Commission gets hot, then frosty


Charleen Kabrin’s tenure as chair of the Planning Commission went out with a bang Monday when, once again, sparks flew between her and fellow Commissioner Ken Kearsley.

In her final comments as chair, and just before Jo Ruggles took over as the newly elected head of the commission, Kabrin criticized Kearsley and Commissioner Ed Lipnick for airing their views on the proposed hillside housing ordinance in letters to the local newspapers.

Kabrin said she thought that any discussions by commission members on matters before them should take place only at commission meetings.

“This table is the place where everything is discussed and deliberated and responded to,” she said.

Taking the discussion to the media, Kabrin said, could “politicize” an issue and consequently interfere with the commissioners doing their job.

“We benefit by full discussions from all sides,” she said. “And to do anything that precludes that isn’t conducive to us doing our best work.”

Kearsley twice asked to respond to her comments, but Kabrin turned down his requests, saying the commissioner-comment period was over, and that she was just expressing an opinion.

“I like to express opinions, too,” Kearsley said.

He then accused Kabrin of saying something that was not true in her comments, and to that, Kabrin relented, and permitted Kearsley to respond.

Kearsley cited the First Amendment and his right to inform Malibu residents about commission decisions.

“My problem is that the public does have a right to know what is going on, and we have to get the information out,” he said. “And the only way I know is to either mail a letter to every person or write a letter to the editor.”

Kabrin broke into his remarks, saying that the commission had not made final decisions on the proposed hillside ordinance and that it was still in the drafting stage.

“I still have the floor,” Kearsley shot back. Then, apparently referring to the last commission meeting when Kabrin cut off his remarks, he jeered, “Are you going to gavel me down again? Are you going to gavel me down again?”

At that point Commissioner Andrew Stern jumped in to bring the escalating discussion to a close, and he reminded Kearsley that Kabrin had closed the commissioner-comment period.

“I made some comments as a chair leaving office, and that’s all that is,” she said.

The commission, on Stern’s motion, then moved to elect Ruggles as the new chair. Ruggles then returned the favor, nominating freshman-member Stern as vice chair, to which he was unanimously elected.

Apparently in the holiday spirit, the commission then tacked on a Christmas bonus to Michael Osterman’s application for a conditional use permit to sell wine and beer at his Pacific Coast Greens market.

The planning staff recommended that the commission approve the permit to sell organic wine and beer, but only on condition that Osterman sell it at room temperature, to prevent immediate consumption.

After singing the praises of the health food store, the commission granted him the right to sell chilled wine and beer, even though Osterman did not ask for permission to do so. Commission members said it was unfair to not permit him to sell a cold one.

Ruggles said if she was stocking up for a party, she would appreciate the convenience of chilled wine and beer being available at the market.

“I would want the beer I was bringing home to already be cold,” she said.