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Fence Goes Up Around Malibu Lagoon

Contractor Ford E.C., Inc., began installing the fence early Wednesday morning in advance of bulldozers expected to come in for work on the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project.

A contractor installed a nearly 6-foot-tall chain-link fence around a portion of the Malibu Lagoon Wednesday, marking the first major step in a controversial restoration project. 

Contractor Ford E.C., Inc. also put in temporary electricity poles and wires, which will power its onsite trailer, according to Suzanne Goode, State Parks Senior Environmental Scientist.

A biologist and several other monitors, including a Chumash tribal member, were on site to oversee the removal of vegetation for the fence, Goode said. The fence should be completely installed around the project area within two days, she added.

Once the fence is erected, scientists will begin capturing wildlife and releasing them on State Park property upstream.

Opponents of the project began trickling in just after 9 a.m., when work had already been well underway.

Activist Marcia Hanscom of the Wetland Defense Fund, one of three groups that filed a lawsuit seeking the revocation of a Coastal Commission permit approved for the project, said the fence will block off access to wildlife who need the lagoon.

“This is not for restoration. This is a construction zone,” Hanscom said, motioning to workers installing the fence.

Beach access will be blocked off on a perimeter trail while the fence is installed, and surfers were being directed over foot bridges that are slated to eventually be removed.

A dozen State Parks rangers and other scientists hummed around the site Wednesday morning, and some informed beach goers of the change in access.

Earlier this week, scientists, volunteers and students salvaged native plants and began in the areas of the lagoon that will be disturbed first.

