2001-The year in review



Electric blackouts are on the top of everyone’s worry list and, according to the state of California and predictions by Southern California Edison, Malibu is threatened with rolling blackouts for the foreseeable future.

  • Catastrophe finally catches up with one of the few remaining old Spanish-style homes on the La Costa hill where a 1930-era water main breaks and pours out water under pressure for almost six hours before emergency workers could finally find the shut-off valves. The supporting hillside erodes, the chimney collapses leaving a gaping hole in the house, and the house that had survived the 1993 fire is declared unsafe and red-tagged.
  • The Malibu Times Dolphin Awards, recognizing outstanding citizens for the year 2001 goes to:

Harry Barovsky

Fire Capt. Leland Brown

Wayne and Beverly Estill

Jo Fogg

Anne Hoffman

Deirdre Roney

Laureen Sills

Malibu Association of Contractors

  • The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District reports it is anticipating a possible $1.5 million to $2 million short fall for the year, and is looking to Sacramento, hoping for possible help at a time when Sacramento still has some money.
  • The Malibu real estate scene changes with the passing of one of its pioneers, Charles F. Willson, owner of Malibu Realty, and the merger of the two largest real estate companies, Coldwell Banker and Fred Sands.


Following months of discord, the Malibu High School cheerleading squad gets a new coach to replace two coaches who were fired by Principal Mike Matthews. The old coaches are furious, charging that dirty politics were involved and the entire matter is now headed for court.

  • A fatal attack by two very large dogs in a San Francisco apartment building has set many Malibuites on edge about many local dogs roaming around off leash. A local veterinarian said there are no inherently bad dogs, but there are some dogs “that have been poorly socialized, but they give plenty of warning signs that they can be dangerous.” The most basic sign, according to the local vet, is the “dog is fearful of strangers and overly protective of its master.”
  • The results are in on the amount of money spent for the ballot propositions on last November’s ballot. Measures N, O and P, all deal with growth restrictions of one kind or another. When totaled, little Malibu spent a total of more than $280,000 on the propositions, and it looks like the days of small-town elections are pretty much over.
  • Three children, all 13 and younger, die in a tragic accident on Pacific Coast Highway, near Carbon Canyon Road, when the vehicle driven by their mother slams into the back of a parked big rig. The mother and one other child survive with minor injuries. The vehicle left no skid marks on the road prior to the impact.
  • The year 2000 was a big real estate year for Malibu, posting record high sales and values. Home prices jumped higher than 10 percent for a second year in a row and the median average reached $1.25 million.


The Malibu Film Festival pulls off its second season with local Malibu celeb Stacy Keach as master of ceremonies of the event. Local industry notables honored with lifetime achievement awards include Shirley MacLaine, Charles Bronson and the late Lloyd Bridges. Other industry notables such as actor Nick Nolte, directors James Cameron and Arthur Hiller, are also honored. B-movie king Roger Corman attends and presents, with Katrina Bronson (Charles Bronson’s daughter) receiving the Emerging Director’s Award. Malibuite John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell Systems presents the festival.

  • The Malibu High School Sharks soccer team take the championship title in a 5-0 blowout of Ontario Christian. The team wins the first CIF championship in the history of the school making it the top team for the Southern Division, which covers half the high schools in Southern California.
  • City Council plans to get municipal buses off Point Dume and, instead, substitute a mini-shuttle. Heavy neighborhood resistance occurs and the plan is scuttled when neighbors hear it includes a transit center at Zumirez Drive and Pacific Coast Highway.
  • The state of California, with the American Land Conservancy acting as the middleman, has finally decided to buy a 1,659-acre parcel, which runs from Pacific Coast Highway and up both sides of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and deep into the canyon. LAACO, LTD., the company that has owned the property for years, also owns the Los Angeles Athletic Club. What’s unclear is what will happen to the tenants, some of whom have been there 20 to 30 years, and also, all of the businesses along the highway, which includes Wylies Bait and Tackle Shop, Something’s Fishy Sushi, the Topanga Ranch Market and Motel, Reel Inn Restaurant and others.
  • In a switch that could only happen in Malibu, former city attorney Christi Hogin, who had been forced out of office by a former council but with a sweet severance package of close to $250,000, is back as Malibu city attorney. She agreed to first return to the city as the interim city manager upon the retirement of Harry Peacock, but wanted to get back to the practice of law where she partners with her husband, former Malibu city attorney Michael Jenkins.


