Letter from assistant planning director describes staff dysfunction

Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

City Council submits a letter to MRCA on non-permitted Winding Way Pavement, calls it public safety impact zone

Malibu/Lost Hills Sgt. Chris Soderlund had multiple news to provide at the City Council meeting on Monday, June 24. For the first heatwave of the year, Soderlund said Malibu saw an influx in visitors heading to the beach and hikers being rescued by the Malibu Search and Rescue team.

On Sunday, June 23, Malibu Search & Rescue had the team’s busiest afternoon with four successive rescues between 3 and 7 p.m. Malibu Search & Rescue, LA County Fire Department and California State Parks teamed up to rescue four patients. With the temperature hitting almost 100 degrees in the area, heat-related rescues were prevalent. Several of the hikers said they thought they were prepared. MalibuSAR cautions everyone that it’s extremely difficult for the typical hiker to prepare to hike in such high temps. 

“Good reminder to hydrate, I know we’re not used to the heat so when the heat happens, you need to hydrate a prepare,” Soderlund said. 

To read more about the rescues, visit page A6. 

Soderlund said LA County saw over 1.6 million people visiting the beaches this past weekend. LA County lifeguards did 380 ocean rescues and provided medical aid to 436 people and 27,000 preventative actions.

“We were out there helping them along Malibu’s beaches, so it was a very, very busy weekend,” Soderlund said. 

Soderlund showed a photo of the traffic and said it took about 45 minutes to get to Kanan Road from Westward Beach Road this past weekend as well.

“We had traffic deputies out there to keep the traffic flowing, except there was an exceptionally large amount of cars this weekend,” he said. “Fortunately there were no major accidents, so I am thankful for that.”

Soderlund also thanked the council for their support on the speed cameras. 

“I want to say thank you for beating the drum and voicing your opinion, so we got it done — so keep on moving,” he said. 

Soderlund also reminded the community about the event on Thursday.

The city will be hosting a “Cruise Malibu — Surf, Sand, Slow” campaign to raise awareness and change driver behavior on Thursday, June 27, at 5 p.m. The community picnic-style event will feature a panel discussion led by community members with a Q&A, a presentation of the city’s new “Cruise Malibu — Surf, Sand, Slow” music video and campaign materials, and a call for volunteers to join the PCH safety effort. 

After Soderlund’s report, the council addressed the Escondido Fails Trail paving project on Winding Way MRCA is operating. The city released a statement to the community on Monday before the meeting. 

“This is to inform you that the LA County Waterworks District 29 (WWD29) is currently conducting paving work (slurry sealing) on Winding Way East in Malibu today, June 24,” the statement says. “The majority of the work on Winding Way East is expected to be completed by the end of today. However, the driveway entrances and the entrance to the Escondido Falls Trailhead parking lot at Winding Way and PCH will be finished next week.

“Additionally, the city has coordinated with the Mountains Resource and Conservation Authority (MRCA) to close the Escondido Falls Trailhead parking lot on Tuesday, June 25, if necessary, to accommodate the work. WWD29 will continue slurry sealing on Winding WayWest and Murphy Way on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 25 and 26. This will include sealing driveway entrances.”

Interim City Attorney Trevor Rusin provided a statement at the meeting.

“This is an area where, given the number of visitors and traffic the city sees on Winding Way, directing them to this area where there is no infrastructure or parking lot — is very irresponsible and not safe,” he said. “It appears that MRCA’s action does constitute development, the coastal zone does require a CUP, and that has not been applied for or obtained by the MRCA.”

Rusin said they had submitted the letter to MRCA and have been documenting the project, and had involved law enforcement due to public safety impacts. 

Rusin said there was no coastal development permit.

“[We’re] encouraging [them] to work with the city, proactively and cooperatively rather than springing things, and coming to the city and creating situations where frankly, a number of impacts and unforeseen impacts can happen,” Rusin said. 

As for submitting the letter, Mayor Steve Uhring asked how this letter will help with the situation.

“This is the way the process starts, in order for us to see change in this area, or any area, is by reaching out, communicating, and putting people on a notice,” he said. 

For council reports, Councilmember Bruce Silverstein read a letter written by Assistant Planning Director Adrian Fernandez. 

Both Councilmember Paul Grisanti and Rusin said the letter shouldn’t be addressed, but Uhring said it’s a public letter and should be read. 

“In a cover email he wrote, ‘Dear councilmembers, please read the attached letter. In this letter I bring to light the abuse and dysfuctioning experience by planning staff and root caused of it, my hope is that you will bring a positive change to all of this,’ signed by Adrian Fernandez,” Silverstein said. 

Silverstein said Fernandez has experienced death threats, public attacks, and private verbal abuse from many sides. 

“I can empathize with Mr. Fernandez; no one should have to suffer that,” Silverstein said. 

Uhring said this had been the second letter they have received and wants to get this issue resolved.

Rusin said they will have a meeting the following day, and will give an update report to City Council.

Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart also hopes to get this resolved but said, “I wish we weren’t doing this in public, but we are.”

In his report, Stewart also mentioned the recent passing of SB 1297 and thanked everyone for their diligent work on the efforts to bring speeding cameras to Malibu.

The council approved the Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Wastewater Service Charges and Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2024-25 with a friendly amendment for the new department. 

The council motioned to approve Zoning Text Amendment No. 16-005 and Local Coastal Program Amendment No. 16-007 and modify section 3. Amendments to Chapter 12.02 (Wireless Facilities in Public Right-of-Way) and Chapter 17.46 (Wireless Telecommunications Antennas and Facilities) of the Malibu Municipal Code, and Sections 2.2 and 3.16, Chapter 13 and Appendix 1 (Table B Permitted Uses) of the Local Coastal Program Local Implementation Plan to modify regulations, procedures, and application requirements for the installation of wireless communications facilities.

The council adopted Resolution Establishing Criteria for Declaring a Local Emergency During Periods of High Fire Risk. Public Safety Director Susan Dueñas provided the report. 

The next City Council meeting is on July 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers at City Hall.