Music mogul’s lawsuit goes to trial

Lou Adler is trying to get the permit revoked for the home of his Carbon Beach neighbor. This conflict first appeared before the Planning Commission, and led to the firing of two of its members and the resignation of a third.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

A conflict that rocked the Malibu city government late last year will finally have its day in court nearly a year after it led to the firing of two planning commissioners and the resignation of a third. Music and film producer Lou Adler’s lawsuit against the city to get his neighbor, Bill Chadwick’s, building permit revoked will be heard by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Tuesday.

In December 2003, during the public comment portion of a Planning Commission meeting, the commission was approached by Adler and several of his representatives and neighbors about a request to hear an appeal of a permit for Chadwick’s Carbon Beach home. They said the planning director at that time had not made proper calculations when he had issued the planning approval for the project in 2000. The commission is allowed to listen to comments during the public comment portion of a meeting, but cannot take action on an item if it is not on the agenda. However, the commissioners asked several clarifying questions about the item and eventually voted to hear the appeal on a future agenda.

Several days later, City Attorney Christi Hogin publicly accused the commission of having violated the Brown Act, a law that deals with government open-meeting rules. Then-Planning Commission Chair Robert Adler (not related to Lou Adler) responded that had the commission in fact violated the Brown Act, Deputy City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich, who was at the meeting, should have said something. Hogin said that was not Kovacevich’s responsibility, although Hogin can often be seen at City Council meetings, interrupting the councilmembers to remind them when they may be edging toward Brown Act violation.

Later that month, Mayor Sharon Barovsky (at the time the mayor pro tem) and Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern (at the time a regular councilmember) fired their respective appointed commissioners, Deirdre Roney and Robert Adler, because they said the commissioners had violated the Brown Act by discussing and taking action on an item not on the agenda and for allegedly discussing the item prior to the commission meeting. Also, Barovsky and Stern said the commission had put the city at a serious financial risk by agreeing to hear an appeal long after the permit had been granted. In response to the firings, Richard Carrigan resigned from his post on the commission.

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Roney, Adler and Carrigan said the firings had little to do with an alleged Brown Act violation, but rather were a response to Roney’s and Adler’s publicly neutral stance on Measure M, the failed Malibu Bay Co. Development Agreement that the council heavily backed. Barovsky and Stern denied the accusation.

Adler later sued the city to get Chadwick’s permit revoked. His camp alleged that the design of Chadwick’s home (which is still under construction) does not follow the old string line requirement, which prevents the building-out of beachfront homes beyond the line of adjacent homes. That law has since been altered, but would still apply to Chadwick’s home, because the permit was granted when the old string line rule was in effect. Chadwick’s attorney, Alan Block, and the city have said Chadwick’s home meets the standards of the rule. Block has added that even if the design did violate the rule, the ability to appeal the approval has long since expired. Also, he has pointed out that the California Coastal Commission has twice approved the project.

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

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