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LETTER: Clarification Needed on Meeting

Walt Keller of Malibu questions if there were any backroom, secret deals in early negotiations about a proposed land swap.

Mayor Pro Tem House spoke at great length at the last council meeting regarding the Charmlee Wilderness trade, professing that there were no backroom, secret deals. City staff agreed. However, in light of a memo from Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s Joe Edmiston on Dec. 21, regarding the same meeting, clarification of what went on would be appreciated.

House and LaMonte said their meeting with Edmiston was “just lunch.” to see if he had any interest in trading Bluffs Park for Charmlee. Edmiston states “By the end of the meeting we had the framework for a comprehensive solution to many of the issues between Malibu and the SMMC.”

Mr. Edmiston further states: “Yesterday [Thursday] our full legal team (AG plus our two outside counsel firms and MRCA staff counsel) and that of the city plus the city manager, met for two and a half hours to hammer out the details.” Specific points of agreement on 4 properties follow.

Two questions: why was this meeting not mentioned or discussed in the Agenda Report, and when was the City Manager and staff (presumably the City Attorney) attendance at this meeting authorized by the City Council? Two and a half hours represents considerable City staff time and expense. City Policy and State law require direction to staff to be authorized by at least three Council members yet the other three Council members seemed to know little about the subject.

Everything having to do with giving away valuable City property, and a proposal which will put a significant portion of the community at risk from wildfire should be fully disclosed so that the public can fully participate in the decision.

