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Dr. Chester King, the often controversial Malibu city archeologist, has been told the city will no longer need his services. He was recently given a 45-day termination notice by City Manager Harry Peacock, and his services with the city will terminate July 10 of this year. King, who is a contract consultant with the city, serves as an “at will” consultant, which means that his contract can be terminated by the planning director or his appointee, in this case the city manager, at any time, without cause, subject only to a 45-day notice. Peacock indicated that the city is looking for a new consulting archeologist and King has not been asked to submit a new proposal. Most city contracts now have a termination date, but King, who was highly favored by some on the old council, had an open-ended contract without any specific termination date.

Peacock refused to be specific as to the reasons he had decided to give King the termination notice other than to say that a couple of years ago the City Council decided to review consultants contracts every two years, and they are now looking at the contracts of all the consultants. Some will be invited to resubmit for renewal their contracts for another two years, but this was not the case with King.

King, a vigorous defender of the Chumash and their cultural artifacts, had, during his long tenure with the city, been at odds on a number of occasions with homeowners who have complained to the city about some very costly archeological studies that King required in his function as city archeologist–studies that King himself would carry out. Several homeowners charged there was an inherent conflict in that arrangement.

In a virtually unprecedented enforcement action, the California Coastal Commission has set a public hearing on Tuesday June 13, at their Santa Barbara Meeting, to consider a proposed cease and desist order, which, if approved, would direct Malibu attorney Sam Birenbaum and his wife Nidia Birenbaum, a former city of Malibu commissioner, who has a show running on local cable TV called “Cookie Cutter,” to virtually remove significant portions of their dwelling on Malibu Road, which the Coastal Commission has charged are unpermitted. The Public Hearing Notice issued by the commission charges that they are to cease and desist allegedly development activity without permits, which the notice states includes unpermitted rock revetments, grading of 1,800 cubic yards of material (mainly sand) to create a beach patio, construction of a patio enclosure, replacement of a septic tank, placement of a trailer on the beach and construction of two 22-foot high wood retaining walls.

The council is definitely moving ahead post-haste to get our Local Coastal Plan finished and approved by the Coastal Commission and to get the legislature, namely Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-San Fernando Valley), off our backs as soon as possible. The council took the first giant step and said, “Thank you very much ” to the Local Coastal Plan Committee, which has spent six years laboring on the prospective plan. They did that despite a last minute plea by committee chair Werner Keonig, asking to give the committee one last crack at it. The council politely, but firmly, said, “No thank you” and “we’ll take it from here” and turned it over to their land-use subcommittee of Joan House and Jeff Jennings. The Local Coastal Plan Committee–consisting of Debra DeCray, Sarah Dixon, Melanie Goudzwaard, Jeff Harris, Lucile Keller, Werner Keonig, Patricia Lee, Joan Plummer and Jo Ruggles–was then disbanded.

If any of you had an idea that the recent results at the polls where the zero-growthers were firmly rejected by the electorate meant that the city was ready to move on, you had better look again. Despite losing in every one of the Malibu 13 precincts by margins of almost 2-1, it’s now apparent that the old alliance of Walt Keller/ Carolyn Van Horn/ Gil Segel/ Marcia Hanscom/–and now we can add Sam Hall Kaplan and the Wetland Network crowd– is digging in for a long and nasty fight to try and come back to power. It’s not just that the group opposes the proposed Civic Center/Point Dume/ Trancas/development deal between the city and the Malibu Bay Company, or they don’t appear to be overly concerned by the lack of a community/senior/teen center or ball fields, it’s the tenor of the attack. Judging from the recent attack on Hasse, civilized discourse is out, and “take no prisoners” is the order of the day. The battle promises to be long, very personal and very nasty with more than a hint of fanaticism about it.

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

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