Economic plan committee debates its usefulness


A public advisory committee whose purpose is to produce an economic plan for Malibu was forced to confront on Tuesday evening whether there is sufficient interest in the project to continue. With barely half of its 15 members in attendance at the City Hall meeting, Kara Fox asked, “Do we matter?”

Noting there did not appear to be a good showing, she lamented that the project would die for lack of interest. “Maybe we should have a more active body,” she said.

Mary Lou Blackwood, agreeing she didn’t want to waste time, suggested those who miss three meetings in a row might be dropped from the committee.

Fox asked whether the City Council will use the committee’s findings if it produces the plan. Blackwood remarked that the council is free to take the plan, dissect it, and accept some, all or nothing.

“I think they will listen carefully,” said John Wall, committee chairman. He added the council is the only party with any real authority and will ultimately determine whether the venture has been a waste of time.

Sam Hall Kaplan described the committee’s work as a “demonstration of hope over experience.” He urged the committee should lay out alternatives and a vision for Malibu. But he confessed that if he were to rely on presumptions about what the City Council might do, he would be “out the door.”

Turning to the committee’s immediate task, Wall reviewed an Oct. 26 meeting with consultant Steve Wahlstrom of Applied Development Economics. Wahlstrom, whose business dates to 1985, will have 60 days in which to compile a report. His work will begin Nov. 15, and the report will be due in mid-January, although the deadline is not a firm one.

The committee then drew up a list of 15 residents of Malibu who will likely receive half-hour phone calls from Wahlstrom. The residents fell into several categories: community leaders, environmental leaders, business leaders, advocates of slow growth, developers, those familiar with local shopping practices and a representative of Pepperdine University.

Grant Adamson, vice chair of the committee, objected to including members of the City Council among the community leaders to be contacted.

The committee unanimously approved a list of 22 interviewees. Kaplan objected to the inclusion of Coastal Commission Chair Sara J. Wan on the list. He said she had demonstrated an animus toward Malibu. Blackwood, who had proposed Wan’s inclusion, withdrew the name when Fox remarked that Wan did not look at Malibu objectively.