Seven Candidates Address More Major Community Issues
2012 Malibu City Council Campaign—Part Two
All of the Malibu City Council candidates on the April 10 ballot were asked to respond to a questionnaire from the Malibu Surfside News.
The second series of questions and answers are published in this week's issue, and the rest of the questions will be published in the March 29 and April 5 issues.
The questionnaire is an effort to provide prospective voters with an opportunity to compare all of the candidates' responses simultaneously.
The responses appear in alphabetical order for easy cross reference. Aspiring city council members were asked to be succinct, but were not restricted to a set word limit.
What is your assessment of the current Malibu City Council? Please be specific and comment on each member of the council.
JOAN HOUSE: I think they have accomplished some very good things, like adding the CHP police presence on PCH and grappling with the view ordinance. Accomplishment on Council requires majority approval; individuals cannot accomplish anything on their own.
HANS LAETZ: Altogether: Better than past city councils – but that's a low bar. Willing to at least start the ball rolling on PCH safety changes. But way off track on the Civic Center sewers issue (see below).
Pamela Conley Ulich has done some amazing things, such as her work for the library. Elsewhere, she has been zany—such as calling for retractable air bags on PCH to protect bicyclists (she was serious) and an ice rink at Zuma Beach.
Jefferson Wagner deserves great credit for listening, leading and sticking up against the status quo politics. I only ran for office when I heard he was not standing for re-election.
John Sibert: John is a nice fellow. But he says 'trust me' to enforce the General Plan using science, then hands out variances and exemptions for commercial development at Trancas.
La Monte: Smart, hardnosed, willing to incur the wrath of people by speaking the truth on such controversies as the view ordinance and the motto flap.
Rosenthal: Seems to be on the ball.
ANDY LYON: All I can say about that is what I hear from clients that talk about a nightmare process. I used to watch them more when it was televised and it was very exciting TV.
HAMISH PATTERSON: Some, not all, are gutless and covertly promoting the agendas of commercial property developers at the expense of the community. I prefer not to comment on specific council members as that serves no purpose but cause hard feelings and possibly alienate myself from councils that I might possibly serve with. I will say though that Pamela was a voice of reason and asked tough questions and demanded answers when other council members waffled, and I will leave it at that.
SKYLAR PEAK: Ulich—Her 8 years of service and commitment to Malibu have improved our community, especially with the state-of-the-art library opening in April.
Sibert—A wealth of knowledge.
Wagner—Very fair, practical, and to the point.
La Monte—His diligent efforts and commitment to public safety have helped bring back the CHP to PCH.
Rosenthal—Always has an open ear for residents and is a great voice and representative for our community.
JOHN SIBERT: I believe it is inappropriate for me to rate individual members of the city council, I continue to serve with them and we will agree on some issues and not agree on others. It is important that civil discourse be maintained and that we recognize that reasonable people can disagree reasonably.
MISSY ZEITSOFF: Decline to state
What were the city council's three best decisions during the last two years? Why?
HOUSE: The California Highway Patrol (CHP) returning to traffic enforcement on PCH, reopening of Rambla Pacifica, moving forward with Legacy and Trancas parks, water tank for Trancas Highlands, and the library.
LAETZ: (1) Applying for grants to begin the process of creating a PCH safety and capacity plan. Twenty years too late, and not nearly enough, but it's a start.
(2) Pressuring L.A. County on the Water District's inefficiencies and lack of capital planning.
(3) The Malibu Lagoon: the city council resisted the pressure of a small bandwagon of lagoon activists, led by an outside agitator acting to raise money, to argue against a project that has already been held by the vast majority of surfing and ocean organizations, other cities in the SM Bay, the State Parks board, the Coastal Commission, the governor and the courts to be the right thing to do.
LYON: No reply
PATTERSON: No reply
PEAK: 1. Building the library, it needed improvement and will serve our community well.
2. Completing the dog park (although it was quite expensive)
3. Bringing back Joyce to the planning department.
SIBERT: Since I've been on the council they are: constructing Legacy Park and its clean water system; opening Rambla Pacifica to ensure the safety of the residents; and opening the Trancas and Las Flores parks, which provide recreational facilities for citizens on both the East and West ends of Malibu.
ZEITSOFF: I can't think of any! Did they make any decisions?
What were the three worst decisions by the city council during the last two years? What action would you have recommended?
HOUSE: Moving the dais onto the stage and the bright lights. I would have left it the way it was.
LAETZ: (1) Hands down, the approval of the variances, waivers and loopholes to allow the oversized Trancas shopping center enlargement to just rip our General Plan to shreds. By that 5-0 vote, the city council showed itself unable to "just say no" to developers seeking to wedge in too much commercial development. I shudder to think what the current power structure will give away at the Civic Center. The General Plan reflects the will of the people, and city staff cannot be allowed to hand out exemptions and exceptions to developers like candy at Halloween. Remember this vote when the first pedestrian gets run over at Trancas.