J. Flo June 10, 2012 at 09:28 PM
HELLO "Plenty of towns have good planning--why not us?" Exactly. It is time - it is overdue.
Hans Laetz June 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I will never forget what a senior planner at the City of Malibu told me about the variances and waivers that City Staff endorsed for Trancas expansion. "Sometimes, when we see a project that we really like because it offers benefits for the community, we have to bend things a little as a little bit of sugar for the developer." Remember this when the City Council looks at the variances for the hotel, and the unbelievably awful traffic plan for the supermarket. Watch them.
Adam Smith June 10, 2012 at 11:38 PM
John, your insightful comments are appreciated. I was derided in another comments section for suggesting that rent in Malibu was a function of supply and demand (one person even suggested the laws of economics don’t apply to Malibu), so coming from you it will carry some weight. Hans, you know that the law cuts both ways. You sued because variances were given at Trancas that didn’t meet the legal test, and the court found in your favor. When I said that a developer can seek a legal remedy if the city denies a variance for arbitrary and capricious reasons, I was responding to Bob’s comment that the city can treat each property on its own merit, apply variances at their discretion, etc., which they can’t. They can’t hand them out like candy, and they can’t treat similar businesses unfairly, so they are constrained by prior development.
Adam Smith June 10, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Hans, I believe you misstated the La Paz traffic EIR findings. I believe it does not say it will overload the Cross Creek/PCH intersection under its mitigation plan. Traffic at that intersection would go from a failed rating (LOS) to at worst an E rating. In fact, it states that the cumulative plus project and mitigation will result in an increase in the level of service rating at 3 out of 5 intersections (Tables V.K-9 and 10 SCH 2002011131). There is no planned mitigation at Malibu Canyon Rd/PCH, but there the service rating does not decrease under the proposal (and is not overloaded, if by that you mean an F LOS). The only other intersection that does not increase its level of service is Cross Creek/Civic Center way because mitigation would require additional right of way. However, a signal there would improve traffic. This suggests capacity for new development with traffic mitigation. I’m not endorsing anything – just want to get clear on the impact of mitigation. John, given the history of zoning in Malibu, it sounds like commercial downzoning should be examined. Any thoughts on that?
Hans Laetz June 11, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Yes, cities most certianly CAN treat businesses unfairly. They do all the time. A prior nonconformist use at Property A does not mean Property B gets an similar no conforming use. California courts have repeatedly ruled that a variance is not an entitlement. The plain language of the statute (and the case law that the statute codifies) is that a city MAY issue the variance if the three-prong tests are met, not that a city SHALL issue a variance. I appreciate the respect you accord me with your discussion.
Hans Laetz June 11, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Ah, the traffic mitigation plan from La Paz. Adam, if I may, what is your exact understanding of that magic bullet?
Adam Smith June 11, 2012 at 12:45 AM
hmmm. I was referring to the document you offered as sound empirical proof. Didn't you say of it: "The city-approved traffic mitigation plan for La Paz -- which the supermarket is copying and adopting, by the way, -- says it will overload the Cross Creek intersection even with the mitigation it proposes. Same for Malibu Canyon Road. It will be overloaded by just the one shopping center ALREADY approved." The document doesn't say that - were you referring to another study? We can debate the document, but I just wanted to get clear on what it does or doesn't conclude.
Adam Smith June 11, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Hans, re the nonconforming use statement, I agree, but if the denial appears arbitrary and capricious, a developer may seek legal remedy under (among others) the Just Compensation clause of the 5th Amendment of the Constitution, the Equal Protection and Due Process Caluses of the 14th, abuses of discretion, etc. I don't know the case law in CA, but there's grounds for seeking remedy.
Bob Perkins DDS June 11, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Adam- I don't know how the circumstances of one project could possibly compare to another, given that every site has a unique set of criteria to evaluate at a different context of time. If a Lifeboat allows for 8 passengers and a variance is granted to allow a ninth, and the boat starts to sink, is the 10th passenger allowed to get on board due to the precedence set by allowing the ninth passenger? Basically you are saying that the General Plan is now moot given the fact that a variance in another part of town at another time was granted. The General Plan can never again be enforced as a statute of the city. That dog just won't hunt!! I don't think it would be a good PR move for a developing group to sue the city because the city chooses to enforce it's own building statutes. That would create an adversarial atmosphere that would, I think, be devastating to the developing group..it would be a certain NO win; the city would have to spend taxpayer money to fight a lawsuit so that a development group can (de facto) extinguish the city's own bylaws?
Bob Perkins DDS June 11, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Great development is great, and bad development, poorly planned and short sighted is...bad. I don't know enough to say what exactly is "good" and what is "bad" but I trust the city will figure this one out. The interests of the developers and landowners (however worthy of consideration) have to be weighed against the short and long term interests of the city and it's inhabitants and visitors. We all will have to live with the decisions that will be made, as will the future generations, long after our bodies are cold. It takes a thoughtful and well educated council, ruling with a rigid conscience, to be the custodian of these two interests. The stakes are high...
John Mazza June 11, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Downzoning is always a hard thing to do without creating a "taking" under the constitution. I do think that if the commercial development gets overblown some commercial property owners may request a downzoning to multi family zones but that is just a guess.
