Get to know your six candidates campaigning for your vote this November
By The Malibu Times Editorial Board
Campaigning continues for the six candidates vying for the two open seats on Malibu’s City Council. The six candidates in alphabetical order by last name are Ryan Embree, Hap Henry, Marianne Riggins, Bill Sampson, Doug Stewart, and Jimy Tallal.
As a follow up to last week’s City Council Candidates 2022 Q&A Part I, each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same list of questions from The Malibu Times Editorial Board in 150 words or less in addition to their introduction and statement at 200 words.
The candidate’s answers are presented in alphabetical order by last name. Please refer to last week’s paper for Part I.
Question: What is your plan to smooth the rebuild process for those who chose Option 4 on Woolsey rebuilds?
Embree: Classify and prioritize the 110 percent burnouts followed by revisionist plans for much larger replacement projects that need more staff time for approval. Track timing of each application to ensure continued progress. Hire outside planning professionals to handle the workload.
Henry: The Coastal Commission must first approve Malibu’s Local Coastal Plan amendment request in order for Option 4 Woolsey rebuilds to proceed in an orderly fashion. My goal is to prioritize all residents still waiting to move back in to their homes within our planning process, and explore hiring a public expediter to streamline the process for them.
It is embarrassing that multi-billion dollar sports stadiums are completed in shorter periods of time than it has taken for the majority of homes to be rebuilt over the past four years. I am open to considering reforms to our planning department and overall permitting process which will smooth the rebuild process for residents still waiting to move back home, and in preparation for our next devastating wildfire.
Riggins: Increase the understanding of Option 4 and what properties are eligible for it is important. I believe there has been a misunderstanding regarding the purpose and application of the option and how it has been selected by Woolsey affected properties. Option 4 allows a property owner to elect a square footage addition that the property would have been eligible for before their property was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire. It allows the property owner to update and revise their home to reflect how they would like to use it and have the features that homeowners want in a modern home, while still complying with our local development codes.
Sampson: A recent meeting between the City and Coastal Commission provides a basis for optimism on moving forward on this option and other ways of helping residents who lost their homes in the Woolsey Fire. The Coastal Commission has expressed a willingness to help the City construct a new Local Coastal Plan amendment to ease the process.
Nonetheless, we must remember that a forty percent addition is not a “rebuild” – which is allowing real estate speculators to alter the character of our neighborhoods.
The Coastal Commission and City are both appropriately concerned with environmental protection and with permitting the option 4 additions to continue for primary residents who lost their homes in the Woolsey Fire. If executed properly these plans can proceed with people having their additions and without extending this privilege to real estate speculators who seek to profit at the expense of our residents.
Stewart: The City in just the last few weeks held a very senior level meeting with Coastal to address how to resolve this issue. Such an approach was advocated by me for the STR issue and it applies equally to Option 4. It is my understanding that the meeting went well and the City expects a workable resolution with Coastal in the near future to be able to resume the rebuilding process for the affected Woolsey residents.
Tallal: As I understand it, the city is already working with the Coastal Commission to try to iron out the details of getting the Option 4 rebuilds back on track. This is just one more example of how crucial it is for Malibu to develop good relationships with the Coastal Commission and staff.
Question: What is your plan on working with the Coastal Commission on a STR solution?
Embree: Revise the application while simultaneously enforcing existing law. Hire specialty outside counsel to resolve conflict and obtain legal determination if needed. Regulate STR businesses heavily for compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and adopt commercial standards for interior fire suppression and monitoring systems and evacuation routes, annual inspection and certification.
Henry: In order to accomplish the goal of removing year-round short term rentals from our neighborhoods, we must work with the Coastal Commission staff to draft an ordinance that will pass the Commission’s scrutiny, which we failed to do last time around. I believe that an ordinance limiting the number of days annually during which homes can be rented out short-term accomplishes the goal of reducing absentee and corporate ownership, while also allowing primary residents to earn supplemental income and offer overnight accommodations to visitors. Malibu can adopt visitor-friendly policies which do not come at the expense of our rural-residential neighborhood character and quality of life.
