Council Votes to Declare Malibu in ‘Climate Emergency’

A map shows properties scheduled for phases one, two and three of the Malibu Civic Center Water Treatment Facility Project. Blue parcels were scheduled for phase three, with property owners wishing them to move into phase two. Red properties were either not included in the project but wishing to join, or were requesting additional water flow capability. 

Malibu is in the midst of a “climate emergency.”

That’s according to four out of five Malibu City Council members, who voted Monday night to declare a climate emergency and request nearby cities join Malibu in a “regional collaboration on an immediate just transition and emergency mobilization effort to restore a safe climate.”

Citing an increase of wildfires, drought conditions and sea level rise, Council Members Skylar Peak and Mikke Pierson together proposed an item declaring a climate emergency, requesting the other cities in the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments (better known as the COG) join Malibu in the declaration.

Mayor Pro Tem Karen Farrer first suggested using the COG as a starting point for rallying support for the declaration, an idea seized upon by Mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner.

“Between the five cities [Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu and Westlake Village], we have a population over 100,000, and that’s a strong enough message to move forward with,” Wagner said.

A number of community members stayed at the meeting until nearly 10 p.m. Monday to voice support for the measure, including Lance Simmens—previously involved in Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project—who described a dire situation for the earth.

“We are beyond mitigation,” Simmens warned. “It’s all about adaptation at this point—the mitigation is gone. We’re going to have to learn how to adapt to what we have created.” He later added that, while the planet itself would survive climate change, humans may not.

“This is about survival of the species, not survival of the planet,” he remarked.

The one dissenting vote came from Council Member Rick Mullen, who suggested much of the rhetoric surrounding climate change was exaggerated.

“There’s a lot of doomsday predictions on the environment that have been going on since I was a kid,” Mullen said, adding that “a lot of good things” have happened to the earth in the last few decades as well, such as an increase in population of gray whales. 

“The whole ‘emergency’ thing—the doomsday—they’re things that go on all the time,” Mullen said, adding, “I think we freak out our kids a little bit too much.” He added that he respected the “passion” of his fellow council members.

Additional applications for sewer hook-up denied

Council voted unanimously, 4-0, to not allow additional properties in the Civic Center area to join the Civic Center Water Treatment Facility Phase Two project. 

Wagner recused himself from the hearing, as a homeowner with property in the area served by the sewer project.

The additional properties, numbering 16 in all, including private homes, hotels and other businesses, were all denied their applications to be added to the second phase of the multiyear project.

Properties requested to be added to the sewer following the last-minute addition of the Hughes Research Lab (HRL) property to the sewer earlier this year, which seemed to spark hope other property owners would be given a last chance to hook up to the sewer project. But this was not to be.

“The benefit of having Hughes Research Laboratory in phase two is that they have a tremendous capacity to take the recycled water, regardless of whether there’s a wet weather event,” City Manager Reva Feldman explained. Feldman detailed that “the capacity of the treatment facility is based on the capacity of the injection wells … What do you do with that clean water if there is a wet weather event and you can’t irrigate with it?”

So, Feldman said, adding HRL to the system would allow them to “take a great deal of water every day, probably more than what they send to the facility,” because of their cooling towers, air conditioning units and other facilities in need of water. Those same benefits would not be expected in other properties wishing to hook up in the second phase of the sewer project.

The major drawback to adding additional properties is the complication of going outside the scope of the original sewer project, which was put in place where the regional water board enacted a prohibition on septic systems.

“Addition of properties outside of the prohibition area will require additional environmental review as well as extensive engineering and design to determine how to accommodate flow above and beyond the capacity of the CCWTF,” a city staff report described.

“The only reason to really stray from the plan is… something that enhances the capability of the system, or if there’s some overriding benefit to the town overall,” Mullen suggested. His fellow council members agreed.

KBUU News to have new antenna in Malibu Bluffs Park

KBUU-FM received enthusiastic support for its request to install a new FM booster antenna at Malibu Bluffs Park. The antenna will increase the reach of the radio station, which plays a mix of local news and music, with the capability of switching over to an all-news format during emergencies.

The booster was described in a staff report provided by the city as “a low, visually non-intrusive antenna,” which would allow the station to broadcast nearly uninterrupted along Pacific Coast Highway.

While KBUU General Manager Hans Laetz suggested he would ensure the antenna would be as low-profile as possible, Mullen assured him the city would support a higher antenna if it meant more residents would have a reliable signal from the emergency station.

“This is such a unique, beautiful place, we really, really didn’t want to put in a 28-foot tower,” Laetz told council, adding their tower would be 18 feet, which wouldn’t get the signal to the top of the hill at the base of Malibu Canyon, but “people can listen to rap for a few minutes.”

“I see this as a simple, reliable source of emergency information,” Mullen said, later adding, “I would encourage you to put it at the height that’s necessary to get the appropriate coverage that would be appropriate in an emergency.”