Council declines to reject controversial permit

Concrete marks the Chadwick home under construction next to the Adler home on Carbon Beach. Arnold G. York / TMT

The council members say it would be unfair to punish the property owner for a mistake made by the city. In other matters, the city attorney says the city cannot sell the buildings on the Chili Cook-Off site if it buys the property.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

Following more than an hour of testimony and lengthy discussion, the City Council decided not to reject the building permit of Carbon Beach property owner Bill Chadwick, despite a Superior Court judge having ruled that the permit was incorrectly issued. The council voted 4-1 against the revocation, with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich casting the dissenting vote. Music producer Lou Adler, who lives next to the property and who had requested the revocation, said he was not surprised by the outcome because the council had received an unbalanced staff report that opposed revocation.

In September, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ruled that the permit issued to Chadwick violated the stringline requirement, a law that has since been adjusted that prevents the building-out of beach front homes beyond the line of adjacent homes. But Yaffe did not invalidate the permit, choosing instead to force the council to reject Chadwick’s permit and force him to tear down a home already under construction, or to allow him to keep a permit that was incorrectly issued. The council members argued that since the stringline law being used no longer exists, it could not start a precedent. Conley Ulich said that was irrelevant.

“The permit is void from the beginning … I am not persuaded that for us not to respect our own laws is justified because we’ve changed our laws,” Conley Ulich said.

But Mayor Sharon Barovsky said it was not Chadwick’s fault that the stringline requirement was not followed properly, but rather the blame went to the former planning manager who had made the mistake. When the city granted Chadwick the approval in concept for the project, Barovsky said, he had no reason to believe the Planning Department had done something wrong.

“He got a permit in good faith,” Barovsky said. “He built in good faith… I just don’t feel that because the city has done something [wrong], any resident should have to pay the price.”

After the meeting, Adler said he was not surprised by the decision. He said City Attorney Christi Hogin’s staff report that was issued to the council was slanted in Chadwick’s favor. In the report, Hogin listed eight reasons for not revoking Chadwick’s permit, while she provided two reasons why revoking the permit would be a good idea. Also, the staff report only included resolution language for the council if it decided not to reject the permit. Hogin said this was because a formal resolution would not be needed if the council decided to reject the permit. Adler’s attorney, Edward Burg, said that was not true.

The city must report to Judge Yaffe next month. He will then decide if the city’s decision was in line with his ruling. Adler can present the judge with reasons he believes the city did not do so. He can also appeal Yaffe’s original ruling. Adler said he did not know if he would pursue further legal action.

Wasting no time on wastewater

At the meeting the council unanimously voted to hire Questa Engineering to conduct a study to determine the best place to build a wastewater treatment facility in Malibu. At its Dec. 13 meeting, the council will go into greater detail on what should be included in the study. John Mazza, who said he was speaking on behalf of the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy and Civic Center business interests (that he declined to disclose), said he wanted to make sure the city would be considering properties besides the Chili Cook-Off site for the facility’s location. Currently, four Civic Center property owners have offered to sell their lands to the city, including the Malibu Bay Co., which owns the Chili Cook-Off site, the 20-acre property that stretches along Pacific Coast Highway from Cross Creek Road to Webb Way.

During this discussion, Hogin said that she has been in discussions with Malibu Bay attorney Dick Volpert. She said Volpert has told her that Malibu Bay wants a final deal on a municipal purchase of the property to include a restriction that prevents the city from ever selling the three buildings on it, which currently house Malibu Lumber, Coldwell Banker and Malibu Animal Hospital. It is not known at press time why Malibu Bay would want such restrictions.

Tax talk

The council scheduled a meeting for Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. to discuss placing a half-cent sales tax on the March ballot. The council would need to prepare a measure by Dec. 10. Barovsky had originally proposed the tax revenue go toward law enforcement. Mazza said half of it should go toward the city for parks and ball fields. Barovsky agreed that would be a good thing to consider, and said she would want to hear what the community suggested on Dec. 7.

Earlier this month, the county proposed a half-cent sales tax to go toward law enforcement services, but voters rejected it.