Ori Greenberg, an aspiring filmmaker and 24-year-old son of Malibu residents George and Victoria Greenberg, is killed in Aspen, Colo., when a private chartered jet crashes while attempting to land in a snowstorm. All aboard the plane perish in the crash.

  • In the ritual changing of the guard, Joan House is sworn in as Malibu’s new mayor and Jeff Jennings as mayor pro tem. One of the first things the newly constituted council do is to approve a settlement of a longtime ongoing lawsuit between the City of Malibu and the Kissel Company, owners of the Paradise Cove Mobile Home Park.
  • A Superior Court in Sacramento drops a bombshell on the California Coastal Commission when it rules that the makeup of the Coastal Commission was unconstitutional because it’s an agency with executive powers and, yet, two-thirds of the commission is appointed by the Legislature. If the decision stands (it’s now before the Court of Appeals) it would require the Coastal Commission to be completely reorganized.
  • The City of Malibu, state of California, California Coastal Commission and the State Department of Parks may have finally worked out a deal–a multisided swap to get the state back their land at Bluffs Park. The plan is to move the ball fields to land on another piece of the bluff top, owned by Roy Crummer, which he’ll donate. In exchange, Crummer will get approval for eight estate-sized bluff top lots. The state will then get its land back. Next, it goes to an environmental review stage.
  • The dispute over the Point Dume Nature Preserve on the tip of Point Dume, long a hot button issue and the cause of litigation between the City of Malibu and the California Coastal Commission, apparently finally gets settled. In a complicated deal, the city agrees to fund a bus to take passengers to the preserve to the tune of $50,000 per year and to accept a few parking spots near the preserve, which it had mightily resisted in the past. The state is to provide a ranger and revitalize the preserve.
  • Apparently, as fast as Malibu settles one battle with the Coastal Commission another rears its head. This time it’s a battle about how much say the city is going to have over the new Local Coastal Plan (LCP), which the Coastal Commission is preparing. Malibu rushes in its own draft, but believes the commission is just ignoring it. Joyce Parker, a former Malibu planning director and now a Coastal Commission consultant on the LCP, comes to the council to reassure it that “the Coastal Commission is not interested in turning Malibu into a coastal resort.” The council is somewhat more skeptical.
  • The 4-year-old son of a prominent television producer dies in a drowning accident at a party in the home of Motley Crew drummer Tommy Lee. The child was found under a flotation device at the shallow end of the pool. Attempts to resuscitate him were futile.


Two local Hollywood legends, Carroll O’Connor, who, to the world, was Archie Bunker from “All in the Family,” and Jack Lemmon, versatile veteran actor, with eight Oscar nominations (winning twice), die the same week.

  • The City Council decides to put a multimillion-dollar park and bond issue onto the November ballot. At the urging of the Coalition Bond Committee, the council goes along with a price tag of $15 million despite some cautionary words from bond election experts that perhaps something less, like $11 million, might be more doable.
  • Community members are shocked when bids came back for construction on the Malibu High School Auditorium and Gym as well as work on some elementary schools. The bid is $6.2 million more than what had been originally estimated. According to Malibu parent Bill Sampson, “Sixty-two percent over budget is shocking. I can’t imagine that type of discrepancy.”
  • Two young women in kayaks, age 20 and 12, join forces to rescue two boys after their kayak capsized off the coast of Malibu. The rescued boys, both about age 10, were part of a group of campers that became separated, and had been in the water for more than an hour calling for help. They are described as so cold they were foaming at the mouth.
  • The $15 million parks and open space bond issue headed for the November ballot, which requires a two-thirds vote for passage, suddenly runs into campaign trouble when a coalition, known as the Lily’s Caf Steering Committee, named after a group that meets at Lily’s and that includes former mayor John Harlow, announced its active opposition. The group’s principal objection is that they don’t want to sign a blank $15 million check without first knowing where the money is going.
  • Whereas drug rehab once meant grungy facilities in rundown neighborhoods, a couple of new laws–one which allows a drug rehab facility in a residential neighborhood for six or less patients–has changed all that. With the passage of Proposition 36, which directs offenders into drug rehab instead of prison in many cases, and with some facilities now getting more than $30,000 per month per patient, Malibu has become a primo location for some very high-profile drug rehabbers to recover with an ocean view. Some neighborhoods, like Big Rock, are very popular.


