For the last issue of 2010, we have taken a look at the past year’s news stories and events, and highlighted what we thought were the most newsworthy and interesting of the year.
By Arnold York / Publisher
– The year began with 10 candidates throwing their hats into the ring for the city council to try and replace the two incumbents, Sharon Barovsky and Andy Stern, who were termed out. Mike Sidley, Ed Gillespie, John Mazza, Lou La Monte, Harold Greene, Steve Scheinkman, Laura Rosenthal, Matthew Katz, Jan Swift and Kofi all pulled papers. Former Mayor Walt Keller pulled papers but then changed his mind and decided not to run.
– Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies and more than 300 volunteers scoured areas of Malibu Canyon on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles for signs of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson, who disappeared after her release from the Lost Hills Sheriff Station almost four months earlier.
– A sudden Pacific storm brought a deluge of storm-related events, including the dramatic rescue of 31-year-old Amanda Kusovich, a resident of Triunfo Canyon. Driving her Jeep Wrangler she was suddenly swept away downstream by a wall of water as she was fording a stream en route to her driveway. With only five inches of car left above the rushing water, Kusovich managed to roll down the window and get out of the vehicle. She was swept downstream until 34-year-old Adolpho Gonzalez, an employee of a horse ranch alongside the creek, dove into the water and rescued her. Afterward, Kusovich said, “I’ve learned to always buy a car with manual windows.”
– The Malibu Times’ Dolphin Award winners for the year 2009 were announced:
Sharon Barovsky, Malibu mayor and city council member and cityhood champion
Ann Buxie, founder and director of Tales by the Sea, a community storytelling program
Leon Cooper, who served the city in many capacities as a volunteer and cityhood pioneer, is a WWII veteran whose documentary “Return to Tarawa” brought national attention to the plight of forgotten Marines killed in the bloody campaign for Tarawa
Cindy Ludwig, director of the Malibu Presbyterian Preschool since 1991, and a community activist on behalf of Malibu children
Ron Merriman, longtime teacher and principal in the Malibu-Santa Monica Unified School District, received the Lifetime Achievement Award
Erica Posey, Malibu High School senior, Youth Dolphin Award winner for extensive community service, youth and charity work
Andy Stern, longtime city council member, mayor, planning commissioner and Los Angeles County Beach commissioner
John Zambetti, a Malibu renaissance man, composer, musician, physician, community volunteer, surfer, and Pepperdine University student mentor
– Malibu real estate was finally hit by the overall drop in market values. After two years of holding the price line in $3-million homes, 2009 saw the median price of home sales drop from $3,325,000 to $2,225,000, a drop of 33 percent. During the year, only 104 known sales occurred in the 90265 ZIP code, the lowest number in the last 30 years.
– A historic win marks the first CIF championship for Malibu High School’s girls soccer. The team defeated Desert Christian High School in the finals, 3 to 2, capping a season where they had a 9-0-1 record.
– The local school district announced the layoffs of 61 employees, virtually eliminating the elementary school music program. School officials believe that some of the laid-off teachers, counselors and nurses might have their jobs saved if Measure A, the $198 per year parcel tax, passes in the May election.
– With 10 candidates competing, the city council race began to heat up with the sitting council being accused of fiscal irresponsibility, rudeness to speakers at meetings and poor business judgment. Mayor Sharon Barovsky, not one to let an attack go by, sprung to the city’s and council’s defense in the annual State of the City address and charged that the city’s finances were fine and the decision to lease the land for the Malibu Lumber Yard center was financially sound and will bring a steady income stream to the city. Her statement was backed by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who said that Malibu has an AAA-plus bond rating, which was better than the county’s.
– Sina Khankhanian, age 26, the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed Malibu Middle School teen Emily Shane, was charged with one count of murder. Investigators indicated they believe he may have intentionally run his vehicle into a power pole after which it overturned and hit Shane.
– Laura Rosenthal and Lou La Monte, running as a ticket, finished in first and second place in the city council election. Rosenthal finished 400 votes ahead of her running mate La Monte in the race to fill the two council seats vacated by the termed out Sharon Barovsky and Andy Stern. La Monte edged out John Mazza by 68 votes.
n A follow-up investigation into the accident of Emily Shane disclosed six 9-1-1 emergency calls made prior to her death, reporting the erratic driving of the motorist who ultimately struck and killed her. The release of the information has sparked the question of whether the fatal collision could have been avoided if there had been a Sheriff’s deputy car in the area.
The tragic death has led to a number of Malibu citizens meeting and organizing a group, to be called “A Safer PCH (ASPCH)” to try and find ways to make the notoriously dangerous Pacific Coast Highway safer for pedestrians and motorists. There also have been calls by some for the return of the California Highway Patrol to PCH in Malibu.
– The 10-year U.S. Census, which tries to count every American, ran into problems in Malibu where many residents never sent back their census forms. For a time Malibu had the lowest return rate in the county of Los Angeles, with an anemic 57 percent compared to the overall county return rate of 70 percent. But in the final minutes of the census count, Malibu was edged out by Catalina Island with a record breaking worst return rate of 43 percent. Catalina Island, of course, is populated principally by bison, the progeny of an old movie shoot some years ago.
