve on the Civil Grand Jury for one year. This position is a volunteer post and Jennings relayed to the City Council audience if anyone was interested, they should contact him. The job would require someone to volunteer to go downtown on a regular basis.

In other matters

The council acknowledged City Clerk Lisa Pope who received a commendation from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks for her work. Pope has worked for the city since 1995 and was chosen to fill the post of city clerk about two years ago.

At the end of Monday night’s meeting, councilmembers named a number of citizens to a variety of city committees and commissions.