Riggins: We need to continue to have conversations with the Coastal Commission and impress on them the impacts to our community by the over saturation of STR’s in our neighborhoods. Luckily Malibu is not the only community feeling the negative effects of STR’s and this will help us in the future to craft laws to protect our residential neighborhoods. The Coastal Commission did show they were sympathetic to the negative effects of STR’s, but they were not able to support a Hosted only policy. We need to craft a balanced permitting process that includes a mix of both Hosted and Unhosted STR’s that limit the concentration in any one neighborhood. Additionally, we need to increase our enforcement and revocation of permits for those property owners that don’t respect their neighbors.
Sampson: For the past eight years, I have fought to have our City Council and staff enforce the existing zoning laws, which in my opinion and that of the former City Attorney, Christi Hogin, forbade STR’s in residential neighborhoods. The City Council and staff refused to do their jobs and despite repeated urging from me and other residents, there was no enforcement. To the contrary, past City Councils welcomed the proliferation of STR’s that is now plaguing Malibu.
As a member of the City Council, I will have greater authority to pursue my objectives of eliminating, or at least dramatically curtailing, STRs from residential neighborhoods.
Other candidates now claiming to champion this cause have been conspicuously silent until seeking election to the City Council. Why should voters believe that these candidates are truly serious when they only now seem to take an interest in this situation to secure a vote?
Stewart: The City Council worked diligently to develop what is referred to as the “Hosted STR” ordinance that addressed the STR issue as a collaborative solution for our Malibu residents. The City’s recent decision of not working in an equally collaborative basis with Coastal for their required approval of the STR ordinance resulted in a prompt denial and rebuke at the Commission level. Such an approach with Coastal is in direct contrast to the historical cooperative relationship of many years which I believe should be our approach with Coastal. Coastal has offered to work with the City at the staff and senior level to address Coastal’s concerns and requirements for approval. This should be immediately pursued to obtain the best structure that is workable for Malibu and is acceptable to our residents.
Tallal: My plan on working with the Coastal Commission on a Short-Term Rental (STR) ordinance would be, first of all, not to alienate them by refusing to allow the city planning department to meet with their staff to work on it. Following that, I would not alienate them further by threatening at a public meeting to take them to court.
Because the City needs this ordinance so badly, before our neighborhoods are totally taken over, I would accept the Coastal Commission’s conclusion that the City’s proposed ordinance/ LCP amendment is too extreme by prohibiting all unhosted STRs.
We would have to hammer out an agreement that we could all live with, which would have to include some unhosted rentals being allowed. We could do things like limit unhosted rentals to certain times of the year, or put a cap on the number of unhosted rentals allowed in each neighborhood.
Question: What would you like to tell residents who are dealing with disruptive STRs and what is your solution?
Embree: There will be a change to the free pass for STRs when I become a voting member of the City Council. A Fee Study to identify and recoup all costs for municipal service impacts will occur.
Henry: Disruptive STR homes have no place in Malibu, and I am committed to working with the Council majority and Coastal Commission staff to limit STRs and more effectively enforce existing noise, safety, septic system compliance, and party size regulations.
I look forward to the day when Malibu is no longer home to year-round STRs owned and managed by absentee corporations with little to no regard for our resident quality of life. I am confident this day is near.
Riggins: Our city needs to craft STR laws that have strong enforcement and revocation policies to ensure the protection of our residential neighborhoods. We need to have clear rules that must be followed by permit holders and that our Code Enforcement officers and local law enforcement can enforce.
Sampson: Every resident adversely affected by STR disruptions should refer the problem to staff and council. As I have said elsewhere my own attempts have been stonewalled for years by both, but, being an optimist, I hope that if enough people make their voices heard that the disruptions will end.
Residents should relentlessly demand that the city enforce our regulations on noise, litter, racing, any disruption. I will be the point person for that effort. There is an outside contractor but calls to that contractor are ineffectual. Residents should demand that the sheriff show up for noise and other unlawful activity. Although the sheriff only wants to show up after 10 p.m., our noise ordinance prohibits excess noise at any time – so that thundering bass that rattles your teeth is NOT legal and calls should be made. Finally, support my candidacy – I’m with you.
