Malibu Film Society requests City Council find venue in city

Prior to starting the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein asked the council to have a moment of silence for the residents of Ukraine, Malibu residents with families and friends and the Russian troops fighting in the war. 

The first item on the agenda was a presentation by the Full Circle Compost Executive Director Cecilie Stuart for the community composting program in Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains. 

Stuart provided information on climate regeneration, commercial bins, community composting sites, engagement events and the school system’s educational programs in sustainability.

“Additionally I would say that Webster Elementary is really crying out for some support on recycling, they don’t really have a recycling program there,” Stuart said. “They could really use some additional support from the city and the City Council.”

Stuart said because of COVID most of the school’s gardens in Malibu have been dilapidating, and hopes to get support for their garden programs.

“It’s been a real setback for schools, so support for their garden programs and reviving their soil is absolutely key so they’re really excited about it,” Stuart said. “It’s been a little bit problematic to get the wheels turning again after COVID, but we’re just beginning to make that strive.”

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Stuart hopes to create a public commercial bin at Legacy Park in Malibu.

“To really have it be a symbol that Malibu is really going green, that they’re making a public face for sustainability in all of Malibu,” Stuart said. 

Councilmember Mikke Pierson thanked Stuart for the presentation and hopes to create the composting program in Malibu.

After the first presentation, public comment was the next item on the agenda and 10 speakers and members of the Malibu Film Society, signed up to ask the City Council to help bring film screenings back to Malibu. 

The vice president of the Malibu Film Society Board, John Johannessen, submitted a letter to all five council members to accommodate the ability to host events in Malibu.

“We respectfully request that the City Council address this issue by immediately reconfirming the original determination that Malibu Film Society events held are in full compliance with existing municipal code and do not need any additional permitting,” Johannessen said in the letter. “Serving this community is the very reason why the Malibu Film Society was founded, but after 12 years of successful and complaint-free operation we can no longer proceed without your intervention.”

Speaker Scott Hillman presented a video to the council outlining and emphasizing their concerns on behalf of the Malibu Film Society. Hillman has been a member of the Malibu Film Society for the past 10 years and has served as the president of the board since 2016.

“Recently, however, a reinterpretation of that code, if allowed to stand, will limit our ability to continue to hold events in Malibu,” Hillman said. “The Malibu Film Society should be able to continue to be the significant cultural and community asset it has been for the past 13 years, so we’re asking the City Council to take whatever action necessary and appropriate to ensure the MFS continues to have a home in Malibu.”

In addition to Johannessen, speakers Karen York, David Reznick, Donald Tannenbaum, David Mae, Bianca Torrence, Paula Mae Schwartz, and Scott Tallal spoke on behalf of the Malibu Film Society.

“Respectfully I ask the City Council to step it up and do the right thing for this community, as Malibu doesn’t even have a movie theater. Mayor and City Council, we need you to present goodwill to us and to our community,” Johannessen said. “Let’s work together, grow together, in unity. So we can continue to create joy and entertainment for this community, something that is very much needed.”

Tallal, the Malibu Society executive director, thanked all the speakers who shared their concerns on the issue. 

“I just want to focus on one thing, all the wonderful events we could have held this season here in Malibu but we didn’t because we suddenly weren’t allowed to,” Tallal said. 

Tallal continued to share the events that could have been held in Malibu but have been held elsewhere.

“Every year since our inception, at least one and as many as three of our Q&A guests have gone on to win their very first Oscars after appearing at MFS,” he said. “That’s going to happen again this year with one very important difference: this year none of their appearances were here in Malibu and neither were any of the events we just listed. 

“The way things stand right now, none of this is going to happen again in Malibu until this situation is finally fixed.” 

Planning Commissioner Kraig Hill spoke and responded to the MFS speakers, saying he was on the Planning Commission during that application and provided some clarification.

“The real implicit request is that you change the law; it sounds like you basically need to change the TUP law if you want to accommodate them correctly,” Hill said. “As far as what the Planning Commission did, we just followed the law that we had in front of us. There was no new interpretation, there was a lot of opposition to the project … so it was sort of ironic to hear that was not sufficient. 

“I hope you can accommodate them somehow, just to be clear it’s not anything that we did differently or weird, you might want to look at where the law might want some tweaking.”