The state goes ahead with plans to turn lower Topanga into a state park. The tenants, some of whom have been there 20 to 30 years, are being forced out. But there may be a silver lining in their black cloud–under state law they’re entitled to relocation dollars and for many of them that could mean as much as $50,000-$60,000.

  • The Planning commission gives thumbs down on singer/actor Cher’s request to raise her outside walls by another 2 feet on her Pacific Coast Highway, bluff side mansion. Part of Cher’s reason for the request was to keep tennis balls from her court off the highway. The Planning Commission apparently thinks tennis lessons would be cheaper and also less intrusive. Thereafter, Cher sues, of course.
  • The City of Malibu submits its own version of the council-endorsed draft LCP to the California Coastal Commission in hopes the commission will give some special attention to Malibu’s desires. But Coastal Commission staff seem something less than enthused. Commission Senior Deputy Director Chuck Damm said, “Staff will review what was submitted and will incorporate those provisions that are deemed appropriate for inclusion in the LCP.” Translation: Thanks, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
  • Ahmanson Ranch, a large residential/commercial development owned by Washington Mutual Bank, planned for a corner in Ventura County that borders Los Angeles County, promises to add 3,050 homes and about 10,000 people. This would put significant additional traffic into Malibu Canyon and more dirty water into Malibu Creek. It is running into all sorts of heavy opposition from the citizens and government of Los Angles County. “This is a great deal for Ventura County. They get all the taxes and we get all the traffic,” said Malibu County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
  • Longtime local political activist Malibu Attorney Sam Birenbaum is arrested and charged with grand theft, allegedly in connection with handling of client’s funds from a personal injury case settlement.


A group of Malibu realtors, who purchased the name and the assets of the old Malibu Realty Company, launches Prudential Malibu Realty.

  • The events of 9-11, the destruction of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, send Malibu into a state of shock. Everything stops while people run to the phones to check on family, friends and business colleagues. Thomas E. Burnett Jr., a graduate of the Pepperdine MBA Program and father of three, was on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania shortly after the passengers attempted to regain control of the plane from the hijackers.
  • In response to criticism that opponents were unsure of where the proposed $15 million bond proceeds would go if the bond was approved, the City Council announces its own priority ranking for the dollars. First: ball fields and playing grounds for active recreation. Second: open space for passive recreation. Third: A community center, and last, trails.
  • A small crossing over Malibu Creek, behind Serra Retreat, becomes the source of an ongoing conflict between the residents of Serra and several federal and state governmental agencies. Officials are opposed to the residents replacing part of the crossing that had washed out, because to do so might impact the possible spawning of steelhead trout by blocking them from swimming up the creek. The residents, who went ahead and repaired the crossing, known as the Arizona Crossing, with an emergency permit from the city given to them because of the potential fire hazard posed if the crossing was gone, are threatened with $27,500 a day in fines for their actions.
  • A financial oversight committee, looking into the finances of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said if excellence in our schools is to be achieved, many more entities, like cities and local business, are going to have to contribute to the schools. “Malibu needs to step up to the plate or they’ll be unhappy with the results,” said Walter Rosenthal, Malibu resident and member of the Financial Oversight Committee, referring to the rather paltry contribution made to the schools by the City of Malibu.


The California Coastal Commission draft LCP (or LUP, Land Use Plan) is finally released presenting the City of Malibu with the commission’s vision of Malibu’s future. Many in Malibu, including the City Council, are appalled. Apparently, the Coastal Commission wants 50 acres in the Civic Center devoted to “visitor-serving” uses, which includes a hotel, restaurants and more retail shops. Additionally, the commission apparently intends to hang onto all the strings of control, pretty much indefinitely.