Walt Keller, Malibu

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John Z. Shafai January 20, 2013 at 03:11 AM
In his leaked letter, Joe Edmiston brags that he intends to make an immediate application to the Coastal Commission for camping, “ . . . if not within the city limits, just outside thereof.” He also correctly points out that it is highly likely that the Coastal Commission will approve the camping application as this proposed settlement allows the City “to object, just like any party, but because the camping would be in the unincorporated area the city’s position would not be dispositive.” By pushing the camping further into Corral Canyon and hence outside the City’s jurisdiction, overnight camping will naturally follow. Sure the City can object at that time, but this back room deal by the City Council guarantees the impotence of any future objection and ensures that there will be camping deep within Corral Canyon.
John Z. Shafai January 20, 2013 at 03:58 AM
Some here have been advocating that a reasonable compromise would be no overnight camping within the city limits. Actually, overnight camping WITHIN the city limits is actually safer for Malibu than is overnight camping just outside the city limits. A campfire on the beach, for example, poses a minimal threat. Likewise, overnight camping along PCH would still pose a minimal threat. Overnight camping deep in Corral Canyon, however, poses a maximum threat. The proposed Corral Canyon sites are hike-in only with no 24-hour supervision. The sites are not accessible by fire engines. Firefighters would have to hike in carrying hose packs to fight such a fire. Each hose pack holds 100 feet of supply line. I would estimate that the city limits is about 4,000 feet north of PCH and that the Sara Wan trail at the city limits is about 3,000 feet east of Corral Canyon Road. A wind-driven fire with a Corral Canyon point of origin will blast right through your “city limits.” Fires follow topography, not political geography.
marie January 20, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Cindy, I'm sure that Joan will answer your rhetorical question just as soon as she finds her phone book :) All joking aside, whoever got their hands on Joe's email, thank you for sharing! VERY enlightening... and I think our (oh, I mean their) city council confirmed everything Joe wrote during the last council meeting. There's just no way it went down the way Joan and Lou are claiming. Pathetic, but hardly surprising. Bring on the recall petitions.
John Mazza January 20, 2013 at 05:56 AM
Charmlee Park lies both within and outside the city limits. The city owns Charmlee Park and can , at any time, put no camping restrictions in the deed. All this talk about Joe having camping outside the city limits does no change the fact the the city council can restrict all the land inside and outside the city limits that is in Charmlee Park and thus protect many residents of West Malibu that live near Charmlee. It is simply not true that the city must trade away camping rights outside the city and that it has no control. Fires that start outside the city come to the city . As one of our famous residents wrote "It does not take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." Our future is blowing in the wind and the city council is huffing and puffing.
Just Wondering... January 20, 2013 at 06:09 AM
A new motto for City Council that succinctly sums up both its modus operandi and the likely result of its plan: "Liar, liar, Malibu on fire"
J. Flo January 20, 2013 at 07:13 AM
100% agree.
Marshall Thompson January 20, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Their signature song is Jim Morrison and the Doors "Light my fire!"
J. Flo January 20, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Beyond the evident objections of residents to any decision which literally fuels higher fire dangers is the critical 2nd - swapping our over 530 acre Charmlee Wilderness Park for a few possible usable acres at Bluffs. 2 citizens (or 5) weren't elected to set-up their own personal deal to give away 13,000 resident's parkland. This needed resident input from the start and certainly before it moves one step further. Ultimately the idea of this massive and consequential land swamp should be decided at the ballot box by this entire community. They ended their meeting last Monday fully ignoring Malibu citizen's requests for a large resident Town Hall meeting or a referendum on this deal. A few must not make a decision of this consequence for the many. This city is better than this. Where there's smoke . . .
Carla January 20, 2013 at 09:10 PM
My phone has not stopped ringing with people from a wide political spectrum outraged at the complete disregard for Malibu citizens by our elected City Council. People I barely know are expressing exactly what I feel--how could this be happening? Swapping over 530 acres of our beautiful pristine Charmlee Wilderness Park for those few possible usable acres at Bluffs Park? I agree with what people have been saying to express their outrage, disbelief, sadness and won't reiterate their sentiments. I will reiterate that this decision must not be made by these five people alone. At the very least such a serious action deserves a Town Hall meeting and should be on the ballot to respect our democratic process which we have apparently lost in Malibu. Being able to speak for three minutes in front of the City Council with no interaction from them is unacceptable and insulting, especially when all pleas are ignored Regarding the fire danger--any increase of even a possible danger of fire is also unacceptable. When people say not to worry about camping because they don't know of a campfire that started a Malibu fire I am shocked. Really? It only takes one wayward spark to wipe out a community. Public campsites in the hills above Malibu only increases the fire danger. It is beyond reckless and must not be allowed.
