New council begins to take hold

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Like a picture in a jigsaw puzzle, an image of the new City Council is beginning to take shape. A little bit from the Business Roundtable, another series of pieces from the City Council Meeting (Third Quarterly Review of the Year to Date), comments and staff reports, and a sense of direction begins to emerge about where Malibu may be headed.

The new council is starting to shape its vision and to implement it — very cautiously and politely. It’s obvious council members were still feeling each other out, and Mayor Tom Hasse was careful to give new members Jeff Jennings and Ken Kearsley an opportunity to add their input to the “To Do” list set by the previous council.

They were equally cautious about not making any sudden changes of direction. There are many things on the city’s plate, but a few things quickly emerged as central:

  • The new council wants to complete the Local Coastal Plan quickly, because once they do and it’s been accepted by the Coastal Commission, Malibu will have the Coastal Commission out of its hair. The earlier Draft Malibu Coastal Plan, which was six years in the making, was said to be DOA earlier in the year by some high-ranking coastal staff. LCP Chair Werner Keonig came to the meeting to ask the council to retain the LCP Committee and let them continue to work on the plan, but he was told the work of the committee was over and now the plan would be in the hands of the council and city staff. Hasse said to Werner, “At some point, the committee must let go and let the City Council handle it. … Outside agencies are confused as to who is speaking for the city.”
  • The city is currently interviewing for a new planning director. Henry Engen, a retired planning director, was brought on board to serve as interim director until a new director comes on board.
  • City Manager Harry Peacock will retire the end of June, and potential city manager candidates are soon to be interviewed. The list of roughly 40 applicants has been winnowed down to between five and 10.
  • The council is still one member short, and the last council decided not to appoint anyone to fill the vacancy but to wait and elect a member at the time of the general election in November. The new council has decided to take another look at the issue of appointing someone to fill the vacancy created when Harry Barovsky passed away. City Attorney Steven Amerikaner is currently researching the legality of the new council filling the vacancy by appointment. If legally permissible, the council would first decide if they want to do that and if they can muster the three votes necessary to appoint someone. Sharon Barovsky, Ted Vaill and Frank Basso have all been mentioned as possibilities for the vacancy, but whoever is appointed would have to run for the balance of the Barovsky term in November.

In other matters:

  • The city will have a Sheriff’s Beach Team again this summer, probably five days per week, with the days to rotate, at a cost to the city of about $248,932 for the season. The Sheriff’s Department estimates the Beach Team should generate about $170,000 in revenues through fines for violations, which they estimate at 4,500 citations for traffic and beach violations, and towing costs for 400 illegally parked vehicles.
  • The city’s revenues, which are estimated for the full year at $12,310,000, are on target at the end of the third quarter; expenditures also seem to be in line with predictions. However, the money the city was hoping to get from FEMA, roughly $2.5 million total, as part of the reimbursement for the 1993 fire, may not be forthcoming. FEMA has disallowed some $1.75 million of the costs (which is the worst case scenario), although the issue is still being negotiated. It’s unclear how much will ultimately be paid, but as of the end of the third quarter, the city had received only $38,881 of the $725,000 anticipated from FEMA this year. Hotel occupancy taxes and sales taxes were up, due in part to a better economy and possibly because the city, not the county, is now collecting its own money.
  • The city has made some major changes in the Dial-A-Ride program, trying to hold down costs by raising the eligibility age from 55 to 60, raising the trip cost from $1 to $2 and some other adjustments.
  • Cornucopia Farms’ Farmers Market is tentatively scheduled to open May 21 in the Civic Center; however, scheduling conflicts may delay this startup date.
  • The anticipated on-line permitting for Building/Safety and Planning permits will not happen for at least nine months, because the necessary technology isn’t available yet.
  • The city has an on-line network (LAN) up and operating for its employees, covering legislative history and such.
  • The just completed Parks and Recreation Master Plan will be coming to the council at its May 23 meeting.
  • No one is quite sure if the moisture sensors that were supposedly installed at Bluffs Park to monitor irrigation levels were ever installed and running properly. It seems that when the contractor tore up the ground to build the ball field, he said there was no sign of the sensors.
  • The Malibu Youth Coalition, which has forged ahead under the leadership of Laure Stern, already has modular buildings in place on the Malibu High School campus. The teen center, which will be the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Malibu, was officially awarded a 5-year lease. They are about to announce the name of the new director.
  • The city anticipates probably tearing down a city-owned house on the creek side of Las Flores Creek and building a pocket park with a small all-purpose building there.
  • It was reported that the county may be trying to get out of the water business and that they are putting Water Works 29, which supplies Malibu’s water, along with its Marina del Rey water system, up for sale to a private party. It’s up to Zev Yaroslavsky and the Board of Supervisors. The council’s sense was that Malibu needs more water storage, as was evident when the PCH pipeline broke, and also a second source of water, so the city is not totally dependent on that same PCH pipeline.
  • The city is going to be receiving roughly $170,000 next year from park bonds that were passed (Propositions 12 and 13).
  • The traffic emergency radio will be up and running by the fall.
  • It was reported the Code Enforcement Task Force was meeting every Monday, and its chair was invited to report its progress to the council at the May 23 meeting. This was a major election issue, and it’s clear the council wants this Task Force to do its job with all due speed.
  • At the same time, the new Planning Commission is taking a comprehensive look at the zoning code, which most seem to agree is badly in need of an overhaul.