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Michele Willer-Allred, Freelance Reporter
9:26 am PST December 18, 2018

The fire was the primary topic at a Monday, Dec. 17 Planning Commission meeting, where Mikke Pierson, a longtime commissioner, also was given well wishes on his new role on the City Council.

John Sibert, a familiar face to many in the city, was welcomed back in the role of interim planning commissioner after Pierson’s seat was vacated.

Steve Uhring, who was selected as the commission’s new chairman, had some words for victims of the fire on behalf of the Planning Commission.

“Whatever role we’re going to play in this rebuild process, I think I can assure you that whatever we do, we’re going to try to make it as painless and as rapid as possible for you to try to go out and rebuild,” he said.

Planning Director Bonnie Blue also offered her condolences and help to those affected by the fire.

“This has been an unprecedented, just crazy and terrible time,” Blue said. “We’re here to help you in any way we can to recover and rebuild. Whatever we can do, please don’t hesitate to call us.”

Blue said the City has a fire rebuild counter at City Hall that is staffed by planners who can help residents with various aspects of the rebuilding process.

Blue said there have been more than 200 meetings so far with residents at the rebuild counter. Planning staff also is available at the disaster recovery center at the Malibu Courthouse.

Blue said county inspectors have inspected all the properties in the burn area, and the City now has an evolving inventory of the properties that were burned.  

Right now, she said the City is in the process of assisting people with public records for the purposes of documenting the previous footprint and square footage of their homes.

She said the Planning Commission and staff need to make decisions regarding making homes being built more fire resistant. Upcoming meetings will deal with code amendments dealing with temporary trailers and ways to make it easier to replace wastewater treatment systems.

Commissioner Jeffrey Jennings, who was affected by the fire, said it would be helpful if there was a “roadmap” on what residents need to do and the steps they need to take with the City in order to rebuild.

“It’s the ambiguity and uncertainty that’s giving people a lot of angst,” Jennings said.

Planning Commissioner Chris Marx said he looked at Ramirez Canyon after the fire, and noted four to six feet of debris in the creek that could cause major problems if a large rainfall occurs. He asked residents living in low-lying areas near canyon floors to be mindful during heavy rains.

Pierson, who was elected to the City Council Nov. 6, came to the meeting to say goodbye to the Planning Commission, which he served on for seven years.

Jennings congratulated Pierson, but said he doesn’t envy his new position at this time.

“The post-[fire] sessions are going to be very, very rough,” Jennings said. “You’re going to have huge challenges facing you.”

 “I’ll try to do what I can to make sure that you’re comfortable with the decisions we make over the next couple meetings,” said Sibert, a former Malibu mayor, city councilman and planning commissioner.

In other business, Uhring noted that Soho House’s Little Beach House Malibu received its sixth complaint from neighboring residents about amplified music over the past weekend.

Blue said an item will be brought back to the Planning Commission in the new year dealing with code compliance from the business, though noise complaints are being handled by code enforcement.

The Planning Commission also voted 4-0, with Sibert abstaining, to approve a Coastal Development Permit to construct an underground soldier pile wall across two properties at 25000 and 25040 Pacific Coast High Highway. The construction is to help stabilize a bluff slope and protect neighboring properties.

The permit was previously approved by the commission in October, but the Planning Department learned that the required legal notice wasn’t properly published, therefore requiring another public hearing.