Mayor Pro Tem: 'There’s no Backroom Deal' on Land Swap

Mayor Pro Tem Joan House says she hopes the land swap will solve the need for more active recreation areas for Malibu's youth.

Mayor Pro Tem Joan House explained the origin of the idea for a land swap between the city of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Monday, denying claims from some of a back room deal.

Before the council voted unanimously to direct Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin to further explore the proposed deal, House called for support on the proposal.

"There are no details, as far as the city is concerned. There is nothing written down. There is nothing that we’ve promised. There’s no backroom deal," House said. "I'm a little bit sorry that people keep mentioning that and look for something that doesn't exist."

The idea came up during a meeting with Mayor Pro Tem Joan House, Mayor Lou La Monte and SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston.

"First of all, it was not Joe's idea," House said following a nearly two-hour public hearing at Monday's meeting at Malibu City Hall.

She said she first approached La Monte with the idea of swapping the city's Charmlee Wilderness Park for Bluff's Park, which is operated by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC). The city hopes to place a skate park and more ball fields at Bluff's Park, but efforts have been stalled by Edmiston and the SMMC.

"I listed quite a few things, which I will list for you, and I asked, 'what do you think of a land swap,'" House recalled. "I said, 'It just seems like it is a good thing to consider.' I gave the mayor all my reasons and he said, 'I'm on board, I'll make a meeting with Joe.'"

She said a meeting was set with Joe to discuss the idea.

"There was no conspiracy. This was not initiated by Joe. It was just an idea that I happened to have," House said.

She went on to say that it was La Monte who brought up the land swap at the meeting with Joe.

"We did not have any idea where we were going. Once [Joe Edmiston] said, 'Well it interests me,' his mind was working a little bit overtime," House said. "Then we came back and spoke to [City Attorney] Christi [Hogin] and [City Manager] Jim [Thorsen]."

She said she got the idea from the need for parks, play areas and fields in Malibu. House, who is on a Parks and Recreation subcommittee with Councilman Skylar Peak, said she also tried to explore where the city could find more places for organized sports.

"We tried to do a temporary skate park at Bluff's Park and Joe was the stumbling block," House said.

She said she also tried to explore if games for young children, between the ages of 5 to 7 years old, could be held at Trancas Park, but it is deed restricted to the Malibu Township Council.

"I brought in people and Councilmember Peak was there and they said it is deed restrictive so you can't have any league play. Here's a perfectly good field that the city paid for, that the city pays for its staffing, the city pays for the water," House said.

She said a small group that attended that meeting "stonewalled" her inquiry.

"So, stonewalled from Joe. Stonewalled from the Malibu Township Council by Trancas Park, which we paid for and built, so here we are," House said.

She said Bluff's Park is too small to meet the needs of the children and adults in the community.

"I started connecting the dots. How can we get more playing area, more active sports playing area and not harm Charmlee? Well, a swap. Charmlee is deed restricted," House said.

She said Charmlee will stay the same, and that the only difference will be the administration that runs it.

Mayor Lou La Monte said the meeting was to decide whether to move forward.

"There were no preconditions. There was no deal, it was just a lunch," La Monte said.

He said that Edmiston added on the request to settle the lawsuit over Ramirez Canyon and a time limit of coming to a decision by the end of January.

"It certainly isn't something that we asked for," La Monte said.

At the end of the meeting, the council directed City Attorney Christi Hogin to further explore the land swap and the settlement over Ramirez Canyon.

The council asked her to first allow time for the city to determine if it could build more recreational facilities at Bluffs Park and determine what fire safety standards would be in place for the SMMC's proposed camping plan at Charmlee. The city attorney will also ask if the proposed deal can also include a discussion about restricting camping in Escondido and Corral canyons.

The SMMC board has already given a nod to its approval of the settlement and proposed land swap.