– The Malibu Film Society ended its season with a showing of the 1971 film classic “Fiddler on the Roof,” produced and directed by Malibu resident Norman Jewison, who came to the showing and regaled the audience for almost an hour with stories about the making of the film. Probably one of the most difficult parts for Jewison was casting the film and having to say no to several of his friends who wanted to play the lead, Tevye, including Danny Kaye and, if you can believe it, Frank Sinatra.
– The build-out of the new Malibu City Hall, located in the building behind the current one, which is rented, hit a snag when the plans went public. The site of the new city hall, purchased out of bankruptcy for $15 million by the city, was formerly the Malibu Performing Arts Center with a high-tech theater large enough to seat 500. When the plans were revealed to cut the 500-seat theater down to 230, a wave of protest hit the city.
– With the recent defeat of Proposition A, the measure to create a $198 per year parcel tax, the Malibu-Santa Monica Unified School District took immediate action to eliminate $7.1 million in programs to try and cover its budget shortfall. The ballot measure, which required two-thirds (66.7 percent) of voter approval for passage, received 64.25 percent district wide and failed. The results were particularly dismal in Malibu where Measure A had even less support. The cuts eliminated some program funding, a number of staff positions and also counseling positions at Malibu High School.
– Peter Douglas, age 67, the executive director of the California Coastal Commission, announced he was stepping aside from the majority of his daily duties to battle a second round of lung cancer. Douglas has had a long and tumultuous relationship with the city and citizens of Malibu, and it’s unclear what the impact of his illness may have on the relationship.
– Art Dealer Carl Schlossberg created a summer outdoors sculpture exhibit series throughout Malibu with 40 sculptures and 40 artists participating.
– The Malibu High School class of 2010 had 188 graduates of which 167 plan to go on to college.
– The 4th of July brought 177,500 visitors to Malibu, down significantly from the previous year’s one-half million, probably due in large part to the cold and overcast holiday. The cold and gloomy weather lasted throughout much of the summer and cut down on beachgoers visiting Malibu through most of the summer.
– The charges against two Malibu men, Skylar Peak, 25, and Phillip “John” Hildebrand, 31, who were accused of beating up a French paparazzo, were finally dropped by local Superior Court Judge Lawrence Mira after the trial two weeks prior ended in a hung jury, with the jurors voting 8 to 4 for acquittal. Peak, a lifeguard, and Hildebrand, a photographer, were accused of being the chief agitators in a scuffle between local surfers and a group of paparazzi who were taking pictures of actor Matthew McConaughey while he was surfing.
– The City of Malibu’s new Trancas Canyon park opened after a two-year slog that included controversy and litigation. The 6.7-acre park includes picnic tables, a dog park, playground and a 1.7-acre multi-use sports field.
– Malibu Bluffs Park hosted the Madden NFL ’11 Pro-Am flag football game, turning out some Hall of Famers and a group of athlete/actors
– A group of Corral Canyon homeowners sued the state after the disastrous Corral Canyon fire in Nov. 2007, which destroyed 53 homes, injured five firefighters, and burned nearly 5,000 acres. They charged the state with ignoring a dangerous situation as the state was well aware that the caves at the top of the canyon were a notorious teenage hangout and had been for years, and often are the site of large campfires. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals kicked out the case against the state and the homeowners had no remedy left other than an appeal to the California Supreme Court.
– Save Our Schools, the 60-day fundraising drive to raise money for the Malibu-Santa Monica Unified School District was able to raise $1.5 million, which will help to alleviate some of the proposed cuts. However the shortfall in the district was previously estimated at $7.1 million and the school is still expected to have to make some major cuts with the failure of the $5.7 million parcel tax in the May election.
– A 38-year-old Russian billionaire sailed into Malibu on a 400-foot-long, $300-million super-yacht, named the “A” after his Serbian model wife Aleksandra, and dropped anchor off the Malibu Pier. The unusual configuration of the ship, which looks like a cross between a luxury yacht and a warship, brought out tourist and local cameras in droves.
– A tragic early afternoon traffic accident occurred on Mulholland Highway, east of Stokes Canyon, when an automobile driven by Douglas Kmiec, 58, a Pepperdine University law professor and United States Ambassador to Malta, overturned in a one-car accident. Kmiec, Sister Mary Campbell and Monsignor John Sheridan were returning from a 60th Anniversary celebration at Louisville High School. Sister Mary, 74, who had been associated with Our Lady of Malibu Roman Catholic Church since 1983, died instantly in the crash. Monsignor Sheridan, 94, the OLM pastor emeritus, who served the church as pastor from 1965 to 1990, was critically injured as was Kmiec. Both were transported to UCLA and both underwent surgery. Monsignor Sheridan died from his injuries some time later. Kmiec was expected to recover.