Stewart: Without a more stringent STR ordinance, the City presently has minimal control over STRs. Having such an enhanced STR ordinance with operating standards, safety requirements, and enforcement, should be a top priority for the Council so that we can be responsive to the STR generated problems for our residents while keeping everyone safe. Having the ordinance is but the first step as the City must then oversee these STRs as the businesses they are. Strict guidelines for occupancy, operation and a vigorous, prompt and proactive enforcement program of those requirements is essential. This is a far different approach than is currently in effect for code enforcement in general, but it must be applied to this unique business model and should be 100 percent paid for by the licensing fees applicable to the STR operators.
Tallal: Disruptive STRs, also referred to as “party houses,” have got to stop. My solution is to get money put into the City budget to hire additional code enforcement officers that are on duty or on-call 24/7 over the weekends. The City’s current officers only work regular office hours Monday through Friday. There is literally no one to call to complain about a loud party or other infractions like parking all over the place, or exceeding the capacity of the house or its septic system. Some people call the Sheriff, but don’t always get a response.
I’d also like to make a City rule that unhosted rentals must post a sign on the front door or gated entrance with a large phone number listing the owner or manager of that property that people can call to complain 24/7. That number would also be listed on the City website.
Question: What is your position on new development in Malibu?
Embree: New development must comply with current codes. Floor-Area-Ratio for commercial development is stated by law. Variances must be justified by findings of fact unique to the property. I will propose creation of a Traffic Mitigation Fund to capture off-site mitigations and non-compliant continuation or violations. Variance requests that are caused by over-development will be denied by City Council upon Appeal. Existing residential properties’ additions should be prioritized as the tax paying residents of the City. I will propose assignment of a small-projects advocate to assist local residents achieve minor project approval and permits.
Henry: New development in Malibu ought to be consistent with our General Plan and the Vision and Mission statements contained therein. Malibu lacks a demand for additional commercial spaces, and new development should be focused on public amenities such as a swim and tennis club, performing arts center, soccer field, permanent skate park, community garden, and dedicated youth and senior facilities. These are all projects which I will pursue if elected.
Riggins: There are 3 components to development in Malibu – Commercial, Residential and Community. Any new Commercial needs to be reviewed to show that it is filling an unmet need in our community both in retail/office space and economically. Residential development is what our residents want to do with their homes. We need to make sure we have policies and procedures that allow our residents to make improvements to their homes in a timely and efficient manner. Community development is about creating spaces that support the education, protection and recreational needs of our residents. We need to have institutional development standards that reflect what we need and want for our community.
Sampson: Any new development must conform to existing law, whether in the building code, the zoning code, or otherwise. Every property owner took title to their property subject to that law. There should be no problem developing property consistent with that law. The Vision and Mission Statements are the guideposts to the interpretation of those other laws in our unique, coastal village. That is my commitment.
I will quote only the Vision Statement, which is literally part of our governing law in Malibu Municipal Code Section 17.02.030: “Malibu is a unique land and marine environment and residential community whose citizens have historically evidenced a commitment to sacrifice urban and suburban conveniences in order to protect that environment and lifestyle, and to preserve unaltered natural resources and rural characteristics. The people of Malibu are a responsible custodian of the area’s natural resources for present and future generations.”
Stewart: Our rural focused town is already overdeveloped with retail and office space as indicated by the vacant spaces in existing properties. Adding in the La Paz project now under construction will only further amplify this problem. There is therefore no justifiable reason to add more retail and office space. We need to put our focus on avoiding the “blight” of visible empty buildings. On our residential side, we need to get our families back in their Woolsey rebuilds as soon as possible. This should be a priority over any other residential development.
Tallal: I would not approve of any new retail, office space or subdivision. As far as the retail or office space, Malibu is already way overbuilt and overcapacity with many so vacant offices and storefronts. Our small town of 10,000 can only support a limited number of businesses; and most of the 15 million visitors a year are not coming to Malibu to shop.
