As we enter what would normally be a season of coffees, teas and neighborhood forums to meet those running for City Council, we can congratulate the eight Malibu citizens who are volunteering to serve our community. There certainly are issues facing them—and us—so it pays each of us to examine the policies of these individuals. Will they stick to our foundational declaration to maintain the rural character of Malibu, or are they pro-development? Why have only four homes been rebuilt since Woolsey on Nov. 9, 2018? Why have so many other projects over the years been stalled or radically changed by staff when the council unanimously voted to move forward with things like rodenticide, Norm’s hotel, fire prevention, undergrounding or Airbnbs. Does the council run Malibu or does the staff?
Case in point: Recently, a small undergrounding project in our neighborhood of 49 homes was completely undermined by staff. We had begun this five years ago, working with the city to battle Edison, who clearly doesn’t want to underground, since they earn a huge return repairing and maintaining above-ground utility equipment (which, of course, was the cause of Woolsey and every other major fire in the last few years).
Five years ago, with 85 percent of the homeowners voting to form an assessment district under Edison Rule 20B, we raised $200,000 and the council voted unanimously to proceed. We asked for financial help from the city and the city attorney said that was possible, since there was a clear public benefit in terms of fire prevention. (In one 12-month period, we had four small fires started by Edison equipment; fortunately, none occurred during a Santa Ana wind event.) But at the following council meeting, the assistant city attorney declared there was no public benefit.
In spite of public works’ excellent efforts, Edison took five years to get to the point where the city hired the assessment engineer. But this expert stated there was indeed a public benefit—to be borne by the city, just as we had argued from the beginning. Staff then said that, instead of an assessment district, we would become a community facilities district. But an assessment district requires only 50 percent-plus-one of those affected while a CFD mandates two-thirds. Not only does this put our little undergrounding effort in doubt, but it is not what council voted. We reject this slight of hand and demanded a return of all the money we put up.
But again, it brings up the issue of who runs our city. How can staff take actions that are directly contrary to the five individuals we have elected to represent us? So look behind candidates’ platitudes of wanting to maintain Malibu’s character. Carefully examine their positions. Call or email them directly and pin them down.