Council agrees to attitude adjustment

The highlight of the City Council meeting Aug. 26 was the councilmembers themselves who vowed to behave more civilly toward each other and toward their voters.

Local resident Marissa Coughlan vented her frustration over the “back-biting,” “infighting,” and general “lack of respect of some elected officials.” She said that as a result, the council is “not addressing issues pertinent to the community at large,” and, “We’re becoming a laughing stock.”

The situation has gotten so bad, there are even cases of “verbal abuse of constituents” by councilmembers, according to Mayor Joan House.

Councilman Tom Hasse agreed that attitudes have to change. “There’s been such incivility in the City Council that it’s affecting our ability to get things done,” he said. Councilman Harry Barovsky proposed the council attend a workshop on civility, but Hasse responded, “We don’t need to go off to a workshop to treat each other respectfully,” and added he’s willing to “wipe the slate clean.”

During the whole discussion on civility, councilmembers Carolyn Van Horn and Walt Keller remained quiet.

Bond issue proposed


The council also vowed to change the attitude of the community with regard to paying the cost for a so-called “Malibu Village Green.” It unanimously approved a preliminary schedule for acquiring and preserving “sensitive properties” in the Malibu Creek Watershed, Point Dume and Trancas. According to the “Vision Statement” accompanying the schedule, these areas are “best suited for open space and passive recreation, for gathering and quiet time, for green fields and tree groves, for moving and still waters.”

The schedule estimates that the environmental constraints analysis, wetlands delineation study and the master plan for parks and recreation will be completed by March. Final appraisal of the land to be acquired is set for September of next year.

Since some the owners of these “sensitive properties” already have development plans, a bond measure is being proposed, along with other funding options, to buy them out. The vote on the bond is tentatively set for April 2000, but Hasse and Barovsky suggested the council consider pushing for an earlier date. They are concerned about owners who have filed or soon will file land use applications. Planning Director Craig Ewing said no matter how quickly the council moves on the bond, these owners will always be chasing permits.

Bond consultants will be hired within the next 60 days, according to City Manager Harry Peacock, in order to maximize the odds for passage of the bond. The schedule proposes these consultants first survey the attitude of the community. Based on those results, a program to educate the community will be formulated and implemented. Polling will then be conducted to measure the education program’s effectiveness.

House stressed the need to educate. “I sense people are not on board. This is for the future when we’re not around. Education has to start almost immediately.”

In addition to future development, the council also discussed past development approved by Los Angeles County before Malibu incorporated, for which there are no permits on file with the city.

The agenda report estimated that many of the structures in the city are nonpermitted, hampering efforts by the city to accurately track development. As a way of encouraging those with nonpermitted structures to come out of the woodwork, the council considered granting them amnesty from the current policy of charging double the regular building permit fees.

But Vic Peterson, city building and safety official, thought the city already does a good enough job of tracking development. “County permits in some cases are incomplete, but it’s not that bad. We can put the pieces together and find out the truth,” he said.

Peacock agreed, “It’s no big deal. It’s like a legal nonconforming.”

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

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