Build Malibu Better: Positivity and Some Permit Grumbling

Paul Grisanti

Last Saturday, Sept. 7, my wife Sara and I were fortunate to join about 200 Pepperdine students, staff, faculty and other community members to participate in the university’s 12th annual “Waves of Flags” installation on Pepperdine’s PCH and Malibu canyon lawns. This 9/11 commemoration has a flag representing the nationality of each of the 2,996 individuals who were lost in the hijackings and destruction of the World Trade Center.

It was very awe inspiring to work with the group that transformed the prepared lawn into a sea of waving flags in less than an hour-and-a-half. The university does a terrific job every year spending two weeks having surveyors lay out the locations for each flag and driving a rebar anchor for the flagpoles. The rebar ends are protected by hard plastic caps to prevent accidents. When we were turned loose to place the flags, it was a joyful scene as children collect the protective caps and the adults line up to empty each of the truckloads of flags.

The installation will be there until the 25th and you should make time to walk through and around the flags with your family. It’s hard to take a bad picture there. When you stop by, please park on Malibu Canyon Road where it is legal, rather than on PCH where you are tempting a ticket.

It’s difficult to keep a grateful lump from your throat as you contemplate the nearly 3,000 lives that were snuffed out that day and the ongoing sacrifices of those who try to protect us. 

On a less inspiring note, I’m starting to hear some frustration about the process of getting from planning department approval to a live permit. As of today, the city’s website says 16 full permits have been issued. That is a rate of one per week since the first permit was issued back in May. The total number of planning applications is now at 150. By my count, there are currently 116 trying to get through engineering and plan check currently. Only 18 are still under planning review, which is staffed up and flying through this less detailed process, at a rate of about one a day.

Do we have enough plan checkers working to scrutinize the plans? What can be done to simplify and speed up the process?

A quick check of the Multiple Listing Service revealed that, within the city of Malibu’s Woolsey Fire area, there are currently about 40 active vacant land listings. The records indicate 10 burnout lots have closed escrow since Nov. 9 and that one is currently pending. I’m hoping most of these people are in another residence in the Malibu now, but so far about 10 percent of those affected by the fire have decided that rebuilding is not in the cards for them.

Estimates of what took place in the aftermath of the 1993 fire range from 20 percent to 30 percent of the homeowners not rebuilding. We can do better than that.