Residents ask City Council for support to save the Malibu Farmers Market


After a hiatus because of the cancellation of last month’s meeting due to a power outage, the Malibu City Council met virtually on Tuesday, Sept. 27. 

To start off the meeting, Mayor Paul Grisanti proclaimed September to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Clinical Director of the American Cancer Fund for Children and Kids Cancer Connection Amy Firestein thanked Malibu Mayor Grisanti, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein and the City Council for supporting childhood cancer awareness.

“Children of cancer need a lot of support, they have their families, the medical community and the community at large and raising awareness about childhood cancer is a large part of this and that’s what we’re doing here today,” Firestein said. “These children are brave, strong, determined, as are their families and loved ones, and they have to be to face this battle.”

Firestein continued to thank the City Council for their support in raising awareness and acknowledged the Children’s Kids Cancer Connection for their commitment to assist families affected by childhood cancer.

For public comment, President, Co-founder, and Director of the Malibu Farmers Market Debra Bianco and local speakers spoke in regards to the current location of the Malibu Farmers Market. They were concerned about potentially losing the farmers market due to the Santa Monica College construction and have requested support from the city.

“The college put up a fence, but the way it is now, there’s only one way in and one way out and it’s not safe for the residence, it’s not safe for anyone,” Bianco said. “That’s why I’m coming to the city now to save our market and protect us — we’re hanging onto thin threads right now.”

Bianco asked the city for support to approach the county. Bianco also asked to host the market across the street, near Legacy Park.

Planning Commissioner John Mazza responded to the concerns and said the Malibu Farmers Market is a gathering point for Malibu.

“We don’t have places for people to really meet their neighbors — they meet them at the Farmers Market,” Mazza said. “I really hope that you consider this a serious thing.”

Speaker Elizabeth Ryder also asked the city for their support, and commented on the presence of the Malibu Labor Exchange trailer, where independent laborers gather to wait for day jobs. The trailer was recently moved due to the SMC construction.

“The County of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica College never even took the Malibu Farmers Market into consideration when they moved the Labor Exchange to the middle to what is left of the market’s space,” Ryder said. “During the Labor Exchange being placed in the middle of our weekly site, the market is not only losing an entrance — not to mention half of what is left of our usual Sunday space — but an additional 40 feet has been taking away on both sides of the parking lot which is equivalent to 80 feet.”

Ryder said they are respectfully requesting the city to step in and help resolve the matter.

During his subsequent manager update, City Manager Steve McClary addressed the Malibu Farmers Market speakers and said they are working with city staff to find a solution.

“We’re working to set up a meeting with the county and the college to see if we can somehow facilitate some kind of solution here to keep the Farmers Market going,” McClary said. “I wish I can say that I could allow it to move to the vacant lot, but because of TUP rules and zoning requirements, even to be able to get something through will probably not be in time to address that during the construction, however, we are going to continue work with the Farmers Market and work with the county to see what we could do.”

McClary also provided a manager update and said they will discuss how they will go forward with the meeting if it gets canceled due to a power outage, like the Sept. 12 meeting was.

McClary provided an update on the temporary day use vehicle impound facility and said to date, 293 vehicles were impounded, 30 vehicles were left unclaimed and no vehicles were left overnight. 

Malibu/Lost Hills Lt. Dustin Carr provided an update and began with the incidents for the month of August and Labor Day weekend and thanked the community for attending the Coffee with a Cop at the Malibu Farmers Market on Sept. 18.

“It was a very enjoyable time, we had therapeutic horses there which were a great draw for the community and I enjoyed meeting everybody,” Carr said.

Councilmember Karen Farrer addressed Farmers Market speakers and said there should be a way they can work with the county to move the storage containers. 

“It doesn’t sound safe and it certainly doesn’t sound easy for the attendees and for the vendors,” Farrer said.

Councilmember Steve Uhring commented on the recent candidate forum hosted by the Democratic Club and hopes to give the candidates more time to answer more in depth questions. With the summer heat, Uhring hopes more people will know about the cooling centers in Malibu, such as at the Malibu Library and Malibu Bluffs Park.

Uhring responded to the Malibu Farmers Market speakers and hopes the city can accommodate their requests.