Terry January 20, 2013 at 09:26 PM
malibu will be just a distant memory 2 years from now if these representatives are allowed to remain in office. malibu needs to mobilize now to protect what is left of what we have. next up raming thru a new hotel and how wonderful it will be, peperdine expansion and bluffs park ball fields with parking lots emptying put onto the pch. support recall
Zuma Skipper January 20, 2013 at 09:50 PM
First steps....read the following: http://www.lavote.net/voter/PDFS/GUIDE_TO_RECALL.pdf http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/recalls/recall.pdf
J. Flo January 20, 2013 at 10:15 PM
The fire danger is supported by every US Government/FEMA statistic and plain common sense. A monumental land swap of our historic Malibu parkland for a few potential fields for a dwindling population of children (school district stats) sets a requirement for extensive vetting by Malibu residents who own this land. This series of events that led to this SMMC letter must be examined. Malibu resident's simple attempts to obtain legal safeguards to protect our small businesses, residents retail needs, Malibu's character has taken TWO SOLID YEARS of extensive, scrutinized, mind-bending work. Thousands of Malibu signatures, letters, meetings, research and still not completed by this city, now being put through an utterly unnecessary step by our city of CEQA. TWO YEARS. Yet in weeks they can devise a monumental land swap through private meetings. A conclusive message has been launched to our community. Malibu's commercial development interests have clear priority in this city over our daily needs, our small business survival, our character, community owned historic land. I find even more disturbing that the two council members who have voted against protecting our residents and city, giving developers a free-pass to change this city into Beverly Hills, evict our local businesses and diminish resident needs are the very two who have quickly, decisively pushed their land swap forward. I am sincerely sorry to say how jaw-dropping I find this. Malibu are you listening?
Hans Laetz January 20, 2013 at 10:29 PM
J, are you listening? You say you have not talked to one person who is in favor of the land swap. I suggest you need to -listen- to more people in Malibu. I am sorry your highest priority has not moved faster. It is very complex, and I agree it has taken way too long. That does not mean this other important issue does not need to be resolved. On our terms. There are people in Malibu who have children, had children, or understand the needs of children. Playing fields is one of them. The last city study said Malibu had a deficit of ELEVEN FIELDS for children and adults to use. And that was in 1999, population has grown since then. The predicted deficit for 2010 was 19 fields!!! Still, Malibu AYSO teams play each other over the hill because of field shortages. The potential land trade is so much more than you describe. We could swap the Crummer properties, let them build houses off John Tyler, and get those story poles (and houses) off the bluffs above the Colony. We could put the skate park -- and yes, there is a HUGE demand for a skate park -- far away from Landon Center to make the seniors feel safe. At the very least, we could get rid of the dead wood at Bluffs (on MRCA land) that has caused TWO FIRES in the last six years, destroying six houses on Malibu Road! You talk about potential fire danger, from mythical fires from legal campsites up along Mulholland. What about the PROVEN fire danger that Edmiston has allowed to fester at Bluffs?
J. Flo January 20, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Hans, don't put words into my mouth. Retail protection is nowhere near my highest priority. Protecting Malibu, its character, its open space, its citizens, their needs and livelihoods - IS. I used that analogy to highlight an example of priorities. I have clearly stated in print that ball fields within Malibu must be found and that I will personally dedicate time looking for them. Will you join me? My point, in my opinion of which I am entitled, the entire method this was handled is categorically wrong on many levels. And ultimately, Malibu residents must the ones to make this decision. As for your other points - disagree with some conclusions and stats but like that you're thinking out of the box. There are solutions outside of giving away our important Charmlee Wilderness Parkland. Let's find them!
Hans Laetz January 20, 2013 at 10:54 PM
I think it is safe to say that your hard, conscientious work on the retail issue has been a high priority for you. I apologize for saying it is your top priority. But you have done such tremendous work there, you can understand my confusion, I hope.
J. Flo January 20, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Yes! The frustrating repercussion of this effort to protect Malibu on the commercial development level is that it "sounds" one dimensional. Retail. Which sounds trite. It is anything but. It goes straight to heart of Malibu's General Plan, Vision Statement of "who are we"? What does Malibu represent. It is clear what Malibu was blueprinted to be. Those goals having been dismantled one chip at a time, the decimation of, is now turning into an avalanche. Commercial safeguards hit directly on crucial protections for our environment, resident's requirements, tourists needs, our economic base, our traffic and our SO critical city character. It's all encompassing. It's one step of many needed to protect this rare gem, Malibu - as a community, a village as we tackle these efforts one issue at a time. It's takes everyone of us to take responsibility to handle at least one issue, no one can handle all. In this way, as a team, Malibu has a hope for protection. I applaud and honor the citizens of Malibu, now and in our history. The passion, the hard work and sacrifices, the love of this city is something to be proud of! Our focus can't waver, unfortunately. Malibu is so incredibly important in the big picture and for the future.
