Malibu City Council votes to return to in-person meetings on March 27


During the Malibu City Council meeting on Monday, Jan. 23, councilmembers and speakers began with expressing concerns with the brush fire that occurred on Saturday, stating the incident is an ongoing occurrence on Tuna Canyon with homeless encampments. 

“We had a fire at that canyon a couple of times, it’s amazing how many people live back there, even past the city limits, but it’s more important if you look at the trash that’s up there and the abuse of the natural resources,” Councilmember Doug Stewart said during his update. 

Stewart said that the canyon has had a history of trash collected and said the city and property owner needs to take accountability. 

“It took four dump trucks to clean out the homeless encampment in the canyon,” Stewart said. “It just rained, and that stuff washes into the ocean. We worry about plastic straws, and here goes chairs and tents, and everything else right into the ocean, so we have a responsibility to make that property owner with our nuisance laws and whatever actions we have to pay for cleaning that up and taking care of it.”

Malibu Mayor Bruce Silverstein agreed with the concerns and hopes to see enforcement taking place. 

“It’s long overdue,” Silverstein said. “Something needs to be done about this. This is not city property, but we are faced with this issue … this is private property, it’s not allowed to occur on private property … it’s a fire hazard, and it’s a nuisance. 

“Of the 17 or 18 fires we’ve had in the past couple of years that have been attributed to unhoused encampments, I think multiple ones have come from that specific area, that specific property.”

Council moved on to Professional Services Agreement with 4Leaf, Inc. for Expedited Woolsey Fire Consulting Services for two-year contract-planning services in the amount of $600,000. 

This item was included as item 2.a. in the Adopted Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2022-2023.

During the past four years, 4Leaf, Inc. has provided consultants to process planning applications, perform pre-design meetings, and provide public counter service to fire victims. Even though a significant number of fire rebuild applications have been processed, there is still a need to supplement the Planning Department’s staffing to continue to provide timely reviews of fire-related applications. However, the city’s agreement with 4Leaf, Inc. is set to expire on Jan. 28.

The city does not have the personnel available to perform the services to provide Woolsey Fire Rebuild Planning Services.

The Planning Director monitors the workload of the fire rebuild contract planner and phases out the consultant position when all planning staff positions are filled, and the backlog of development permits has been sufficiently reduced.

“This is the continuation of workers we’ve had in our beck and call for the last four years,” Councilmember Paul Grisanti said. “Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough of them.” 

Silverstein asked Planning Director Richard Mollica how many residents need to rebuild but don’t have a permit. 

“Unless they notified myself or another staff member, we don’t know their plans,” Mollica said. “Unfortunately, what I do get are a number of emails of folks that I see essentially wanting to obtain a permit and then try to find out how long they can keep those permits for and obviously, they’re trying to sell.”

Environmental Sustainability Director Yolanda Bundy provided a Woolsey Fire rebuild update.

“We still have addresses and numbers of those 133 families so we can come back to you and give you a better estimate,” Bundy said. 

Grisanti motioned to approve item 3B6, and Silverstein seconded the motion. Motioned carried. 

Council denied Appeal No. 21-011 – Appeal of Planning Commission Resolution No. 21-53 (23325 Malibu Colony Drive; Owner, Axel 23324, LLC; Appellant, Judith Israel).

According to the report, the subject property is a residentially developed lot in the Malibu Colony neighborhood. It is the last inland residential lot at the easternmost end of Malibu Colony Drive, as shown in Figure 1. The site is currently developed with a single-family residence, OWTS, a second unit, and a swimming pool. Sixty-nine percent of the lot is currently developed and impermeable, and if the project is approved, this would be reduced to 25 percent. The property is one of 14 developed properties that border the Malibu Lagoon ESHA to the north. Of these 14 developed properties, two are developed with one-story structures, nine are developed with structures with two or more stories, two are developed with tennis courts, and one is vacant.

The subject application was submitted to the Planning Department on Aug. 28, 2018. On June 1, 2020, staff presented this project to the Planning Commission at a public hearing. After considering written reports, public testimony, and other information in the record, the Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 20-18 approving the project (Exhibit D).

The appellant expressed concerns about view blockage by the proposed project that has a height of 28 feet, 7 inches. These views are not protected by the Zoning Code because the non-beachfront residential development standards for the Malibu Colony Overlay District allow structure heights up to 24 feet for a flat roof and up to 30 feet for a pitched roof, by right, and without any discretion (such as a site plan review) or visual analysis of private view impacts. The appellant also spoke at the public hearing and primarily raised view concerns.

On June 11, 2020, the appellant appealed the project to the City Council. On Nov. 9, 2020, staff presented the project and the following grounds for the appeal to the City Council.

Silverstein said both the applicant and appellant made great arguments in their presentations. 

“This is the first and only house in the colony that’s asking for this privilege, to me, that’s an extraordinary privilege,” Silverstein said. 

After discussion, Councilmember Marianne Riggins motioned to approve the item, and Grisanti seconded the motion. Motioned carried with a 3-2 vote. 

Council moved on to item 4B and approved the Use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for Fiscal Year 2023-2034.

Adopt Resolution No. 23-03 authorizing and approving the use of $9,900 in CDBG funds for the Malibu Community Labor Exchange (MCLE) and the use of $56,100 in CDBG funds for the permanent trailer project or for the construction of an office for the Day Labor Exchange Program.

The city expects to receive a total allocation of CDBG funding in Fiscal Year 2023-2024 in the amount of $66,000. This allocation amount is an estimate provided by Los Angeles County Development Authority (CDA) and may fluctuate. In addition, the city has an unallocated CDBG fund balance from prior fiscal years.

Assistant City Manager Joseph Toney said they’re still unsure what the final project will look like. 

Council approved item 4B. 

City Clerk Kelsey Pettijohn presented the item and plans for a pilot program for in-person meetings. Pettijohn explained the protocols, staff assistance, and support that will be needed by the staff for hybrid meetings. Transitioning to hybrid meetings will require a fifth staff member to support the Zoom webinar and call remote speakers.

On Jan. 9, the council directed staff to bring back a proposal for the City Council and Planning Commission to transition to hybrid meetings beginning March 13. 

McClary said doing a pilot program will help with figuring out how they will facilitate meetings being short-handed, lacking a deputy city clerk. 

“We’re trying to figure out how we can implement this as fast as we can to meet council’s desires, but of course we still want to make sure we are maintaing the standards we provide to you, and what the council and the public expect to see from our broadcast,” McClary said. “And in order to do that, we really need to be able to have the right number of hands on deck in order to pull that off and the standard that everyone has been accustomed to, to seeing from The City of Malibu.”

Silverstein and Grisanti said staff members can be cross-trained to support the city clerk. 

In the motion, the council added to let participants turn their video on for public comment. The council also voted to leave other commissions to meet virtually. 

The council motioned to continue virtual meetings until the second meeting in on March 27.

Council motioned to approve the Malibu Farmers Market fee waiver. Certain council members raised concerns on charging the farmers market but council member Steve Uhring disagreed and wants to support the market without charging.

“We don’t have a clue whether this is a profitable association or not,” Silverstein said. “I think we’ve been making uninformed decisions not only with the farmers market, but with other institutions, as well, we need to understand what they make, not just what they provide in order to waive fees. So I don’t know if that means wait till the next time, but make the message very clear that this isn’t going to happen until we see a balance sheet.” 

The meeting was adjourned in memory of the victims of the Lunar New Year’s Eve shooting in Monterey Park. 

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13.

CORRECTION: City Council did not approve to allow participants to turn their video on during public comment. The articles states it does. We will run a correction on next weeks issue of The Malibu Times.