Sibert declines Coastal consideration

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Citing a busy schedule and the need to devote more time to family, Councilman John Sibert last week withdrew his name for consideration for a vacant seat on the California Coastal Commission. The appointment would have made Sibert the first elected representative from the City of Malibu to sit on the powerful state commission, and the first Malibu resident since the recently departed Sara Wan. 

“It was a difficult decision and the Coastal Commission is an important agency to Malibu,” Sibert said. “However, the commitment of time and effort would be considerable and I was not prepared to take on that additional workload.” 

Sibert was one of three finalists for the open seat vacated by former Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, who was just elected to represent the 50th District in the California State Assembly. The others were Azusa Mayor Pro Tem Angel Carrillo and Ranchos Palos Verdes City Councilman Jim Knight. Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte nominated Sibert to the commission at a Los Angeles City Selections Committee meeting where mayors from each Los Angeles County city gathered and came up with the three nominees. 

La Monte said Sibert, with his long track record as an environmental and scientific consultant, would have fit the bill as a Coastal Commissioner. 

Sibert works as a consultant for several scientific organizations including NASA, sits on the governing board for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, and is an advisor for the Claremont Graduate School of Economics and Politics. He was elected to Malibu City Council in 2008 and won re-election earlier this year. 

The chances of a Malibu resident being appointed to the Coastal Commission are difficult to quantify, given the sheer number of cases the commission hears every year that involve Malibu, and their accompanying high-profile nature. 

One factor in commission appointments is the behind-the-scenes pull given to environmental groups such as Heal the Bay and the Santa Monica Baykeeper, according to Rusty Areias, who served as chairman on the Coastal Commission from 1997 to 1999. 

“Certainly the environmental groups use whatever silver bullets they have on Coastal Commission appointees,” Areias said. “They have great weight in the process and the Senate historically has given them great say in the process.” 

The Coastal Commission oversees and regulates the development of land and water uses in California’s coastal regions with its 12 voting members. The governor, Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee each appoint four members. There are also four nonvoting members. 

The Senate Rules Committee is expected to appoint a new commissioner in mid-January, said Rhys Williams, an aide to Rules Committee Chair Sen. Darrell Steinberg. Along with the committee of LA mayors, mayors from Orange County and the Boards of Supervisors from Los Angeles and Orange Counties were also asked to submit nominations for the vacancy. Carrillo and Knight are now among about a dozen nominees from Los Angeles and Orange county area being considered by the Senate Committee. 

“The senate historically has appointed people with environmental backgrounds,” Areias said. 

The last person from Malibu to sit on the Coastal Commission was Sara Wan, a local environmentalist who was appointed by former State Senate leader John Burton in 1995. She served for 16 years until leaving in 2011, after Burton wrote a scathing open letter accusing Wan of attempting to outmaneuver then-Commissioner Mary Shallenberger for the chairmanship. Wan was replaced by Dayna Bochco, a Heal the Bay board member. 

Sibert predicted Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor would win the seat. The LA County Board of Supervisors included her in its nominations for the spot and she served as Bloom’s alternate on the commission from 2010 until his recent Assembly victory.