Civic Center: MCLC claims conscious development, reducing pollution as main goals


This, the second in a series of differing views on the Civic Center development, presents the views of Gil Segel, president of the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy (MCLC), and several of his associates: David Gottlieb, a filmmaker and a director of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, Ozzie Silna, MCLC treasurer, and Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of the Wetlands Action Network.

Often it seems that the controversy over development of Malibu’s Civic Center has raised passions to an adversarial level incapable of compromise or even conversation.

Not so, Gil Segel asserts.

“We have never been either-or,” he said of the MCLC’s position on development vs. non-development.

“We were characterized in Arnold’s paper (The Malibu Times, published by Arnold York) on an either-or basis, as people who are only environmentally predisposed,” said Segel. “That’s not who we are, that’s not who we’ve been.

“We do have environmentally involved people with us, but our concept has always been two-fold,” he explained. “Our focus and goal has only been towards an aspect of conscious development, and controlling the perennial problem of pollution of the Malibu Creek Lagoon and Surfrider Beach.”

Few would argue with Segel over Surfrider’s problem, a beach that seems to get an “F” rating in dry weather as well as wet, which brings in mountain runoff.

“We know that pollution is not specifically a Malibu problem,” said Segel. “It’s regional; 109 square miles dump into Malibu Creek. If we don’t find ways to deal with that pollution, we will have a chronic problem forever.

“I feel so bad when I watch those kids out there every day on the greatest beach in the Southern California area,” he adds. “They get rashes and they get ill. A total development within the Civic Center just to maximize square-footage will only add to the pollution.”

The solution as offered by Segel and his associates?

Set aside a significant part of the Civic Center property as a “wetlands,” which could, by natural oxygenation, cleanse the pollution.

Segel said his group is presently making studies that will determine how much of the land should be set aside to do the job (they consider the Environmental Impact Report done by the Malibu Bay Company, the major site owner, inadequate and failing to deal with the “totality of potential development by all nine site landowners, most of whom have already filed for building permits”).

Unlike the 20-acre Chili Cook-off site, which is situated on the flatland (and which the MBC has agreed to leave undeveloped for a decade), Segel seems to have little objection to a reasonable development of the eight-acre Ioki parcel running uphill from the Civic Center.

“I don’t want to fight with the developers,” he adds. “I recognize there is a private right to develop their property. But this community should be able to put together enough funds–state, federal and local–to set aside an appropriate amount of land in a restored wetlands concept that would work toward cleansing the creek, lagoon and ocean.

“Let’s put together the funds to buy land so the developers don’t get hurt.”

Hanscom said of the wetlands concept, “The Malibu Lagoon and the creek have been considerably fragmented over time, much of it before we knew how wetlands work.

“As one example, not many people know that Jerry Perrenchio, owner of MBC, has a private golf course just northwest of the lagoon, which can be a source of pollution.,” she said. “So we need a larger wetlands, and they don’t work in a vacuum. They are part of an ecosystem including wildlife like the Great Blue Heron and egrets, which you can often see here as well as the white-tailed kite, a protected species which the EIR says is probably nesting in the area. We are looking for a way for humans to survive, as well as the many species which call Malibu home also.”

“And it will enhance their development,” Segel added. “Think about an office building that is surrounded by a park.”

(As the Corps of Engineers has found, that, other than for a small section, the Civic Center site does not fulfill the government’s definition of a “wetland,” ).

Gottlieb suggests as an example of potential funding sources, the recently approved acquisition of 1,640 acres in lower Topanga from the L.A. Athletic Club, with $40 million from state Prop. 12 funds.

“I would love to see a people park/wetlands restoration that people can canoe on, that you could walk in, that people who come from the city can see and experience what this area was like and can be like forever,” said Segel.

“Were we to acquire it, we would turn it over to some entity to hold on a permanent restricted basis–but it’s a park. The more land we are able to get, the more public access,” he said.

Since no one is pro-pollution, and Segel’s group claims they are not adamantly opposed to some “development,” how did the issue become so violently adversarial?

“It’s economic and it’s political,” he said.


“Certainly getting control of the city at some level,” he added.

Traffic, as it was for Ed Niles who argued the case for reasonable development in The Malibu Times May 18 issue, is also a concern of Segel’s.

“How do you make reasonable economic development within the community if you can’t get here?” he asks.

Although he offers no concrete suggestions, Segel dismisses the premise that Malibu gridlock is inevitable.

“Nothing is absolutely inevitable if you think about it before it happens,” he said. “I’m not willing to say that this has to become another Laguna or Newport Beach. We want to be able to move around. We’re trying to say ‘take the whole concept into consideration.’

“That was the concept of the General Plan [the overall growth plan for Malibu created in 1994.] The more land we can acquire simplifies addressing the problem of PCH.

“There can be development in the Civic Center,” he repeated, “but there also can be ball-fields, and meandering paths and a wetlands restoration large enough to be effective. This is the sole purpose for which we started our conservancy; not to be antagonists but to be consciously constructive of the community’s welfare.”

“I’ve been the enemy of [the] paper for a long time,” Segel said of The Malibu Times. “But its time for everybody to unite, try to do the best job we can, and, with the assistance of the state and the federal government, solve a perennial problem potentially forever. Malibu can be an example for the world.”