Candidate Jennings defends city’s record

Jeff Jennings

Says he seeks re-election to see through completion of projects.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

Councilmember Jeff Jennings said one of the major reasons he is running for re-election is that he wants to see the completion of many of the projects the council has begun. He said that a statement made by opposition group Malibu Community Action Network that the current council has accomplished little is false.

Jennings said there are several projects the council has begun, although they have not been completed. They include the acquisition of lands for parks, persuading the California Coastal Commission to back off in its efforts to evict the city from Bluffs Park and getting California State Parks to assist the city with acquiring new fields. The city also began the process of getting approval for a wastewater plant at the Civic Center, an item going before the Planning Commission on Monday. Jennings said the city has also accomplished setting up the framework for street realignments, increased the budget reserve, received millions of dollars in state and federal grants and acquired a new City Hall and the Senior Center.

“It would be nice for all of these project to have been completed, but you can’t just snap your fingers and get things done,” he said. “It takes time. But we [the council] have put more beneficial projects into play that will be completed over the next few years than any previous council has.”

One accomplishment the council failed to make was to create a deal with the Malibu Bay Co. that would receive voter approval. Jennings and the other councilmembers approved a deal with Malibu’s largest landowner last summer in what would become Measure M in the November election. Voters rejected it by nearly a three-to-two margin. Jennings insists it was a good deal.

He said the opposition, led by Malibu CAN, had a much easier task than the proponents. He said his side had to convince people to do something, while the opponents just confused the electorate.

“One of the problems with politics historically in this town is anybody who proposes a solution to this problem is immediately attacked as being pro-development,” Jennings said. “The alternative to proposing a solution is ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away. And that, in the long-run, will have disastrous consequences.”

Jennings said he believes the motivation for many of the opponents against the agreement was they didn’t like that the current council had come up with it.

He said he looks to the fact that those who led the opposition campaign had talked about the city buying Civic Center property in the past. When the city finally had an opportunity to do it, they declined to support it.

“They simply didn’t want to see the City Council get credit for something they felt was their idea,” Jennings said. “Although it wasn’t their idea, it was everybody’s idea.”

If Jennings is re-elected, it will be his third term on the council. He was first elected in 1994, then lost a re-election bid in 1998. He returned to the council in 2000, serving as mayor from April 2002 to April 2003. Malibu CAN has said it wants to remove him and Mayor Ken Kearsley from office.

“It’s the same people who have been opposed to me in the past,” Jennings said in a December interview. “Although they certainly seem to have a tremendous amount of money this time.”

Besides Measure M, another issue Jennings is in disagreement with Malibu CAN on is the Local Coastal Program situation. Malibu is in a court battle with the state after the California Coastal Commission drafted an LCP for the city that a large number of residents deemed unacceptable. Jennings said he strongly supports the city’s suit to be able to put the LCP before voters, since more than 2,700 residents signed a petition to put it up for a vote. However, he said he hopes the city and state might be able to revise the LCP through amendments, avoiding further litigation.

While the city battles with the state on the issue, no coastal development permits have been granted, leaving a large number of people in limbo. Jennings said he sympathizes with those people. He added that the council has tried to come up with solutions, including one in which the city could grant permits without it affecting its case. Although the state did not openly oppose the idea, a judge rejected it. Jennings blamed the interference by Taxpayers for Livable Communities, an organization formerly headed by council candidate Jay Liebig, as the reason for the judge’s decision. In an interview last summer, TLC attorney Corin Kahn said there was no way to know if a brief filed by TLC had any bearing on the decision.

Jennings said he finds Liebig’s candidacy for council odd, because he said Liebig has contributed virtually nothing to the community, while harming it with a series of lawsuits that have come from TLC. He said this marks the first year he can remember where there are so many candidates who do not have history of community involvement. Jennings has endorsed Kearsley for re-election.

Jennings has a history of involvement in Malibu. He was chair of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Advisory Committee to create Malibu High School. He has also been involved with Malibu Little League and Malibu AYSO.

Jennings graduated from Yale University and Stanford Law School. He also served in the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, where he earned a Bronze Star for his service. Jennings now works as an attorney in Oxnard. He has lived in Malibu for more than 30 years with his wife Kris. They have three sons.