(2) The City Hall project. Although the city negotiated a bargain purchase, the citizens were never presented with the matter in a "which would you rather buy" format. We were never asked if it was a good idea to buy City Hall versus paving streets, or versus buying a park, or versus buying our water system. No one ever asked us about the big picture.
(3) Creating the expectation in the city that a magic wand could be waved and everyone would have their views back—poof—without fuss, muss or taxpayer expense. The city council was not clear where they stood on the eventual outcome. It is clear that retroactively applying a property right 20 years back is a great idea … until you look at the price tag.
LYON: Sending a letter of support for the lagoon project to the CCC without putting it before the city council and discussing it with the public. And then proposing to spend $25k to get out of taking a stance before the election.
Allowing the Broad Beach GHAD without fully understanding the ramifications of approving something before an EIR is done and knowing that the EIR can be ignored because it is a GHAD. I would have made them do an EIR first.
PATTERSON: Spending twenty-five thousand to get an expert opinion about the lagoon project, what a cowardly stance to make about such an important issue. It was a stall tactic in an election season, and the community had to pay, and will continue to pay for this kind of hubris. I would have voted my disapproval of the project.
Not voting immediately to enact the retail diversification ordinance of Malibu.
The Broad Beach GHAD. I would have not supported it and made the state pay up for the project, as it is their sand they want to replenish, and I would have explored alternative options such as offshore reefs. The GHAD was the wrong way to go, and needs to be reexamined.
Approving the sustainable communities planning grant and incentives program grant application, because it is unclear what our city manager would be applying for in the grant application, and since we have to match the funds and are financially stopped as a city, vagueness is a no go and should always be voted down where city money is concerned.
PEAK: 1. Not purchasing the property at Heathercliff and PCH.
Parcels like this don't come on the market for cheap all too often. It was a large parcel and purchasing it for a new park would have well served our community.
2. Writing a letter in support of the Lagoon Project without reaching out to the residents in the areas closest to the Lagoon
3. Not spending money to maintain the roads. Roads are one of the city's important assets and will only cost us more money in the future.
SIBERT: I do not believe there were any seriously bad decisions, but I think we could have handled several issues better, particularly the process of enacting a view ordinance and determining our response to the Malibu Lagoon project.
ZEITSOFF: The council failed to move aggressively against the lagoon and sewer projects. I would have used the city's powers, both political and legal, to block both of the state mandated harmful proposals. I would have had a better result on the 30 million dollar Legacy Park. I would have passed the View Restoration Ordinance, requested by the voters in 2008.
What is your position on the RWQCB determination that central Malibu requires construction of a sewer facility? Is this the answer to pollution problems at Surfrider Beach?
HOUSE: Regional and State Waterboards have mandated we meet the State and Federal Clean Water Act by 1215. Even though there is scientific evidence that the On Site Wastewater Systems (OWTS) can treat the water effectively, the city has to continue with the scientific study and the EIR for a working solution with the RWQCB. In the end, the people in the assessment district will vote the project up or down. Before that vote, the city must provide all information, such as cost, etc., to the affected residents so they can make an informed decision. But in the end, it will be their decision to make.
LAETZ: The city's plan is to inject 760,550 tons of water per year under pressure into an active earthquake fault that the USGS says is likely to unleash a 6.5 quake within 30 years. Not acceptable. The only solution for Surfrider Beach is to eliminate every drop of Tapia water, and Civic Center "butterfly" reclaimed water, from the lagoon watershed. This can be done. We can use advanced onsite treatment systems in Malibu, and collect all the clean water. This surplus water can be piped away from both Tapia and Malibu, during daylight using solar power, out of the Malibu Creek basin. It's complex, and I offer details at my website, workingformalibu.com/ sewerheads.html. But this plan relies on political support from outside agencies, and we will lose any credibility if we keep fighting them on the lagoon issue.
LYON: The USGS report, which is the most current science, says that it ISN'T the surrounding septics causing the problems. The source is traced to the birds.
Since it isn't the existing septics why is a sewer going to be built to handle new commercial development?
Why isn't the city going to challenge the MOU with the new findings? Who are they looking out for? And at the same time all the surrounding residential are stuck in this pointless septic ban. OSWTS are state of the art now and safer than a sewer line that can cut loose and dump raw sewage into the creek.
Malibu needs to fight Tapia as well to make sure that they send ALL the water back to the Valley.
Why is their treatment facility closer to Malibu than to the Valley?