John Mazza January 21, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Let me get this right. The 2010 census said Malibu grew by something like 70 people in the last 10 years and the demand for ball fields went from 11 to 19 fields ? The developer of the Crummer houses (Ackerman) would love to swap one of the best views in Malibu for some open space zoned, geologically funky property with a "small canyon" ? The city of Malibu would be allowed to clear the ESHA on Bluffs Park ----I think not.
Hans Laetz January 21, 2013 at 04:41 PM
That's right, John. The deficit didn't grow to 19 fields. It remains at 9 fields. And all the NIMBYs in Malibu have succeeded in building 3 parks over 20 years for $30 million plus, with ZERO playing fields. Great track record.
J. Flo January 21, 2013 at 08:01 PM
A 43% decline in attendance at Malibu High School is on page 28 of the Traffic Impact Analysis for the Malibu Middle and High School Campus Improvement Project submitted to the District in February, 2012: "Based upon studies prepared for SMMUSD by DecisionInsite, the overall enrollment within the District is anticipated to decline over the next 8 years. During this study it was determined that MMHS enrollment in grades 6–8 would likely decrease by up to 24 percent over the next 10 years, and that grades 9–12 would decrease by up to 43 percent within the same time frame. The reasons for this decrease in enrollment include an overall decline in kindergarten enrollment, a decline in enrollment within grades 1, 2, 8, and 9 and an anticipated decrease in out-of-District enrollments. The current combined enrollment of the middle school and high school is 1,235 students. Enrollment levels are expected to decrease over the coming decade, with a projected enrollment of 1,165 in 2015.5" I have found this report. It is clearly stated. Data was generated by DecisionInsite for the SMMUSD in their Enrollment Forecast Report. This report was included in the minutes of the February, 2012 regular meeting of the SMMUSD Board of Education.
J. Flo January 21, 2013 at 09:01 PM
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: Demographics Unit - Malibu Middle and High School Enrollment 2012 - 1122* 2010 - 1243 2008 - 1235 2006 - 1300 2004 - 1322 School enrollment declining year by year. (*Malibu High School Verified Number) A changing demographics in Malibu, as stated by Government research, is due to a population that is becoming older. (or as they term - senior) As real estate prices have risen and children leaving the home. This does not negate the need for additional fields. I hope that others in Malibu will join in to find them.
J. Flo January 21, 2013 at 09:05 PM
"Enrollment levels are expected to decrease over the coming decade, with a projected enrollment of 1,165 in 2015.5"" It has already reached lower than this, 4 years ahead of time - 2011/12: 1122
Steve Uhring January 21, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Malibu's Parks and Recreation Dept recently released the results of a study they completed to identifyand priortize Malibu's recreational needs. The study results were summarized in an October 2012 article in Malibu Patch. It makes for interesting reading. http://malibu.patch.com/articles/malibu-residents-rank-walking-biking-trails-as-greatest-recreation-need#photo-6677290
Hans Laetz January 21, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Those predictions have been wrong before. And right nbow we have, in essence, 5 fields. The deficit (for the current population) is about 9. And do not forget, there is also a great need for ADULT field use. There are several adult leagues in the Palisades and Agoura and SM that have Malibu residents commuting there, various sports. There may be zero children in my househiold anymore, but two of us would like to play adult softball. One of us goes to the Palisades to do it, the other yacks too much on Patch.
J. Flo January 22, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Hans, those aren't "predictions" they are facts. These are the enrollment numbers since 2004 and the number of children in Malibu are declining year after year. Just Wondering, a parent active in school sports at this time, would like to see 1-2 extra fields. There is a workable compromise in here. As far as your "yacking", it's a tough job being a town-instigator, it's a big job, someone has to do it. :)
Pam January 22, 2013 at 03:17 AM
This doesn't even sound legal! Can the City Council (or part of the City Council) just give away Malibu land? And if they can, what are the limits of this power? How could anyone come up with the ridiculous idea of giving away 100 times more land than we would "receive"? It really makes you wonder. Lastly, even if this is legal, I would run (and I mean run) from any deal Joe is happy with.
