Activist says he advised counsel selection on Silna suit

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Forge Lodge set for trial this week. Septic permit notices sent out to multifamily, commercial property owners.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

Malibu resident Lloyd Ahern said he was the one who told Wade Major to hire the law firm, Richards Watson and Gershon, to represent him in his case against Malibu CAN activist Ozzie Silna. In last week’s issue of The Malibu Times, Silna’s attorney, Abraham M. Rudy, said he believes the city had some connection to the suit, noting that City Attorney Christi Hogin used to work there.

“My personal belief is that this is no mere coincidence,” Rudy told The Malibu Times last week. “And whether it is because they [Richards Watson] were asked to do it by the city, or if the city is paying for their services or they are doing it pro bono to ingratiate the city, it is inconceivable that Wade just happened to fall onto these people at the 11th hour when all looked grim.”

But Ahern said he told Major to hire Richards Watson because it was the firm that represented his cousin, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, when he had to deal with campaign legal issues in 2000.

Major was sued by Silna for attorney fees after Major had unsuccessfully attempted to get a temporary restraining order that would have prevented Silna from spending more than $100 per candidate during the 2004 City Council election campaign.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman, who ruled against the temporary restraining order also ruled against Silna’s attempt to seek attorney fees. Silna said he had not decided whether to appeal that decision, but he said Rudy had requested several election-related documents from the city of Malibu so “a global approach to what is involved can be evaluated.” Rudy could not be reached for comment.

Forge Lodge set for trial

The Forge Lodge project was expected to go before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday. The trial was supposed to take place last week, but was delayed by the judge for unspecified reasons.

The City Council approved the Forge Lodge project in April 2003. It called for the construction of a 27-unit bed and breakfast complex along the northeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Corral Canyon Road. Despite the council reducing the size of each unit from the Planning Commission’s recommendation of 680 square feet to 580 square feet, the Sierra Club sued.

The Sierra Club said the project had a defective environmental impact report, which did not address a number of issues, including its alleged threat to the reintroduction of steelhead trout in nearby Solstice Canyon Creek. Also, the Sierra Club said it was concerned the project would be within the 100-foot setback of an environmentally sensitive habitat area. Section 17.40.080 of the municipal code states that “where feasible, all structures shall be set back a minimum of 100 feet from an environmentally sensitive habitat area.”

But others have complained a double standard exists when it comes to possible ESHA violations. They say National Park Service projects in the area have threatened nearby ESHAs, but failed to raise concerns by the Sierra Club. A representative from the Sierra Club told The Malibu Times last year that he had been looking closely at the National Park Service projects, and that the situations were not the same.

Septic tank talk

At the June 14 City Council meeting, a representative from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board said a notice had been sent out to 75 commercial and multifamily structure owners who did not have septic tank permits. He said the people must respond by July 15 to explain why they are exempt from permits if they are.