  • Councilmember Tom Hasse decides he is not going to run for council again and sets off a mad scrabble of speculation about who might decide to run. Incumbent Sharon Barovsky is running again, Planning Chair Andrew Stern has announced he’s a go, as is Robert Roy Van de Hoek, who ran last time against Barovsky. Several others, including former Malibu Association of Realtors President Beverly Taki, former everything John Wall, Planning Commissioner Ted Vaill, and even former mayor Carolyn Van Horn (although she denies it), are supposedly thinking about it, but everyone’s being a little coy until the mid-January filing deadline.
  • The freshman Malibu High children do above average on their exit exams, which are still voluntary but are going to be mandatory for all high school graduates beginning with the class of 2004.
  • The proposed Land Use Plan for Malibu, drafted by the California Coastal Commission, takes a couple of serious blows when the City of Malibu hires Mike Roos, a high-profile lobbyist and former legislative leader for 14 years, to lobby the city’s position in Sacramento. This telegraphs to the commission that the city is very serious in its opposition to the proposed draft and the commission either has to compromise or be prepared to fight to the death. On the local front, the Malibu Township Council, which is where the entire local no-growth crowd hangs out, has its case against the city kicked out by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. The unsuccessful lawsuit tried to gag the city and force it to go with the Coastal Commission draft LUP, but the judge doesn’t buy it.


A 38-year-old trash truck driver dies in a Las Flores Canyon Road accident when his three-axle trash truck, coming down the winding canyon road, plows through a railing and goes over a 150-foot embankment. Multiple fire, paramedic, CHP and sheriff’s deputies rush to the scene, but cannot save the driver who received major internal injuries when the trash truck rolled down the embankment.

  • Two of the City of Malibu storm drains make the Santa Monica BayKeeper report of its “Dirty Dozen” drains that have exceeded state health standards for both E. coli and coliform in at least four out of six snapshot sampling events. And the winners are the outlets at Paradise Cove and Escondido Beach.
  • Proposition K, the $15 million bond measure to buy land for ball fields and open space, goes down to defeat when it only receives 61 percent of the vote, falling a few percentage points short of the two-thirds needed for passage. Bond supporters point to the opposition of the Lily’s Caf Steering Committee and former mayor John Harlow, and the last-minute opposition of Councilmember Tom Hasse as the reason for the measure’s defeat.
  • Many local celebrities, including Martin Sheen, add their names to a long list of opposition from public officials and community organizations to the proposed Ahmanson Ranch project. At a press conference, Sheen denounces Washington Mutual and its Ahmanson Ranch Project, sited near the head of Malibu Canyon, adjacent to Calabasas.
  • The national economy is officially in recession, but, so far, Malibu home prices appear to be holding up despite the downturn, according to Rick Wallace, The Malibu Times real estate guru. The cause is the dramatic reduction in the number of sales, particularly in the $1 million to $3 million category, and some are predicting that home prices in that range will soften soon. Countering this downtrend are very low interest rates, which not only make the houses more alluring, but also more affordable.


The little piece of Cross Creek Road in the heart of the Malibu retail district, which passes for our downtown, is going to get a major facelift with a new serpentine design, beautified walkways, and probably something of a monumental traffic jam while it all gets built.

  • Malibu resident Nicolas Buttle, age 55, drowns in an ocean accident when a 60 mph Santa Ana wind blowing straight out to sea, capsizes his kayak in turbulent waters off Dan Blocker State Beach (Corral beach).
  • Year-end sees Santa Monica-Malibu schools filled to capacity with a total of 12,127 students, of whom 2,310 are from Malibu. The hoped-for relief on the Malibu High School campus, was to be a multi-classroom building slated for completion Oct. 19, 2001. As the year closes, that building is tied up in the permit process, and ground has barely been broken. An obviously disturbed school Superintendent John Deasy said, “These delays have been very disruptive to classes, parents, administration and, most of all, students.”
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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