John Mazza January 15, 2013 at 05:28 PM
I hate to say it but Joan House a lying about Trancas Park and the MTC, It is not the first time but it is still a lie. The Malibu West Homeowners Association sued the City of Malibu over their plans to bulldoze the ridge overlooking their homes and for protection against various park over expansion plans. The Malibu Township Council joined the suit which the homeowners later turned over to the MTC. The MTC has a history of helping homeowners groups when the city refuses to listen to their legitimate concerns. As part of the settlement (which saved the city over one million dollars in construction costs) certain restrictions were placed on the park. Joan House came to me to ask that the MTC drop some of those restrictions. Because the Malibu West Homeowners Association paid for the suit and was most effected, we asked the board of the homeowners association if they wanted to drop the restrictions and they formally rejected the idea. Because of their objection the MTC formally declined. MTC was not involved in a "small meeting" and never met with Skylar Peak.The city later asked the MTC if it objected to extending the hours the park was open and after consulting with the homeowners association approved the change. Joan is apparently fond of backroom deals but the MTC is not.We are not fond of the latest back room deal to allow camping on city land and endanger our citizens. There are official minutes to back me up from both the MTC and the Malibu West Homeowners Association.
Jessica E. Davis January 15, 2013 at 05:52 PM
John, we were both at the subcommittee meeting in the Zuma Room when Joan House brought up the idea for bringing league games to Trancas Park. That subcommittee meeting, which included Skylar Peak, was publicly noticed and not a secret. You and others at the meeting, including Lynn Norton, were pretty vocal about how difficult that proposal would be because of the deed restriction. I believe this is what Joan is talking about. I could be wrong.
John Mazza January 15, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I stand by my statement. The MTC did not "stone wall " her request. It acted in a proper manner and considered her request along with the Malibu West Homeowners Group. That is the process. It was explained to her. The reason for the restrictions were the councils refusal to listen to the public and the courts agreed or were about to. The same could happen every time they take the my way or the highway approach to government.
Max January 15, 2013 at 06:25 PM
If the deal happens, it would be nice to have a decent dog park in Malibu, with separate areas for large and small dogs, and, also, with grass instead of gravel/dirt...
Susan Tellem January 15, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Someone brought up an important point last night. Special groups are not to be treated differently than the city as a whole. While it would be great to have more ball fields, a skatepark and I guess another dog park, why don't the very rich in this city step up and donate some land. Or as a temporary measure, use the private civic center land that sits empty waiting for permits. Don Schmitz could have done that years ago. I stand by my assertion that Joan House is doing Sharon Barovsky a big favor as election payback...getting rid of those Bluff's Park camping grounds and the bathroom just feet from her door. This deal stinks like rotten cheese.
Just Wondering... January 15, 2013 at 07:22 PM
This city is a joke. Let's spend $25 million on a flat, dirt field, and turn it into a hilly, weed field that legally allows only "passive recreation." That way, no one will use it! Without this new "park," there is obviously nowhere in Malibu for people to hike or walk their dogs now, so this park fills a huge need. Then, let's build a park in west Malibu, but not allow kids to use the huge grass field for any organized sports. Also, the high school can severely restrict the use of its fields, so we can keep those annoying kids off those fields most of the time. Then let's fight and sue over the use of lights on a high school field, because that is outrageous, since we all must watch the stars every other Friday evening between 7 pm and 10 pm from September through November. Plus, think about all those poor, confused owls! Let's face it: kids and sports are annoying and are destroying Malibu. We should ban laughter and shouting. It is too noisy. Then, after kids in Malibu have become accustomed to these new "Silence the Lambs" laws, we should ban running, kicking and throwing, because those non-passive activities are intrusive as well. Then, after the kids in Malibu have become accustomed to these new "Walk Like An Egyptian" laws, we should take the next step and outlaw kids in Malibu. They are so loud and annoying anyway. With no kids, we could get rid of all the fields and lights and make Malibu the way it should be - empty and quiet, with nothing but "passive recreation."
Malibu Magoo January 15, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Max - Again with the dog park? One isn't enough? Grass instead of dirt? Please.
John Mazza January 15, 2013 at 07:42 PM
Just Wondering Lloyd--- When this city council gets a chance to buy 19 acres of pretty flat land at the corner of Heathercliff and PCH that is already for fields (not like Bluffs that will take years and years) for $2,000,000 last year it turns it down. Instead of giving up 580 acres of park it refuses to pay for one in West Malibu because I guess it is not on Bluffs Park near a former mayors house. The council could have two fields TODAY and played politics.Just Wondering?
Terry January 15, 2013 at 10:17 PM
bull. we all know the city has signed off to eliminate one of the fields at malibu high to put in tennis courts. joan house is just scrambling because she has already traded away one of our fields. the ayso has every right to be very upset. the back room deal involved lights for the school elimination of a field on the high school and laura rosenthal endorcing the candidates that were not from malibu for the school board. alterior motives. i think so. we need to recall these people. malibu is circling the drain.
Paul Grisanti January 15, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Just wondering who you are and when you arrived in Malibu? Did you support Measure M which would have allowed the City to use Legacy Park for active recreation? Do you know that the $25 Million included the Malibu Lumberyard property and the building where Supercare is located. Do you know that the rents on those properties pays the debt service on the entire Legacy Park property including the two commercial areas. Do you know that the rents will go up over time as the debt is simultaneously being retired.