The death of retail due to online shopping has reduced the need for stores even more – not only here but across the country. And the number of people that began working at home during the pandemic has vastly reduced the need for office space. All of that explains that our mostly-empty buildings aren’t likely to fill up any time soon.
Construction of the La Paz shopping center, initially approved in 2008, has people shaking their heads, but there hasn’t been any legal way to stop it.
Question: What do you think is going well right now in the city?
Embree: New permanent City Manager Steve McClary has started the process to conduct a Performance Audit of the Planning Department and brought-on a new Assistant City Manager which rids the City of legacy administrative processes and brings insight on how to improve operations. Several new positions were created for additional Fire Safety liaisons and personnel to address wildfire safety from within City government. With seasoned expertise, the City shouldn’t close-down its Emergency Operations Center and flee next time a fire comes. The City is sending Film Permit contract work out for bid to hopefully break the cycle of assigning 80% of film permit revenue to a private consulting contractor.
Henry: Malibu has demonstrated incredible resilience in the face of adversity in recent years. As we slowly rebuild our city and residents move back into their homes nearly four years after the Woolsey Fire, and as social gathering become increasingly common since the COVID shutdown of recent years, there are opportunities on the horizon to establish community-serving amenities. Malibu is currently in a position, both in terms of finances and land ownership, to pursue additional gathering places in order to foster a greater sense of community. If elected, I will enthusiastically advocate on behalf of an interactive and educational garden, composting program, performing arts center, pool and sports facilities, permanent skate park, and expanded youth and senior programming.
Riggins: Community Services is restarting many community classes and programs and seniors are able to return and take part in vital programs. Woolsey fire rebuilds are moving through the process, with over 100 homes completed, almost 150 under construction and over 100 in the review process. Emergency preparedness programs have increased and hundreds of residents have been provided valuable information to harden their homes in preparation for the next natural disaster. Evacuation notifications are being tested and plans to better handle evacuations are being implemented. The Homeless Task Force is developing processes and programs to recommend to City Council to reduce the effects of homelessness on our community. Public Works continues to work to improve our city’s infrastructure and implement repairs to our roads and drainage systems. Our new City Manager and Assistant City Manager are learning about our community and posed to implement the recommendations of the council.
Sampson: According to the most recent official count homelessness within the CIty has been dramatically reduced. There has been a concomitant reduction in fires caused in homelessness “camps.”
Due to additional funds we have added $1,000,000 police protection.
The residents want strong short term rental regulation and robust enforcement of it. I’ll strongly enforce all regulations.
The city has purchased decibel readers for use of the sheriff to reduce noisy vehicles and has encouraged the sheriff to enforce our camping ordinance as to those living here in vehicles who are clearly not homeless.
Stewart: The City is financially in excellent shape with its AA / AAA credit ratings and associated significant cash reserves. A key part of this and an additional strength is the historically consistent tax revenue from property tax that supports a large portion of the city budget. This affords us a strong financial position where we are less restrained to deal with the issues confronting the City as well as to undertake future improvements such as park development or other capital programs to enhance the residents’ experiences albeit in a prudent manner.
An additional positive aspect is the acquisition by the City over the last few years of parcels of land to remove them from possible development and eventual use by the City. We also are well positioned with substantial set aside library funds for its future improvements.
Tallal: I think Malibu is doing a very good job on the issue of homelessness, and maintaining a good balance between compassion for the homeless and public safety. The number of unhoused people in our town has decreased dramatically according to the latest homeless count – going from an average of about 160 to 180 individuals about six years ago down to the latest count of about 81.
I attribute much of this progress to the City’s hiring of two full-time outreach workers from The People Concern, who have done a stellar job of getting our homeless into temporary and permanent housing.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Department and City took the step of declaring an emergency that allowed them to clear out several dangerous homeless camping sites that had started fires in our high fire danger zone City.
The Homeless Task Force is well on its way to getting “Alternative Sleeping Locations.”
Part three coming next week, Oct. 20.
City Council Candidates 2022 Q&A Part I see below: