Letter to the Editor: Phase 2 Septic Prohibition Zone

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Letter to the Editor: The Malibu Times

Dear Editor, 

I want to bring attention to the 12-year impact that the Phase 2 Septic Prohibition Zone has had on property owners in the Serra Retreat and Malibu Colony communities.

In November 2009, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board passed Resolution No. R4-2009-007, in which it concluded that evidentiary requirements specified in the California Water Code have been satisfied and that discharges from septic systems in the Malibu Civic Center area fail to meet water quality objectives. 

The Resolution moved to prohibit all new discharges from septic system in residential areas within the Phase 2 Septic Prohibition Zone pending the completion of the Phase 2 work. The cost of the Phase 2Work has still not been determined, nor has the project itself been voted on by the property owners that it will serve.

The prohibition of new discharges means that homeowners whose properties are within the Phase 2 Septic Prohibition Zone cannot add plumbing fixtures to their homes or properties.

Let me describe four exemplary results.

  • In 2010, my then 78-year-old friend, who lives in the Serra Retreat area – his son wanted to build a new, modest home on the neighboring vacant property so that he could be close to his parents. That friend is now 92, and his son still has not been able to apply for a building permit.
  • In 2017, my client, who lives in the Malibu Colony, wanted to remodel her house to accommodate her two young children. Her sons are now of college age. Another opportunity lost.
  • My colleague owns a modest home in the Serra Retreat area and has not been able to add bedrooms with bathrooms to accommodate his young children.
  • Another couple who owns a home in the Malibu Colony have been waiting seven years to add a second story that includes a bathroom to their home.

Would the City Council please consider moving any of the following four ideas forward.

  1. Support and move forward a new study this year to look again at the evidence that the contamination of the water quality of the groundwater at the Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Creek, and Malibu Beach are caused by private septic systems and not, for example, by wildlife or domestic animals.
  2. The City Council schedules a public forum in which property owners whose remodels, additions and new construction have been stalled by the subject prohibition can speak to the impact of the prohibition and have a voice in a solution. This can only help to obtain their support in the required voting.
  3. Investigate and identify those characteristics of existing septic systems in the Phase 2 Prohibition Zone that contribute to their failure to provide primary treatment that would eliminate the contamination alleged in the findings described in the subject resolution. Share that information with the SWQCB and subject property owners to find a more immediate and practical solution.
  4. Can and would the City and the State work together to provide interim relief to those property owners who wish to proceed with the planning and permitting of their improvements prior to the completion and operation of Phase 2. In other words, can they find a way for existing property owner to submit plans and proceed through the time-consuming entitlement process during the completion of Phase 2?

After more than 12 years of prohibition of development involving any increase in the plumbing fixture count on properties in the Prohibition Zone, a solution is overdue.

Richard Sol, Architect

Malibu