After public comment, Interim City Manager Steve McClary provided a City Manager update with COVID, the mask mandates, development impact fees and events that occurred in Malibu.

Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas provided an update on a temporary day pound yard the Sheriff’s Department contracts with in preparation for the summer crowds.

“We have quite a few visitors to Malibu who park illegally in tow-away zones in order to more easily access public areas, but as you can imagine it has created public safety hazards and negatively impacted neighborhoods,” Dueñas said.

She added the Sheriff’s Department has to tow away the vehicle to an impound site in Thousand Oaks and while that takes about two hours, Dueñas said it reduces the vehicles that can be towed that are parked illegally in tow-away zones. 

Dueñas said the department is exploring the location at Heathercliff and PCH as a temporary day-use site to park tow-away vehicles. Dueñas said they will be presenting this to the Public Safety commission meeting on Wednesday, March 2, at 5 p.m. and encourages the community to participate in the meeting or submit their thoughts in writing on this proposal. Comments can be sent to sdunas@malibucity.org

The Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Lieutenant Joseph Fender was presented as the acting captain for the station and LA County Fire Chief Drew Smith gave an update on the fire activity in Malibu. Lieutenant Chad Waters gave the month’s traffic, speeding and crime report in Malibu. 

Councilmember Karen Farrer responded to the Malibu Film Society speakers and asked the speakers what changed.

“We didn’t change an ordinance, we didn’t change requirements, so that’s where I’m stuck,” Farrer said. “We had something that in my opinion was not broken, so I’d love to get this straightened out.”

Pierson also said he was curious about what happened.

“I don’t know where this went sideways, it feels like we have a community that is desperate for cultural arts and where going backwards,” Pierson said.

Councilmember Steve Uhring started his update by mentioning the families in Ukraine.

“I hope they’re getting the support they need and I wish them the very best,” Uhring said.

Uhring also asked Dueñas how they can bring the Homeless report to the City Council.

“They [the Homeless Task Force] have done a lot of work. They have some ideas they’re trying to drive and I think the City Council and the residents should hear about those so we can vet those things and see which ones we want to chase down,” he said. “If there’s something you could do to get that in front of us, I sure would appreciate that.”

Dueñas said they are scheduling a special City Council meeting to share their recommendations. 

Uhring mentioned the speeding and traffic the car show has caused on the weekends. 

“The issue is going to be enforcement,” he said. “We have to figure out some way to catch these people, penalize them, because if we keep doing what we’re doing now this is never going to change.”

Uhring also apologized for the last City Council meeting, saying it was an embarrassment to himself and the residents of the city. 

Silverstein said the Malibu Film Society was a cultural asset to the city and was looking forward to meeting other people, getting engaged socially, and taking advantage of the programs; however, he shared his experience with attending a Malibu Film Society event and said his wife was not allowed to bring her service dog to the event.

“The film society violated the American Disabilities Act by prohibiting us from coming in, so that’s also an issue that needs to be addressed,” Silverstein said. 

Yolanda Bundy, the City of Malibu’s Environmental Sustainability Director/Building Official, provided an update on the Dark Sky Ordinance and the outreach the department has been organizing for the community.  

Silverstein responded to the Dark Sky Ordinance and said he is opposed to amending the Dark Sky Ordinance to accommodate service stations that refuse to abide by the law.

“I oppose any change that weakens a law that our residents fought so hard to get, which prior councils fought so hard to get,” Silverstein said. 

Uhring motioned to direct staff to process an ordinance revising the Dark Sky regulations based on the recommendations for gas stations and commercial driveways. Motion passed 4-1, with Silverstein opposed. 

Public Works Director Rob DuBoux proposed a deadline extension for the Civic Center Water Treatment Facility Phase Two plan. Motion passed 5-0. 

The meeting ended with the approval of the First Amendment Employment Agreement for Interim City Manager Services between the City of Malibu and McClary. Motion passed 5-0.

Silverstein mentioned the search for a new city manager and said the process has been “slow” and “awkward.”

“We need to get our act together better and not just meet every now and then to get an important thing done, we need to be on that with urgency and we haven’t been,” Silverstein said. “We shouldn’t be where we are right now, we should’ve made a final decision by now, but we are where we are. I think the problem is government and we just aren’t moving the way we ought to be moving.”

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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