“The Labor Exchange trailer that sits on the Library parking lot, does not have a permit to do that. I don’t know why the city can’t move that someplace, and make additional space available to the Farmers Market, it seems to be the reasonable thing to do,” Uhring said. “Depending on how successful things are with the meeting with the county, I may try to bring some things to talk about in the next city council meeting.”

The council moved on to item 4a, appeal No. 21-016 for 18868 Pacific Coast Highway. Planning Commission Resolution No. 21-11.

Public speakers spoke for and in opposition of the project. 

MRCA Representative Tracy Lovric spoke and said they submitted a public letter on Sept. 12. The letter can be viewed upon request. 

“We would love the council to approve that project tonight, we would also be willing to have it be sent back to the Planning Commission to go through it, we’re happy to meet with any of the neighbors and go through those plans,” appellant Farshid Etaat said. “So we are ready to do that project, to go over it in detail with anyone who would like to see, and would be willing to go back to the Planning Commission.”

Uhring questioned staff’s planning and variances requested and what continues to be appealed.

“There’s a huge gap between what you [Planning Director Richard Mollica] recommended and what the Planning Commission consistently said no to,” Uhring said. “I would think you’d want to understand that for future projects, if you want to get them approved in a rational amount of time, you want to give them something the people can approve, I would think.” 

Uhring continued to reject the approval and Farrer motioned to send the application back to the Planning Commission.

Silverstein also denied the appeal and said appeals like this made him distrust the Planning Commission staff. 

“Variances aren’t property rights, they’re privileges, [and] they may be extended in appropriate circumstances,” Silverstein said. “There are rare circumstances of which it would be an abusive discretion to deny a variance, but for the most part, they’re discretionary.” 

Silverstein continued to deny the appeal and recommended the staff to work on important projects.

“We’ve got Woolsey Fire rebuilds that are in line to get approved, and the staff was still spending time reviewing further studies and further reports,” Silverstein said. “This is going to have a ripple effect if we approve this.” 

Silverstein motioned to deny the appeal and have a resolution be brought back. Uhring seconded the motion. 

Councilmember Mikke Pierson and Grisanti approved the motion, however, and wanted to acknowledge their staff for their hard work for these developments. The motion to deny the appeal passed. 

“Applicants need to understand, they don’t get to just keep yo-yoing between the City Council and the Planning Commission,” Silverstein said. “They get to put their best foot forward before the Planning Commission and they gave them multiple chances to do that, and when they say yes, that’s my best foot forward, and the Planning Commission says no, they shouldn’t then get to come to us and say we’ll we have another step we like to take.” 

The council approved the Malibu Middle and High School Campus Specific Plan. 

Public Safety Liaison Luis Flores provided an update on the KnoxBox Education Campaign. The KnoxBox will provide LASD access to gated communities through an emergency key system. The council approved the item. 

Assistant City Manager Joseph Toney provided a report on film permit services review, and Farrer motioned to direct staff to issue a Request for Proposal for film permit services. Silverstein seconded the motion, which carried. 

Toney also provided a report on the recommendation of change to LADYJ Departure Procedure from LAX. The recommended action is to direct staff to inform Los Angeles World Airports that the City supports the implementation of the Option 1 (CASTA Hybrid) departure flight procedure to replace the current LADYJ departure procedure. Grisanti motioned to continue the item to a date uncertain. Uhring asked to provide information to the community.

The last item on the agenda was the resolution declaring the existence of a local emergency and initiating a program for reducing the risk of fires associated with unhoused individuals. 

In 2021, the city adopted Resolution No. 21-49, which was recommended based on the downward trend of the Live Fuel Moisture (LFM) content and the number of vegetation fires attributed to individuals living unhoused in encampments in the cacyons of the city. The city then extended the Declaration through Resolution No. 21-56, on Oct. 11, 2021, and terminated the local emergency through Resolution No. 22-02 on Jan. 10, 2022.

Farrer adopted the motion and Uhring seconded. Motion passed 4-0. Pierson was not present in the meeting during the time of this motion.

The meeting was then adjourned in memory of coastal activist Sara Wan.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 10.