Malibu West Homeowners Starting to Worry as GHAD Bills Begin to Mount
• Concern about Representation of All Interests Is Voiced
BY BILL KOENEKER
As the bills start coming in for preliminary work done for the Broad Beach Geological Hazard Abatement District, Malibu West homeowners, who collectively own one lot on Broad Beach, are becoming increasingly concerned about just how much ultimately the GHAD might cost the residents of the more financially modest neighborhood.
Malibu West is involved in the GHAD project, an attempt to restore Broad Beach by not only a revetment, but a planned series of sand replenishments that may cost millions of dollars.
"The GHAD has already spent more than a million dollars on the project with no source of funding except to impose new taxes on all property owners within the GHAD. In order to raise funds, the Trancas Property Owners Association has already sent the Malibu West HOA bills totaling $80,000 without any itemization as to how these monies have been spent," wrote Ron and Cindy Vandor, in a letter to neighboring Malibu West property owners.
When the matter was discussed by the Malibu City Council, the issue about Malibu West having some representation on the board was discussed, but with little success. What was considered a little wrinkle at the time developed when the city council approved the formation of the GHAD and the Malibu West Homeowners Association, its president and an attorney came asking that the HOA be included on the GHAD board of directors.
The council was also set to approve the plan of control and appoint five property owners to the initial board of directors of the GHAD. The planning staff recommended the council appoint Broad Beach property owners Steven Levitan, Zan Marquis, Norton Karno, Marshall Grossman and Jeff Lotman as the initial board of directors for terms not to exceed four years.
Steve Rucker, Malibu West HOA president, said residents were extremely excited about creating a beautiful new beach with the other property owners at Broad Beach. The HOA owns a lot and would be one of the property owners in the assessment district.
Rucker said with 237 homeowners as part of the HOA, which owns 105 feet of beach frontage and a building used for commercial use, they wanted representation on the board.
The HOAs attorney Ben Benumof said there were many unanswered questions about the plan of control and it would be worthwhile for a Malibu West homeowner to be on the GHAD board.
The council was told there was no opposition to the formation of the GHAD and it appeared—after a show of hands for support—many Broad Beach residents had come to show their overwhelming support for the GHAD.
When it appeared there was council approval for the formation of the GHAD, the wrangling began on how the Malibu West HOA could be represented on the GHAD board.
"How do we accommodate the Malibu West HOA?" asked Councilmember Jefferson Wagner.
"I agree with Jay," said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal. "How did you come up with the five owners?"
Council members were told the Broad Beach property owners had already worked years on the project and represented different geographical regions of the beach.
At first when council members asked the attorneys representing the Trancas Property Owners Association about a Malibu West HOA, they were told "No one will step in the way,"
However, after details were explored about how a Malibu West HOA representative could be installed on the board, the wrangling began in earnest.
City Attorney Christi Hogin said, "I'd be reluctant to monkey with the politics of that. The group has been working a long time. Mr. Grossman says he is stepping down in a year and I would take that to the bank."
Council members intent on having Malibu West represented kept pressing for a way that could happen. There was a discussion about an advisory member. Talk about if the "up to four years" terms could be changed or if more than five members could be appointed to a GHAD board.
Council members also wanted to know why the Malibu West HOA was making the request so late in the game.
"It is a recent thing," said Rucker. "The notion of the GHAD is becoming apparent. We are the poor kids on the block. Malibu West is a modest neighborhood by Malibu standards."
"I can understand Malibu West HOA interests. I want them to be represented," said then Mayor John Sibert.
Hogin replied, "I did not hear any resistance to an appointment." A motion was suggested for the council to appoint an advisory board member for Malibu West.
But, then the GHAD attorney said firstly that Grossman would step down in one year. Then he suggested the council could leave the matter up to the GHAD board.
Councilmember Lou La Monte had said why not call for an ex-officio board member decided by the GHAD. Sibert and Wagner went along with the motion, but Rosenthal dissented. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich was absent.
The Vandors said the apparent costs could be enormous for Malibu West and unexpected costs could go even higher.
"If a $19 million bond is approved, it is estimated that the Malibu West HOA will be paying at least $400,000 into the GHAD. According to current estimates, this translates to about $170 per home per year. However, built-in cost-of-living increases and unexpected additional costs make it likely that assessments paid by Malibu West will actually be higher in years to come and total more than $400,000," the Vandors added.
The couple's letter calls on the Malibu West community to decide whether to vote for or against the assessment. "Time is short, the Malibu West HOA Board must return our one ballot soon. We believe that the MWHOA Board should not vote to take on this new debt without clear direction from the community. We call on the MWHOA Board to make a presentation to the community about the pros and cons of being part of the GHAD," the letter states.
According to the city's staff report, there is no immediate fiscal impact to the city. Once the GHAD has been formed, a funding mechanism has been approved by the board and affected property owners, the costs associated with the operation of the GHAD will be offset by assessments paid by the property owners within the district.
The GHAD petition was submitted by attorney Kenneth Ehrlich on behalf of the Trancas Property Owners Association.
The GHAD will provide a means of financing the beach nourishment and associated maintenance, city council members were told.
"The city department of public works has reviewed the proposed plan of control and has determined that public health, safety and welfare require the formation of a GHAD," a staff report states.
The proposed action stems from the overall plans for Broad Beach, where experts have determined there has been a significant change in the width of the beach since 1946.
Broad Beach has experienced variable, but declining beach width at a rate of about two feet per year, according to experts.
"Between 1974 and 2009 approximately 600,000 cubic yards of sand was lost at Broad Beach, a majority of which has moved east to nourish Zuma Beach. On average, the shoreline moved inland 65 feet," a report from Moffatt and Nichol in April 2010 concluded.
"The sand rate turned negative in 1974 and the loss rate accelerated to approximately 35,000 cubic yards per year during the last five years. Recent higher erosion rates during the 2009-2010 winter season necessitated that emergency precautions be taken to protect residential structures and onsite wastewater treatment systems located seaward of the residences," the report went on to state.
Consequently, the TPOA obtained emergency permits for the installation of a rock revetment about five feet high and 25 feet wide, to protect the existing homes along the beach, city officials noted.
The property owners are now working on getting permits to allow a permanent buried rock revetment along with the periodic sand nourishment. The California Coastal Commission is the permitting agency and will oversee the project.
The Broad Beach GHAD would span the entirety of Broad Beach and a portion of Victoria Point concluding with 6525 Point Lechuza.
GHADs, according to the planning staff, are a political subdivision of the state and are formed in specific geographic areas to address potential geological hazards.
The purpose of a GHAD is to prevent, mitigate, control or abate defined geologic hazards through maintenance improvements or other means.
Financing of a GHAD is accomplished through an assessment of only those property owners who own real estate within the boundaries of the designated district, issuing and serving of bonds, notes or other debentures is also authorized under a GHAD. The assessment will be based on an engineer's report, which is being prepared by ENGEO, Inc, according to city planners.
The assessments and associated financing of the GHAD improvements would be overseen entirely by the GHAD board.
In an email sent to local media after that meeting Rucker, who described it as "a joint statement to the press," wrote, "Despite the decision at last night's city council meeting to deny Malibu West's request to have a designated Malibu West member on the GHAD board, the Malibu West board and the Trancas Property Owners Association want our neighbors to know that we have a strong working relationship and a mutual trust in our ability to work within the GHAD to benefit the beach.
"Subsequent to last night's meeting the newly appointed GHAD Board communicated to Malibu West the intention of adding a Malibu West designee as an advisory member to work closely with the GHAD Board. Malibu West appreciates the graciousness of this prompt action by the Broad Beach property owners and their representatives."