Marianne Riggins January 22, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Being the strong supporter of Malibu public schools that I am it is disappointing for me to say that you cannot depend on enrollment numbers for our local public schools as many Malibu families choose to send their children to other schools such as private, other public schools and home schooling. Another poster included a link to the updated Parks & Rec master plan where is states youth numbers staying pretty flat over the coming decades, that would be a better fact to gauge community needs. Hans is also correct when he states that many adults have to travel to other cities to have their recreational needs meet and more field space would certainly allow those residents to play closer to home. The General Plan cataloged available fields and future needs, most of which is still unmet, we should use those documents to help guide our community needs. Having additional field space at Bluffs would help Malibu meet our community needs, it is centrally located, on a public transportation route and already an established recreational area. Additionally, our skateboard community should not be without a skate park for an indefinite period of time. We know what our community needs are, let's work together to find solutions. When we do we create a community that people want to join and raise their children, helping make a community we all want for ourselves.
Lori Jacobus January 22, 2013 at 05:52 PM
200% agree. Please sign the petition to stop the insane idea of camping in high risk fire areas of Malibu. Do it today - stand with the almost 600 people who have banned together - tomorrow may be too late at the speed this is moving http://www.change.org/petitions/the-city-of-malibu-and-the-santa-monica-mountains-conservancy-ban-overnight-camping-in-malibu-s-corral-canyon-and-high-risk-fire-areas?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=url_share&utm_campaign=url_share_before_sign
J. Flo January 22, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Southern California Association of Governments Report 2011-2012: Malibu Population The slower population growth pattern experienced in the last decade is expected to continue into the future. Between 2010 and 2035, the annual population growth rate will be only 0.9%, which is lower than the growth rate for the past 20 years. The region will grow mainly through natural increase (See Figures 16-18). Malibu Households The growth of the senior householders will represent more than 70% of the projected household growth in the region. However, the share of householders in the younger age groups will decline. In particular, householders 45-54 years old will show an absolute decline. Age group 55-64 is expected to add the most population, with an increase of 1,059 between 2000 and 2015. 2015, the age group 55-64 is projected to experience the most growth in share, growing from 12.6 to 18 percent. The age group expected to experience the greatest decline, by share, is projected to be age group 35-54, decreasing from 36.3 to 25.9 percent. (*graphs included show Malibu population decline based on US Census figures) >>>> There is a larger and serious point being clearly made here, as definitely stated in Keller's letter. A critical question that this city must answer. A decision of this monumental significance to swap Malibu resident's land is not to be made behind closed door, private meetings, this decision must be made BY the people of this city.
Hans Laetz January 22, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Those demographic reports have been wrong before. The large swell of school age kids that started in the late 90s ... which resulted in the reopening of the shuttered Point Dume Elementary School ... was completely missed by SCAG, the school district, and the others. I recall SM school board members in the 1980s who were talking about unloading the "unneeded" Point Dume school to the Community Services District. The SCAG studies also do not account for multigenerational families living within one roof. This is very common in Malibu. But all of this misses the point. The measured deficit of 9 fields was not a deficit of 9 fields to serve children. It was a deficit for people of all ages. Obviously, children use fields more than adults. Let's say every child in Malibu is vaporized. Those are still fields that can be enjoyed by everyone. Back in the 1950s, the 1970s, the 1990s, some Malibu pioneers worked very hard to establish playing fields for kids. NIMBYs fought against them. The baseball fields built at the lagoon in the 50s were bitterly opposed by some Colony residents, according to the old Malibu Times archives. And guess what: in 1954, letters were written to the newspaper saying the population of children was decreasing, so why build a second field?
J. Flo January 22, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Current US Census numbers, MMHS own enrollment figures are not "wrong". Research and statistics need to be studied to substantiate any population projection 60 years ago that could've led to any relevant or remotely accurate letter written to a newspaper in 1954. Trends studied in our era and reported on by the Government are based on research from numerous, pertinent factors - including current figures. Interesting to note, I've walked, driven by Bluff's park daily, weekly, monthly, yearly for decades. 90% of the time, the sport fields are empty. Yet to see organized adult games played there at any hour, any time, any season, on any weekend that I've been there. Surely they happen, but boy - very infrequently. It seems that our beautiful ballpark is very underutilized by residents for adult play?! Even outspoken proponents of ball parks are not regularly (or ever) playing ball on those empty fields (meet for a game?). It would seem to make sense that to facilitate a severe lack that some say exists for residents, our existing park would be scheduled for play and used on a consistent basis. Regardless of statistical facts or constant back-and-forth of opinion, there seems to be resident agreement to look for some more sport space within Malibu. Personally believe it can be done!

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