John Mazza June 11, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Adam, the law of supply and demand does in fact work but it can be distorted in the short run by other factors. For example, if a land lord artificially holds supply off the market to change a business model it can reduce supply. A monopolist also can set rates to some degree by setting artificial rates. That is why we see some centers keep some space off the market and turn down "market offers" (Granita ?}. In the long run that does not work but we all die in the long run also.
Hans Laetz June 11, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Reread the L A Lawyer lesson. It explains the case law nicely. In California, the decisions are Broadway Laguna Homeowners Association v. Board of Permit Appeals and Topanga Association for a Scenic Community v. County of Los Angeles. Both of them have been codified onto law by the Legislature. The court cases stress that a variance is an elective act by a city that can only be granted if three tests are passed: 1) they will suffer practical difficulties and unnecessary hardships in the absence of the variance, 2) these hardships result from special circumstances relating to the property that are not shared by other properties in the area, and 3) the variance is necessary to bring the applicants into parity with other property owners in the same zone and vicinity. Because no two properties are identical, cities are allowed wide discretionary power to make nondiscriminatory and rational decisions to deny varianves, or grant them IF those test are met. Malibu failed miserably to meet those tests at Trancas, but granted the variances anyway. My worry is that a city council may do that again -- I hope that worry is unfounded.
Hans Laetz June 11, 2012 at 03:52 AM
I am referring to the La Paz traffic study. it lays down certain traffic mitigations to avoid gridlock. Can you recall what those are?
hellwood June 11, 2012 at 04:03 AM
why is the city willing to mitigate traffic issues for these obtrusive developers in the first place?
Hans Laetz June 11, 2012 at 04:11 AM
EXACTLY the right question to ask, my friend. if a project is proposed, the city staff must carefully examine the traffic to be generated, and the ways the traffic can be mitigated. At La Paz, that did not happen. City council was given a decision based on inaccurate, incomplete environmental documents. And now, Malibu is compounding the error at the hotel and supermarket. Want proof? Keep reading. Tomorrow.
J. Flo June 11, 2012 at 05:54 AM
So well said . . . . "It takes a thoughtful and well educated council, ruling with a rigid conscience, to be the custodian of these two interests. The stakes are high..." The stakes could not be higher - it is very safety of the last preserved beach city in all of LA County and beyond. Malibu is literally an endangered species.
Adam Smith June 11, 2012 at 02:47 PM
well, it would help if you stopped muddling all the issues together and re-read John's comments and let them digest. For example, stop perseverating about specific proposed tenants when the issue is zoning, stop being indignant when owners seek to make money (you want to talk economics, start with the basic assumption that economic agents seek to maximize utility) as its a red herring who owns what, and most fundamentally, understand that supply and demand are basic determinants of prices and rents. The implication of that is to recognize that anti-development and lowering rents are antagonistic goals. No free lunches - you can't have your cake and eat it too. The Preserve Malibu message would be more palatable to a lot more people if it stayed on message as per John's comments and stopped the platitudes and sophomoric anti-business critiques.
Bob Perkins DDS June 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Adam- who or what are you referring to when you speak of "platitudes and sophomoric anti-business critiques"? I can't speak for everyone but I am a big proponent of business. Who wants a ghost town?...I don't know who is proposing that....proper city planning is crucial to having a good, safe, attractive, thriving, infrastructure. No one knows that better than you..... I haven't heard too many radical proposals .....stay within the General Plan..address the traffic and safety and environmental issues, and you can do whatever you want....I love good architecture and good infrastructure, good restaurants, convenient services, etc.. Bring those dynamics to Malibu, without creating other problems and quagmires (that will never go away), and you will be celebrated, paraded through the streets, even.
Adam Smith June 11, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Bob, I apologize for not being clearer. I had intended my last post to be in response to J. Flora-Katz's remark. She derided my comments in a previous section challenging her economic reasoning and has never offered substantive reasons for the proposals she advocates for. I have no doubt that she is well-intentioned and I respect the amount of civic engagement she has shown, but I think her reasons are often economically naive. Policy - no matter how well-intentioned - tends to have adverse unintended consequences if it's not based on sound understanding. John Mazza's comments are insightful - and implicitly at least - impugn many of her comments (such as focusing on the tenant Whole Foods during an EIR re zoning), her suggestion that rent is not tied to supply/demand, and the notion that further limiting supply and decreasing rents are not in tension. Re your comments, again, you are the voice of reason. However, I do not believe many advocates such as Katz agree with you. Her goal is no new development, and I do not think traffic mitigation solutions are really on the table. I do not believe the Soboroff project, for example, would be welcomed even without the variances. FWIW, I suspect it is residential density that it really preserving Malibu and that a market solution exists for limits of commercial development based on supply/demand from that.
Hans Laetz June 11, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Hi Adam, not not pester you, but can you exactly describe what this wonderful traffic mitigation is for the Civic Center commercial project, as approved by the city council five years ago?
Chuck Almdale June 11, 2012 at 06:09 PM
There have been quite a number of great comments by many people posted on this particular blog on the subject of development in Malibu. Obviously there is much to say, and there is a large knowledge-base in the community which should be tapped. I suggest that someone write a new blog or start a new thread or whatever it's called to address this subject and collect people's thoughts and information in a place that is more appropriate and pertinent than a blog which was initially about the lagoon, a completely different subject. It may just slip below the radar here, and it shouldn't.
J. Flo June 11, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Good idea Chuck, there will be a story up shortly on the new ballot initiative - that would be a great place to talk about this.
