Citizens’ petition puts Malibu LCP on hold

Malibu residents gather nearly three times the signatures needed for a referendum.

By Cathy Neiman/Staff Writer

History was made in Malibu when a group of determined city activists, representing a broad cross section of the local political spectrum, delivered a petition to the Malibu city clerk on Oct. 10, requesting that a referendum be placed on the ballot to repeal the Local Coastal Plan that was recently passed by the California Coastal Commission and adopted at their Sept. 13 meeting.

The drive was spearheaded by Anne Hoffman of the Land Use Preservation Defense Fund, with the help of 45 volunteers that included Barry Haldeman, Dr. Jeff Harris, Dennis Seider, Carol Randall, Ted Vaill and Georgianna McBurney of the Californians for Local Coastal Planning.

Others advocating the referendum were John and Blanca Sibert, Realtors Kathryn Yarnell, Natalie Soloway, Paul Grisanti, Paul Spiegel, Susan Monus and Tony Giordano.

Many residents acted as neighborhood captains including Judy Weedman and Leslie Schwartz in Big Rock, Holly Sawyer on Malibu Road, Ann Fulton in the Malibu Colony, Kay Ferguson on Winding Way, Ruth White and Kathy Holguin in Ramirez, Les Moss in Malibu West, Gretchen Hays in La Costa, Lloyd Ahern on Las Tunas Beach, Rod Bergen in the Equestrian community, and Mary Ayrst, Judy Decker and John Mazza on Point Dume. Others involved included Wade Majors, Barbara Kearsley and Pam Shatsky.

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The petition for the referendum was turned in with 2,626 signatures of registered Malibu voters with at least 100 pounds of legal documentation attached to it.

According to Hoffman, this referendum, because it included hundreds of pages of the Coastal commission LCP, was one of the largest in the history of California and perhaps the United States.

“It turns out there are more signatures than the required number,” City Attorney Christi Hogan said. “Eight hundred eighty signatures are required.”

The referendum was delivered to the City of Malibu by about a dozen volunteers who stood by while city clerk Lisa Pope counted and verified the number of signatures on the petition.

“We would have gotten all of Malibu’s registered voters if there were more time,” Hoffman said.

According to state law, the petition had to be filed within 30 days of the passage of the LCP by the Coastal Commission on Sept. 13, and automatically blocks the enactment of the Coastal Commission’s Land Use Plan.

Hoffman said they conducted a whirlwind campaign in 14 days to meet the filing deadline. Each volunteer had to carry two 500-page books (one for the commission and one for the city) when petitioning for signatures.

“This issue required a flood of support,” Hoffman said. “Not only did volunteers have to be driven, but they had to have the physical strength to carry these books!”

In the last 14 days, Hoffman and her volunteers went to homeowners association groups, churches, events such as the Farmers’ Market and the Pie Festival, supermarkets and door-to-door to collect signatures for the referendum.

When Hoffman was asked why she took the lead in this quest, including paying for attorney’s fees, she said, “The citizens of Malibu have to exercise their democratic right. Never before in the history of America has a state agency dictated a city’s use of land.”

As for the next step, the county clerk has to certify that at least approximately 900 signatures on the petition are authentic (a minimum of 10 percent of the registered voters in Malibu) and then it goes back to the Malibu City Council to be placed on a ballot for a vote of the Malibu citizenry.

As a precaution, the group is also submitting a copy of the petition to the California Coastal Commission offices in Ventura for whatever action, legal or otherwise, they intend to take.

Malibu City Council member Ken Kearsley said, “I anticipate that the Coastal Commission will try to use the so called Nuremberg Defense that they were just following orders-in this case, the legislatures orders.”

Knowledgeable observers have stated, off the record, that what happens next is far from clear because nothing like this has ever happened before. The Coastal Commission may decide to sue to block the referendum from being placed on the ballot. Additionally, there are rumors circulating that the city is contemplating litigation against the Coastal Commission on grounds that might include legal questions about their down-zoning without individual notice to the land owners, and perhaps what some in the city view as very questionable legal conflicts of interests by some of the commissioners and some of the proponents of the commission’s LCP.

Another alternative some have suggested is that the commission and the city will try to avoid a very acrimonious and expensive legal battle and perhaps try to negotiate some changes in the LCP so it’s acceptable to both the commission and the citizens of Malibu.

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

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