City Council tables topic to eliminate appeal fee from the Planning Commission

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During the Malibu City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, the council considered eliminating the fee for an appeal to the City Council only from a grant by the Planning Commission that is within the appealable jurisdiction of the Coastal Commission. 

As a general matter, before a party can appeal a local agency’s decision respecting a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) to the California Coastal Commission (CCC), the appellant must first exhaust all local appeals. There is an exception to this rule where the local agency charges a fee for the local appeal — on the theory that a party should not have to pay a fee to be heard in opposition to the grant of a CDP.

The City of Malibu charges a fee for an appeal to the City Council from a decision of the Planning Commission. Accordingly, where a decision respecting an application for a CDP is granted by the Planning Commission and is appealable to the CCC, some objectors appeal directly to the CCC — thereby bypassing the City Council and denying the City Council an opportunity to decide whether it agrees or disagrees with the decision of the Planning Commission. This removes an element of local control that is the object of Malibu being a city with its own Local Coastal Program.

By eliminating the fee for an appeal to the City Council from a decision of the Planning Commission that would be appealable directly to the CCC if there were a fee for an appeal to the City Council, the City of Malibu could improve its local control over local development issues because there would be no right to appeal to the CCC until after an appeal has first been taken to and decided by the City Council.

“Let’s table it for the future and see and come back to it,” Stewart said. “I think we have a good solution in search of a problem.”

Councilmember Steve Uhring suggested to hold on this item as well. 

“If we still think it’s a good idea, we can always go back and revisit it,” Uhring said. 

Silverstein shared his remarks on the proposal.

“As for small-town argument, it’s already the case that the vast majority of CDPs granted within the appeal zone are for homes being built by uber-wealthy and developers,” the mayor said. “Billionaires are building some of those homes; it’s not the people leaving Malibu; it’s for very wealthy people that are doing strange projects that we ought to have an opportunity to review even though the Planning Commission has approved them, rather than letting the appeal be leapfrogged over us, and potentially be approved by the Coastal Commission when it might’ve been denied by the City Council and never see the light of day at the Coastal Commission.”

Councilmember Marianne Riggins responded to the remarks made to developers. 

“The lengthy process that we have through development discourages the average homeowner from being able to do a project, and they are met with constant additional requirements and costs, and those costs, going up and up and up every single year,” Riggins said. “We need to find a way; if we are serious about having a residential community, we need to find a way to make the process so that it is workable for residents.”

“Taking issue with our local offices, they are here; they are residents, they raised their families in our communities, so to silence them as developers is also inappropriate.”

The council motioned to continue the item to a date uncertain. 

At the start of the meeting, public speakers and councilmembers raised concerns on recent events that occurred, such as the Tuna Canyon brush fire and the recent Coastal Commission meeting that occurred last Thursday, Feb. 8.

During public comment, Mountain Recreation Conservation Authority Supervisor Ranger for the Coastal Division Timothy Pera provided an update on the additional parks staff, patrolling, and additional trash cans that were placed around beaches and parks in Malibu. 

“You’ll probably see a lot more of us around, helping the community and doing the best we can to provide a safe and wonderful place such as Malibu,” Pera said. 

Pera said the MRCA is looking to implement cameras at Carbon and La Costa beach access for public safety. 

After public comment, Uhring raised concerns about the items the Development Services Ad Hoc Committee addresses, saying said he hopes to dissolve the subcommittee. In addition, he accused Malibu City Manager Steve McClary of “blindsiding the city council.” He stated, “it seems to me that even though we felt that Reva Feldman is gone, she may be sneaking back in as Steve McClary.” 

Councilmember Paul Grisanti interrupted Uhring and said it was an inappropriate time to address this in the meeting. Mayor Silverstein told Uhring he could continue. 

Uhring went on to say, “Being a member of a subcommittee that is dead in the water is nowhere on my bucket list,” he said. “We were told that the consultants were not going to talk to us, so having more meetings to have people not talk to me doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense.” 

Riggins voiced her disappointment in assertions that there is inappropriate behavior from the city manager and felt McClary deserves an apology. 

She went on to say that it wouldn’t be appropriate to dissolve the committee and requested that Uhring apologize to the city manager for 

“If Mayor Pro Tem Uhring would like to step down, we can see if one of the other council members would be willing to step in the subcommittee,” Riggins said. “I don’t think dissolving it is appropriate at this time; it’s too early in the process.”

The meeting continued on with Mayor Silverstein’s council report without addressing the comments or accusations.

Following council reports, Stewart pulled item 3B7 for an Annual Comprehensive Financial Report and Management Letter for Fiscal Year 2021-2022.

Assistant City Manager Joseph Toney provided the report and said the city is in a strong financial position. 

“That’s a huge credit to the staff who have been pragmatic over the years and also the council who adopted very conservative budgets, all in all, a very good report,” Toney said.  

The ACFR reflects total governmental combined fund balances of $74.6 million on June 30, 2022, which is an increase of $15 million from the prior year’s ending balance of $59.6 million. In comparison, Fiscal Year 2020-21 had a net increase-to-fund balance of $7.5 million. Following are the key elements of the net $7.5 million year-to-year increase in activity. According to the report, revenues increased by a net of $3.6 million from the prior year. Expenditures decreased by $3.8 million in the fiscal year from the preceding year. 

Public safety costs increased by $1.3 million due to paying higher contracted fees for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s services, with Malibu assuming the entire cost of The People Concern Homeless Outreach Team. In addition, the city had a wildfire resiliency program totaling $324,000 to remove hazardous trees that posed a fire danger within the city. This program was funded through grant revenue.

Mayor Bruce Silverstein asked the city staff about an income increase of $4.1 million due to receiving a Woolsey Fire settlement payment.

Toney and City Manager Steve McClary said they would need to return with a response. 

The city’s assets exceeded its liabilities at the close of the fiscal year by $224.7 million.

To see the full report, visit malibucity.org. 

Next, Riggins pulled item 3B8 for a report on the Amendment to Professional Services Agreement with California Skateparks. 

Acting Community Services Director Kristin Riesgo provided an update and said the Public Commission will have a public hearing on the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) application soon.

“Over the next several months, the Planning Department and city agencies will be reviewing those plans, and once the project is deemed complete and consistent with LCP, the planning commission will have a public hearing for the CDP,” Riesgo said. “We hope that gets to the Planning Commission in the summer of 2023, hopefully, sooner, but that’s kind of what were thinking on.”

On Feb. 24, 2020, the council approved a Professional Services Agreement (Agreement) with California Skateparks (Consultant) to provide design services and construction documents for the Permanent Skate Park (Skate Park).

On May 24, 2021, the council approved Amendment No. 1, which allowed the Consultant to hire a sub-consultant, RRM Design Group (Subconsultant), to design drainage, grading, erosion control, stormwater control, and landscape.

The city planned to complete the Skate Park design by February 2023; unfortunately, there was a shift in priorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the project to be delayed. Staff recommends amending the original Agreement term for one year, which will provide the contractor time to prepare the final design documents for review and approval. Once completed, the project would go before the Planning Commission for review before final approval by the council.

The projected balance of the Designated Reserve for the Case/Crummer Parcel on June 30, 2022, is $368,255.

The meeting was adjourned in memory of Guy Weston Embree, Ryan Embree’s father, who passed away at the age of 100 years old on Monday, Feb. 13. 

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27.