Just Wondering... January 15, 2013 at 10:45 PM
I've been here a long time and coached many, many Malibu youth sports teams. No matter the sport, there is never enough field space for our kids. It is not just a minor issue. It is an acute shortage. I have supported carving out a little space for an extra field or two for a long, long time. That's all that is needed. Not a new sports complex. Not a stadium. Not five new fields. One, or maybe two fields. It is incredibly frustrating to have dealt with this field shortage for years, and then see golden opportunities to create a useable field or two at Legacy Park and Trancas Park, and have people oppose it and block it and kill it because they don't like noise, or kids, or prefer the look of "natural" weed fields to the look of a grass field. Your statements about what the $25 million got Malibu at the Civic Center are not relevant to my point. My point is that we have a huge "park" in the middle of Malibu that was INTENTIONALLY made almost completely useless, and a pretty useless park at Trancas, due to the usual Malibu complaints and restrictions. Using just a small fraction of the land at Legacy Park, we could have still had a huge, bumpy weed field that no one uses, and also created a great park that people would actually use and which would have alleviated the field shortage, and, oh by the way, would have driven a lot of additional walk-in business (at least for food) into Cross Creek every weekend when there were games on that field. What a waste.
John Mazza January 15, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Did you know that Measure M also gave away the rights of 685,000 sq ft of commercial development all over town , houses on Trancas field, houses on Broad Beach (subsequently given them) and 40 houses on Perrenchio's Colony golf course (which will now become a public park upon the death of his wife)amoung other goodies? Negotiated by House supported by Sibert, Rosenthal and LaMonte and Sharon Barovsky et. al. Thank God the voters defeated it 2 to 1.
John Mazza January 15, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Just Wondering--- Did you know that the City of Malibu has a 2.5 acre lot behind the future LaPaz development (Cross Creek at Civic Center Way) that was given as part of the LaPaz development. It is probably 600 ft from Legacy Park and could be developed much quicker than Bluffs Park? The lot was supposed to be for the city hall but we paid $1000 sq ft for the present city hall instead. The council did not tell you that did they ?
Hans Laetz January 15, 2013 at 11:50 PM
The "field" at MHS is a small practice turf, not a soccer field. The school teachers and principal have decided that it is a necessary tradeoff for another tennis court. It is a school, and the school decided what to do to best fulfill its educational purposes. The school is not there to meet the neighbor's selfish interest. Please note the new tennis court is near Terry's house, which may explain why he is so bitter about that, too. Nothing about that was done in secret, Terry was just unable to convince the school and the city that his personal preference should control. Terry is very bitter that the new light standards are in the field of view that he has enjoyed, across the public school property. If a house had gone in, he would have long have lost his ocean view. There are 12 houses blocking my ocean view, and I wish they were gone. No, I don't, they are nice people. But I don't live 6 blocks across flat land from the ocean, and demand blue water views. Usually I ignore this sad man's bitter posts, but is important to correct the record.
Terry January 16, 2013 at 01:05 AM
point is field is being lost. how does ayso feel about loosing a practice field. yes i am against the lights at the school. i am against giving charmelee away i am against camping at charmlee with or without fires. i was against the lagoon project and ruining surfrider beach i believe the current city counsel should be recalled. however i would fear it worse if people who didnt respect the residents of malibu and value their private property rights were elected in there place. i dont believe my posts are bitter. i believe they reflect the majority of malibu residents and property owners.
Terry January 16, 2013 at 01:50 AM
in my book addressing u would be a total waste of time.
R J January 16, 2013 at 04:23 AM
Once again there is this zeitgeist of biased judgement based on misunderstanding and poor communication that has polarized the people of this community to the point where it has become personal with a Hatfields and McCoy flavor. It is this polarization that creates such an obfuscation of the issue so that the real issue lacks clarity. Instead of this "what can you do for me" mentality why can't we reconnect and ask "what can WE do for US?" Unfortunately a proactive, united, cohesive bond with one another will never produce positive results for US as long as misunderstanding and polarization prevail-which it is. So apropo are the words of Lao Tzu: " If you don't change direction, you may wind up where you are heading." I submit, that we put away, no, throw away our differences, and come together with an informal FRIENDLY meeting (can we do that) and be as one Malibu, not this us vs them dichotomy, and come up with something we ALL would agree on. For many years I have tried to live by the words of Chief Joseph: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever". I know we can do that.
Preserve Malibu January 16, 2013 at 10:00 PM
As a community of residents, let's put together a meeting immediately within the next few weeks. If you are interested in talking with your neighbors, we're willing to host a meeting. We need to hear from you to schedule it. It's time to get involved. This is our town. The majority of people don't like being vocal in public, dislike putting our names out there but our love for Malibu needs to be far greater. Let's sit down, work together and stand together to fully understand and participate in these critical issues. Let your voice be heard. Please either go to 'Preserve Malibu' on Facebook or email: PreserveMalibu@gmail.com and let us know what dates work for you within the next 2-3 weeks. Together we can preserve Malibu!


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