May through August

May 1999

In a close call for two local daycare center operators and the children who attend those centers, the Planning Commission bowed to a room full of angry parents and unanimously agreed the Wonder Years Day Care Center on Point Dume and the Garden of Childhood in Malibu Park could remain open. Ewing had earlier strictly applied the Zoning Code and turned down the application for the 12-child facilities. “I’m a literalist when it comes to the zoning code,” he said.

The issue was whether parking requirements for businesses apply to residential day care centers. It took a room full of parents with toddlers in tow to unanimously convince the commission it did not.

The Sierra Club held a meeting to drum up support for the tearing down of Rindge Dam. The100-foot-tall dam, located up Malibu Creek, has been in place for the better part of this century. The environmentalists hope tearing down the dam will restore the habitat of the Southern Steelhead trout.

As they have in the past, the proponents of taking down the dam met the opposition of Ron Rindge, for whose grandmother May the dam is named, as well as several residents of Sierra Retreat who feared removing the dam might create a flooding problem in their neighborhood below. State Parks would allocate $1.5 for a feasibility study.

In a move that surprised many, the City Council turned out to be party animals after all and unanimously turned down a proposal that would have sharply limited the size and frequency of parties that residents may have in their homes each year. The Planning Commission had recommended a limit to residents of two parties a year of no more then 50 people, and they wanted locals to obtain temporary use permits for some events. Many complained of governmental overreaching, and the idea died a quick death.

Two local surfers, Simon Kennedy, 50, and Ian Hickman, 36, committed suicide in the parking lot at the top of Corral Canyon. One was found slumped down in the seat of a van and the other was lying in a beach chair. Both had died of gunshot wounds, and two weapons were found.

After more than a year of work and deliberation, the Planning Commission came up with a hillside ordinance that just about asked to take control of everything on the landside of Malibu. Even the City Council balked at passing an ordinance that would have given the Planning Commission as much control as it wanted. It wanted approval rights on house shape, color, lighting, windows, skylights, and trim. Objections were raised to the commissioners becoming arbiters of style, taste and even color of the houses, and questions were raised about whether earth tones meant no white walls and no red roofs, as some commissioners wanted.

Malibu prosecutors filed a five-count misdemeanor criminal complaint against O’Neill and a political action committee called Road Worriers for violations of the Malibu Municipal Code Campaign Finance Ordinance in connection with the April 1998 council race. Ultimately, the complaint was thrown out by a Superior Court judge in Santa Monica because the city had waited too long before acting and the Statute of Limitations on the offenses had run. The city did not appeal the decision.

June 1999

Forty to 50 teachers from Malibu hit the picket lines outside the SM-MUSD board meeting, along with 250 teachers from Santa Monica, to protest the breakdown in contract negotiations. The district, which had enjoyed 12 years of labor relations peace, apparently stumbled a bit when it granted administrators a raise of between 9.5 to 12 percent and then balked at going over 5.75 percent for teachers and 3 percent for substitutes. The matter quickly settled.

Rev. David Worth, pastor of Malibu Presbyterian Church and longtime community leader, left after 23 years. He returned to the church in Illinois where he first began his career, and where he and his wife were married and his children baptized.

Hogin resigned with a total termination package amounting to $227,000. There were varying interpretations as to what the payout meant. The Keller-Van Horn-Hasse group said her leaving and the payment had nothing to do with the campaign finance investigation and lawsuit (which a judge later threw out of court). Councilwoman Joan House had a different view: “If we offer the staff two years pay to leave, I suspect there would be a mass exodus. The amount of money we are using to pay off our city attorney is shameful…”

Actor Robert Downey Jr., whose on-again, off-again battle with drug addiction since age 10 had been the subject of tabloid headlines for years, admitted to Malibu Municipal Court Judge Lawrence Mira he had relapsed into drug usage. Mira immediately revoked his bail and returned him to custody.

The Malibu Bay Company, owned by both the Perenchio family and the Konheim family, had a change of ownership. In a friendly buyout, the Perenchios bought out the Konheim family interests.

July 1999

Annually, Worth magazine ranks the 250 richest towns in America based upon median home prices. This year’s list was once again top heavy with California cities — 13 of the top 20. Malibu finished 54th overall. It seems, however, by counting only single-family homes, Malibu would have been in 23rd place, with a median of $825,000.

The California Regional Water Quality Control Board had been after the city of Malibu to find out whether the city was contributing to the pollution in Malibu Lagoon. The city reluctantly agreed to spend $68,000 on a study of its septic systems but expressed some reservation that the RWQCB already had its mind made up. Hasse told the RWQCB, “Every time we get together, the thing I hear coming from you is the conclusion is already reached … that you just don’t like septic systems and you’re going to continue to study and study and study until you find evidence that septic systems are polluting.”

The first six months of Malibu homes sales in 1999 saw a stunning movement and evaporation of the low end of the Malibu market. Beachfront homes for less than $1 million and landside home for less than $600,000 disappeared from the inventory.

A burgeoning enrollment at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School and the school’s need for more space meant a pink slip was going out to a number of activities that leased space in the Community Center, forcing it to leave or cut back on the amount of space used. The longtime tenants at risk included yoga classes, the Children’s Creative Workshop and the Seniors Club.

August 1999

FEMA announced it was giving the city of Malibu a $150,000 study grant to examine the possibility of flood mitigation in the Civic Center area. Then, it dropped a bombshell and said one of the options for reducing the risk of flood damage in the Civic Center was to restore at least part of the Civic Center’s presumed status as a wetland and then perhaps to tear down some existing development. Segel, president of the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy, concurred and said, “If we had our druthers, we’d make it all open space.”

Downey’s string finally ran out, and an obviously exasperated Mira sentenced the Academy Award nominee to three years in prison for violating the terms of probation on drugs and weapons charges. “It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth, my finger on the trigger and I like the taste of gun metal,” said Downey, describing his addiction to drugs.

What had been a relatively crisis-free year changed suddenly when a landslide near Tuna Canyon in eastern Malibu fractured the 30-inch watermain that brings Malibu its fresh, drinkable water. The woefully inadequate storage tanks spaced out over Malibu, which together hold only a 24-hour supply of water, quickly began emptying, and water taps in certain areas of Malibu began to run dry. After the repair of the broken main, it took almost a week to refill all the storage tanks.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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