2000 LCP becomes central subject of election debates

Candidate slate that opposes current council says the fate of that document, which the Coastal Commission never adopted, is the crux of problems the city is having with coastal permits and development.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

The question as to the fate of a Land Use Plan draft sent in March 2000 by a citizen’s Local Coastal Program committee to the California Coastal Commission has become the central topic of the candidates forums during the 2004 City Council race.

On one side, Mayor Ken Kearsley and Councilmember Jeff Jennings say the Coastal Commission Ventura office staff refused to read the document because it was so poorly written that there was not enough staff time to go through it. On the other side, candidates Walt Keller, Jay Liebig and John Mazza say the City Council at the time, which included Jennings and Kearsley, had the document pulled so the Coastal Commission staff was never able to review it.

In 1994, a 10-person committee was formed to draft a Local Coastal Program for Malibu. The committee would continue to meet for the next six years; 18 people have served on it during that time. According to city documents, on March 21, 2000 the committee approved a draft of a Land Use Plan, one of the two documents that are included in an LCP. The document was then sent to Coastal Commission staff at the South Central Coast Area office in Ventura on March 23 for review. Lucile Keller, wife of Walt Keller and a member of the LCP committee, said it was expected that the commission would send the document back to the city with comments. The committee would then create a final draft that would be presented to the City Council. That never occurred.

A meeting took place on June 15, 2000 in Ventura with then-City Manager Harry Peacock, then-Planning Director Barry Hogan, and Jack Ainsworth and Gary Timm from the Coastal Commission staff. There are several stories about what occurred at that meeting, including two from Timm.

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According to the transcript of Timm’s deposition on June 4, 2002 for a lawsuit by Taxpayers for Livable Communities against the city of Malibu, Timm said that at the June 15 meeting, Peacock told him, “The Land Use Plan was going to be reassigned to city staff and for us [Coastal Commission staff] to not do anything with this document, but to hold off and wait for something from city staff.”

Nowhere in the deposition does Timm mention that Peacock had been instructed by the City Council to withdraw the document. However, in a document signed by Timm that is dated May 1, 2002, it says, “At that meeting, we were advised by Harry Peacock to stop all review of that draft. He indicated that the new City Council had decided to revise or rewrite the LCP.”

Jennings said in an interview on Monday that the council never made any informal or formal request for the 2000 LUP draft to be withdrawn. Lucile Keller said if that was the case, then Peacock was acting without council direction, which she said would be out of character for Peacock. Jennings said that since a council never formally submitted the document, it did not need to be formally withdrawn by one.

The Malibu Times interviewed Timm before obtaining the second document. He did not return phone calls for a follow-up interview. Peacock did not return numerous phone calls for this story. In a Friday interview, Hogan, who now works for the city of Moorpark, said Peacock’s request had nothing to do with the City Council, but was made because Timm said the document was unacceptable.

“We [Hogan and Peacock] were told that the document was ‘dead on arrival,'” Hogan said. “He [Peacock] essentially said [to Timm], ‘Well, if you think it’s dead on arrival, then there’s no point in going through it.'”

The “dead on arrival” term has become infamous with regard to the LUP document. According to the minutes of a Malibu Architect and Engineers Committee meeting on March 16, 2000, Timm used the same phrase to describe a 1999 LUP document submitted by then-Planning Director Craig Ewing to the Coastal Commission staff. Several people have said that comment was referring to the 2000 document, but that is impossible since the meeting occurred prior to the submittal of the 2000 draft. Timm also confirmed in his deposition that the comment he made on March 16, 2000 was referring to the 1999 draft.

Lucile Keller said the 1999 LUP was submitted by Ewing without the knowledge of the committee. She said the document was inadequate.

“It was an incomplete document, and we [committee members] were quite angry that he had sent it,” Keller said in a telephone interview. She said the committee worked an incredible amount of hours to complete the revised draft that was submitted to Coastal Commission staff in March. She said what was submitted at that time was a good document. City Attorney Christi Hogin said the 2000 draft was almost identical to the version submitted in 1999 except for the addition of maps. Keller said that is far from the truth.

In Timm’s deposition, he said some Coastal Commission staff members had felt the 2000 submittal still had similar problems to the 1999 one, although he said staff members had only “leafed through” it and never formally read it.

“I do recall we felt it was too general,” Timm said, according to the deposition.

Candidate Walt Keller has said at several candidates forums this year that had the council not withdrawn the LUP document in 2000, then the city would not have gotten into the situation it is in-the current conflict the city has with the Coastal Commission after it wrote Malibu’s LCP, adopted in September 2002, because of a law passed by the state Legislature instructing it to do so. Many residents have found the draft unacceptable, and have attempted to put the document up to a vote of the people. This has led to litigation, and as a consequence no coastal development permits can be issued in Malibu until the matter is resolved.

However, Kearsely has several times inquired why Keller had never proposed approving the document while he was still on the council in March 2000, if he felt it was adequate. At that point, Kearsley and Jennings had not yet been elected to the council. Lucile Keller said that would not have been appropriate to approve the document at that time, because the committee wanted to receive the comments back from the commission before presenting it to the council for formal adoption.

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

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