Around town–orders, Minnies, managers and codes


Last week was a tough week for Sam and Nidia Birenbaum. They were up before the California Coastal Commission for a hearing on a ‘Cease-and-desist’ order, the impact of which, as I understand it, would pretty much require they tear down or remove the structure in which they’re now living on the oceanfront of Malibu Road. The commission staff recommended that the Birenbaums remove a trailer they have on the beach, tear out a septic system that they claim was illegal or unpermitted, and pretty much restore the beach to its prior condition, the impact of which would virtual leave little left to occupy. The Birenbaums wanted more time to try and comply but an unanimously unsympathetic Coastal Commission seemed reluctant to give any extension in a situation that’s been around since 1983, when the Birenbaums’ house washed out to sea in a major coastal storm. Since then, the Birenbaums have been living in a structure that Coastal Commission claims was meant to be only temporary and is not permitted or legal.

The action that the Coastal Commission is taking appears so unusual and draconian in its impact that it’s a certainty attorney Sam Birenbaum, who isn’t one to give up without a fight, is going to be taking this all the way. I would suspect this will go to the California Supreme Court, or even farther, so it probably will be quite some time before this is finally resolved . Who knows, we might even get some new law.

The Minnies

Each year The California Journal, the pre-eminent non-partisan publication covering California state politics, canvasses the professionals in state government, which includes politicians, staff and consultants, before deciding which of the 120 legislators are the best and the worst in Sacramento. The winners get the coveted Minnies (roughly their version of the Oscars) and once again Sheila Kuehl, assembly member from Malibu, took top honors in several categories as she has in the past. In the category of “Integrity” she won this year as she had previously in 1998. The Journal reported “She is willing to take strong stands on issues she believes in, but is also willing to listen to those who disagree and take those comments to heart.”

She also won in the category of “Intelligence” as she had previously in 1998. She was also cited as being among the most “hard working” and the most “influential.” Malibu’s Sen. Tom Hayden did considerably less-well in the judgment of his peers. The only category in which he was noted was that of “Problem-Solving,” but, unfortunately, he didn’t make the good list. He, in fact, made it into a small group the Journal called the “Obstructionists.” Congratulations, Sheila. Too bad, Tom.

New city manager

The City Council, which has been interviewing candidates for the city manager’s job, is down to a final decision point in choosing a new city manager. It is rumored the council will be making a decision very shortly and hope to have a new manager aboard within a month. Current City Manager Harry Peacock leaves in mid-July, and a big retirement bash is set for him at Duke’s Restaurant July 13, 2000. The new selection has been winnowed down from a list of 50-plus candidates, but has been complicated by the fact there is now a hot job market for city managers, due in part to the retirement of many like Peacock, who came into the field in the 60s. With several cities wooing the prospects at the same time, several of our more promising prospects for the Malibu spot have already taken other jobs.

Code Enforcement

For those of you who called me and offered to help the Campbells, the mom with three kids and a dog who are being tossed out of their little one room apartment, I want to say thanks, and we’ll be setting up a meeting soon. But the Campbells aren’t alone in their plight. We’re starting to get reports that there are others who are being equally poorly treated by our fair city, because of our ruthlessly draconian zoning code that everyone admits is bad, but no one seems ready to change. So it looks like it’s up to us, the citizens of Malibu, to take a hard look at what our government is doing because it’s doing it in our name. You might well wonder why it is that a town that’s got a bunch of $10 million homes just can’t seem to find a tiny bit of room for some of those not as quite well-off.

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

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