– Following an unseasonably cold summer, September brought some equally unseasonable hot weather. Early afternoon temperatures spiked to 110 degrees in the mountains of Malibu and 103 degrees on the coastal shelf. A record was set in downtown Los Angeles when temperatures reached 113 degrees.
– Brian Alan Anderson, 25, and William Thomas Coppock, 26, were sentenced to a year in county jail for their involvement in the November 2007 Corral Fire. They are also placed on five years formal probation and ordered to complete 500 hours of community service and to write letters of apology to the victims who lost their homes and to the firefighters who were injured. The judge also sentenced the two to four years in state prison, but suspended the sentence. In addition, the men must pay $7.7 million in restitution for the fire fighting costs alone.
– The dream of Legacy Park finally became a reality and the 15-acre park in the middle of Malibu, which was previously going to be a shopping center before the city bought it, is now a green space. The park will serve a double purpose as both a passive park and a storm water treatment facility. The park, located on what used to be called the Chili Cook-Off site, was purchased from Jerry Perenchio’s Malibu Bay Company for $25 million, plus another $10 million was spent developing the park and treatment facility.
– The California Coastal Commission approved two highly controversial projects that many in Malibu opposed. In one, the commission rubber-stamped a proposal from Joe Edmiston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to build some outdoor camping sites in some fire prone areas of Malibu, areas that have burned in the past and have a reasonable probability of burning again. The hearing had few attendees from Malibu and the commission seemed severely annoyed when a Malibu speaker said no one came because residents’ long experience had told them that the wheels were greased and the hearing was a sham because their experience was the commission always gave Edmiston what he wanted. The commission was not amused.
The commission then approved the $7-million Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project to tear out the old lagoon and rebuild the new, better, shinier lagoon with better public access, but, in the process, they also eliminated the bridge from the parking lot to the beach.
– Dean Allen Lavorante and Eric Matthew Ullman are sentenced to five years probation and ordered to do 500 hours of community service following no contest pleas to recklessly causing the Corral Fire in November 2007.
– According to data collected by the state Controller’s Office, 16 Malibu city employees received $100,000-plus in compensation for 2009. The top wage earner was City Manager Jim Thorsen, who received $195,715 ($232,592 with retirement and health benefits).
– While many cities were struggling from this long recession, the City of Malibu appeared to be in reasonably decent financial shape, according to city Administrative Service Director Reva Feldman. However, Feldman did sound a note of caution in that the recession has impacted revenues and she sees some revenue possibly flat-lining, or even declining somewhat, so some financial caution is called for in the future.
– The election to the SMMUSD Board of Education ended with still no Malibu resident on the school board. Board President Barry Snell lost his bid for a second term, placing fifth in the contest for four seats. The winners in order of finish were: challenger Laurie Lieberman, incumbent Oscar de la Torre, incumbent Ralph Mechur and challenger Nimish Patel.
– The voters in the city of Santa Monica also passed a half-cent sales tax increase, one half of which (estimated to be in the $6-million range) is expected to go to the schools, and which will reap additional funds for Malibu.
– Corral Canyon homeowners, who suffered the effects of a devastating fire in 2007, decided to stop talking about it and actually do something about the future. Ten Corral Canyon residents are about to become certified call firefighters for the Los Angeles County Fire Department after completing their training.
– A rare species of bony fish washed ashore alive at first, then later dead on a beach near Malibu Colony. Resident Darrell Rae said of the people who were at the beach wondering what type of fish it was, only an eight-year-old knew, proclaiming it an oarfish. It was transported to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
– In a disappointing but not devastating blow, the superintendent of the Malibu- Santa Monica School District recommended to the Board of Education that it turn down the application of the Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School to become a charter school, which the board then did. The charter school group indicated that they intend to move on and petition the county, which they did. The county will hear the appeal on Jan. 11.
– As often happens in Malibu, the state’s plan to destroy and then rebuild the Malibu Lagoon may run into a legal roadblock if the three environmental groups opposed to the project have their way. A lawsuit was filed against the Coastal Commission to block the project, but Executive Director Peter Douglas said the proposed restoration would proceed until they are served with the necessary paperwork.
n Papa Jack’s Skate Park, located next to the Malibu Civic Center is going to have to move. The site, which owner Steve Soboroff let the city use as a skate park without charge, will be the site of a Whole Foods market as well as other businesses. Soboroff indicated he would help the city relocate the skate park and will donate funds to do so.
– A group of Ramirez Canyon homeowners filed another lawsuit to stop the overnight camping plan by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. They are challenging the plan that would add 54 overnight camping sites throughout Malibu, including two at Ramirez, and possibly allow propane stove use, saying it would create more noise and safety issues in the fire prone area.
– The State Fish and Game Commission approved new Marine Protected Areas, including one located off the coast from Point Dume, which would completely ban all fishing in one area south of Point Dume, and limited species take to the north.
– A look at real estate for the past year shows improvement over the year 2009. However, the outlook is not yet all rosy. The number of sales increased and time on the market decreased, but both were due to appealing pricing in the short sale and foreclosure marketplace that has become about half of the business in real estate. n