PATTERSON: We need to fight tooth and nail to keep the sewers out of Malibu, the problems at Surfrider are a watershed issue and for us to be blamed for issues of the entire watershed is ridiculous. It is time for Malibu to stop taking the blame for a problem that includes a number of large communities outside the city that all contribute to the ills of Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach.
PEAK: I do not think this determination is fair to residents living in the MOU or all of Malibu for that matter. I have concerns about the proposed project regarding the size of the system, costs, and how much wastewater can effectively be pumped into the Civic Center soil from a centralized system without severely impacting the environment.
While it may be easier to monitor one system as compared to a hundred, one large system that fails will have far worse repercussions for Malibu. While centralized wastewater may improve the lagoon and Surfrider, there is no guarantee, and the most recent scientific study outlines that existing OSWTS are not the presumed cause of pollution in the immediate area. Moving forward, our community needs to be educated and involved in this project; plans, test results, and costs, need to be clearly communicated. Malibu's commitment to the environment should require all existing OSWTS or water tables to be evaluated, monitored, and maintained.
SIBERT: I do not believe that the RWQCB septic prohibition was based on sound science—it was based on the persistent dogma that Malibu is polluting the ocean and the lagoon because of septic systems. I testified against this at public hearings and in negotiations with the Regional and State Boards. The board imposed it anyway, though we did gain some leeway to reduce the impact. The alternative is for the RWQCB to enforce the prohibition as was done in Los Osos in the '80s. The litigation that followed that and the battle between the city and the State and Regional Boards went on for twenty years, and the homeowners took disastrous hits on their property values. That was finally settled in the favor of the Water Board and resulted in a $135 million sewer project. I will continue to fight for a rational solution for this imposed "solution" to a perceived problem, but if we go the way of Los Osos, property values will plummet in 2015! This is not a solution to bacterial pollution at Surfrider, but bacteria were only one of the six reasons given for imposing the prohibition. So while the USGS study takes that off the table, it does not deal with the other issues the Water Board raised, which include nitrogen, ground water elevation and commercial system failures.
ZEITSOFF: There is no human fecal bacteria causing Civic Center or ocean pollution. The USGS study put the blame on birds. We need state of the art septics for every home, and a series of small package plants for condos and commercial clusters. Why is the state ordering an expensive, hazardous centralized sewer system? Must be to accommodate huge commercial growth, subsidized by surrounding homeowner phases. Again, the city needs spine and needs to challenge State Water Control Board. Too little, too late?
What is your assessment of Legacy Park?
HOUSE: Legacy Park is a jewel in the Malibu crown. The choice of 128,000 sq. ft. shopping center or a park is an easy decision. Also, it has won many awards, including the Civil Engineers "best project in California" award.
LAETZ: Legacy Park is an abject failure both as a park and a water treatment site. It does not get any substantial use at all, and our city has a deficit of 11 athletic fields. Too many activities are being crammed in to Bluffs Park and the high school because of past decisions by a city council to kowtow to a developer and ban park activities from our central park. As for all the "pay to win" awards it is getting from civil engineering vanity magazines, it is doubtful that those agencies know that Malibu residents were misled as to what the scope and impact of what the water cleaning component would be. Look at the empty parking places. But, we are stuck with it. As to the water treatment component, it could have been built as a real park and still cleansed the runoff. It sucked every penny from the community of donors and the city treasury. And it was vastly oversold as to what it would do.
LYON: The weed park! Why is it already purple piped to take water from the proposed sewer? A colossal waste of money that the city has to keep justifying to us is so great. Seems the ones that are most pleased with it are the ones that put it there and the rest of us scratch our heads.
PATTERSON: A dysfunctional use of city money and resources for a storm water-retaining basin disguised as a park, that is purple piped to disperse wastewater once the sewer system the community will not be able to vote on is in place. Legacy Park is not a park at all, but rather one piece of urban development scheme that intends to transform the Civic Center into a shopping mall.
PEAK: I would rather see the park the way it is now than another shopping center. I understand it doesn't look like anything special from the highway, however I appreciate that native plants were used and more pleased with the storm water treatment as far as the positive environmental impact. And the trees maturing in 20 years will only make it look better.
SIBERT: Legacy Park is an outstanding achievement, which will become a wonderful parkland resource for the center of Malibu for decades to come. It not only took 130,000 sq. ft. of potential commercial development out of the Civic Center, it cleans the runoff from over 300 acres and reuses the water for landscaping. This significantly reduces the demand on the precious imported water. The connection to the new library, which opens on April 22, will make this center of town a go-to destination for thousands of residents as well as visitors.
ZEITSOFF: Legacy Park, as a stormwater plant, is useful. But, $25 million for the land was a price driven up by the naive Malibu Bay Company negotiations. Add more millions, and we have a park in which to do nothing, and a giant fire hazard in the center of town. Some of the homeless appreciate it.