If he had a hammer


    To those who don’t believe that the Malibu Zoning Code doesn’t need some changes, here’s a summary of the bizarre experience I had at the Zoning Department. This story is not written for amusement but to alert the people who live in Malibu that we are all under a financial uzi with the Zoning Department and its latest penalties. This could happen to anyone in the city who wants to do even a minor repair to their home.

    I recently went down to the planning counter to ask about what would be required if I wanted to expand a bathroom in my 40-year-old, four-bedroom house. With a straight face, the young man behind the counter told me that I would need to get a complete geology report ($6,000), structural engineering drawings and other reports ($3,000), and pay application and inspection fees ($1,500).

    As if spending $10,500 in studies and fees for a 100-square-foot addition wasn’t enough, then he told me that, of course, all of my property would have to be brought up to code. I live on three acres that are not visible to the road nor neighbors and the home was not built with a two-car garage. I said, “You mean I would have to build a two-car garage?” He said yes and that it would have to be a minimum of 600 square feet. Of course that would require a geology report, structural plans etc., and would probably cost in the range of $50,000. And I’m sure I’d have to remove my front security gate and build a new one because the old one is outside the newer setback ($10,000 with plans and fees).

    Now I am looking at spending at least $70,000 before I even lift a hammer to my bathroom. But the worst part of it is that when the inspector comes to see what needs to be brought up to code, I’m sure he’ll find a dozen or more items that have been fine for 40 years but that he thinks need to be upgraded. Now if it turns out that I don’t feel like writing a check for $70,000 for the new garage, new gate as well as thousands of dollars for upgrades (including maybe a new driveway), the inspector will cite me for at least a dozen misdemeanor violations and start fining me $1,000 for each one or $12,000 a day. It won’t take long at that rate for the city to take all my equity in the house. You better start calling your City Council member because it’s only a matter of time before this happens to you. They should change the law so that if you want to repair an item in your house they should leave the rest of the property alone.

    Name withheld on request