hellwood June 11, 2012 at 07:32 PM
chuck, ripping apart a lagoon when it appears to be naturally healing, and funding this project while 70 of the state parks are closing has perplexed many. that is why there is a hypothesis that the lagoon project is directly related to the proposed development. lets pretend that legacy park needed a place to pump all of the new development's treated waste water since the park itself was found to have too much clay to function, and perenchio's golf course was the best alternative...then we can pretend that without the lagoon project increasing the capacity of the lagoon exponentially, that the entire colony and lagoon area could possibly flood as a result. we could also pretend that Tapia could potentailly increase their discharges as well, facilitating development over the hill ...or we could pretend that Heal the Bay, and the Surfrider Foundation really care about us?
Bob Perkins DDS June 11, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I can't speak for anyone but myself, Adam, but my strong hunch is that a Whole Foods that complies with the General Plan AND satisfies the traffic and environmental issues at play WILL get the support if most people in this town. Ron Goldman is a fine architect and I am confident that it would be a well designed project.
J. Flo June 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM
From John Mazza: "the law of supply and demand does in fact work but it can be DISTORTED in the short run by other factors. For example, if a land lord artificially holds supply off the market to change a business model it can reduce supply. A monopolist also can set rates to some degree by setting artificial rates. That is why we see some centers keep some space off the market and turn down "market offers" (Granita ?}. In the long run that does not work but we all die in the long run also." Another - EXACTLY. In other words: in Malibu, in most centers the typical supply and demand, cookie-cutter scenario is not currently functioning. Obviously, leaving buildings/leases vacant for 10 years is not viable economics as in "supply and demand". "Long run" - could be 20 years or more. When in a massive country-wide recession Malibu rents continued to skyrocket - "economic laws" are distorted. It's lazy and inaccurate to use elementary, broad-brush definitions for this complicated and unique scenario. "Adam Nachos", keeps saying he agrees with Mazza, so obviously he agrees with this point that I, too, have made.
J. Flo June 11, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Adam Nachos - I do not debate with people using a phony name. You know that. You have chosen not to discuss in depth with me. Out of what? Fear? John Mazza and I speak the same language. As does Bob. Who do you think is in Preserve Malibu? There is nothing Mazza says that I don't agree with, you chose to misrepresent his words on this forum through your own filter for your own financial interests. The word is out on your identity and it's less than - ZERO SURPRISE. When you are ready to stand up, own your words and be a respectful resident and speak to this community using a real name - THEN we will talk. The points you've made in the past are the definition of naive, or rather manipulation, and show your complete misunderstanding of this town. Of course, purposefully done for your end-game. You've fully chosen not to discuss important issues with me. You want opinions, you want my thoughts, you want a discussion - simple. I've been ready. Use a real name. My name is here, my opinions open and public. Until you have the same integrity - it's not going to happen. You have only yourself to blame. Your choice. You keep running from a real conversation - it must really frighten you to come out of hiding.
J. Flo June 11, 2012 at 09:47 PM
If only the very most basic of facts was even vaguely comprehended - that this is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted solution. Exactly the reason that John Mazza supports a Diversity Ordinance, a ballot initiative on variances, advanced city planning, chain limitations, traffic planning and on and on the list goes. Big problems require big solutions. Grown-ups know that.
sean June 11, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Adam, the fact is that those against the lagoon don't have any tangible reason for their opposition. There is no development happening at the lagoon. State is just trying to clean up the mess that City of Malibu has ignored. And they are doing the project because if they don't, they will be fined by the EPA. Now there may be different opinions on how to fix it, but most of the opposition is about name calling and accusing everyone. Now we are supposed to think Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation are somehow in cahoots and ready to sell out the lagoon. For what? how do they benefit? First, I heard opposition say that heal the bay is against the lagoon restoration. but now that they are for it, they are somehow part of this imaginary conspiracy. City of Malibu has had since 1991 to do something about the lagoon. Since they did nothing and allowed the septics of the stars to continue polluting, the state has had to step in, otherwise both the City of Malibu and the State, and ultimately the Federal Government would be held legally responsible for people and animals getting sick at the lagoon. If it was up to City of Malibu, they would carve up the lagoon and sell it off as beachfront property, like the rest of Malibu. It is only the State that has protected the natural land in Malibu.
Adam Smith June 12, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Hans, there are 2 issues. First, I believe we disagree about what the report states. Second, I make no claim that the mitigation measures are good ones. I have no idea, as I'm not a traffic engineer. If you have a study showing the traffic analysis is flawed, that would be valuable to present. Wouldn't that also warrant some look into the city engineers who presumably reviewed it prior to approval? If there are no feasible traffic mitigation measures, then that's a good case against further development. But, do you think there really aren't any potential measures? Although I suspect your question is leading, the mitigation proposals for PCH/Cross Creek are the same ones in the Malibu Bay report - reengineering the intersection by moving it south to create a left turn lane westbound. Are the substandard lanes a non-starter at Caltrans? If so, what city engineer let that by? More generally, it is unclear whether Malibu is particularly interested in traffic mitigation since it is one more anti-development tool. You have expertise in the crummy state of PCH and highlighted that in your campaign. Hasn't the city ignored improvements to PCH in part because they want to discourage visitors?

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