News Analysis

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor


€ The year opens with Malibu residents doing what they can to help the victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated South Asia and affected portions of West Africa. Several groups, including local schools, raise money for the victims.

€ After more than two decades of conflict, it is announced that a deal has been reached on the Bluffs Park matter. As part of an agreement, State Parks will transfer ownership of the 93-acre property, located on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu Canyon Road, to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The city of Malibu will then buy 10 acres of the site that includes the ball fields, the Landon Center and a running path. The money from the municipal purchase will be put toward the state's acquisition of the 600-acre Soka University property in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Malibu City Council and the SMMC Board of Directors approve the deal, but more state agencies must review it and an official contract must be drafted and signed before the agreement can become official.

€ The second week of the month brings a series of storms that last for several days. The city declares a state of emergency as rock-, mud- and landslides damage homes, roads and infrastructure. A man is killed when his car veers off Pacific Coast Highway near Big Rock and into the ocean. A 300-ton boulder drops onto Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Traffic nightmares take place throughout Malibu and Topanga with the closure of Malibu roads, including portions of Pacific Coast Highway.

€ Legendary entertainer Johnny Carson dies in his Point Dume home at age 79 of complications from emphysema. Malibu remembers Carson for his generosity, including his financial support of the Malibu Stage Co. and the Senior Center.

€ Malibu High School's newspaper, The Current, celebrates its 10th anniversary. The paper has won three Los Angeles Times student journalism awards and has placed first in its category at the American Scholastic Press Awards Association for the past four years.

€ The City Council votes to put a proposal for a half-cent sales tax increase on the June ballot. Proponents say it would generate $1 million to $1.2 million for the city and could be used for several purposes, including youth and senior services and parks and recreation.

€ In a story that changes daily, sources tell The Malibu Times that Anawalt Lumber will take over the Malibu Lumber property on the Chili Cook-Off site once Weyerhaeuser Co. vacates. But negotiations between Anawalt and Chili Cook-Off site owner Malibu Bay Co. reportedly break down over the rent amount and Malibu Bay's requirement for Anawalt to install a new septic tank.


€ The Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy backs out of its pledge to raise $15 million toward a municipal purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site because the city would not guarantee that a wastewater treatment facility would not be built on the property, a guarantee, MCLC said Mayor Sharon Barovsky once made. Barovsky said she never made that promise.

€ The Malibu Times 2004 Dolphin Award winners are announced:

Jacqueline Bridgeman

Rich Davis

Joan House

Lea and Leon Johnson

Téa Leoni

Carol Randall

Wes Walraven

The Ettenger and Welch Families

€ An appellate court upholds a trial court decision ordering Malibu to pay $10,000 in attorney fees to the group, Taxpayers For Livable Communities, which sided with the California Coastal Commission in its lawsuit against the city over the Local Coastal Program. The city is also ordered to pay $35,000 to resident David Visher for his attorney fees. Visher sued the city in 2003 in an attempt to get the city to process his coastal development permit application.

€ The City Council, by a 4-1 vote, passes the first reading of an ordinance to prohibit the selling of plastic foam products in Malibu. The move is applauded by environmentalists, but not supported by some local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce.

€ More storms hit Malibu, closing nearly all the major arteries into the city, including Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu Canyon and Kanan-Dume roads. Portions or all of several other streets are closed due to mud-, rock- and landslides. Pacific Coast Highway is closed between Big Rock and Las Flores Canyon Road due to a 12,000-ton boulder sliding down a hill.

€ An appellate court upholds a decision against Taxpayers for Livable Communities that the city did not violate the Brown Act when council members met to discuss the Local Coastal Program in 2001.


€ Local businesses say they are losing money when access to Malibu through Malibu Canyon Road and westbound Pacific Coast Highway are closed for one week due to storm damage. One lane in each direction of Pacific Coast Highway between Las Flores and Big Rock remains closed, creating traffic delays of up to 90 minutes.

€ The City Council finalizes the ban on selling plastic foam products and sets the June 7 election date for the sales tax, with the Chamber of Commerce declaring opposition to both moves.

€ Sheriff Lee Baca visits Malibu for a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He advocates the building of a Sheriff's station in Malibu.

€ Malibu Little League opens its 50th season. Celebrities and politicians attend the opening day festivities, which are made more special by the knowledge that the ball fields will soon be city property.

€ The City Council votes unanimously to cancel the June sales tax election and calls for an economic study to be conducted before any tax measures will be put before the Malibu voters.

€ Weyerhaeuser Co. closes shop at the Malibu Lumber building. The city is left without a lumber store and there is no word on who will move onto the property.

€ Youth advocate Douglas Kent Simpson dies at 48 from pancreatic cancer. He was the co-founder of the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu and general counsel and director of the Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families.


€ Pepperdine University says it will give the city a portion of the 9.2-acre property it owns behind the old City Hall on Civic Center Way in exchange for the right to build beyond what the city code allows on the remaining portion of the property. An engineering consultant determined in March that the property was the best site for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility.

€ Malibu home values continue to increase as the median sale price in 2004 was $2.1 million, up 26 percent from 2003.

€ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is opposed to any oil drilling off the California coast. This gives some ease to Malibu residents who hope that stance will extend to the proposal for building liquefied natural gas terminals. Australia-based BHP Billiton has proposed the construction of an LNG terminal near Malibu.

€ After several months of traffic headaches, all Pacific Coast Highway lanes from Big Rock to Las Flores Canyon Road are reopened.

€ An electrical fire destroys a significant portion of the Cross Creek Plaza. The damaged businesses are forced to close for repairs include the New Malibu Theater, Bay Cities Beauty Supplies, Casa Escobar, Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, Fast Frame and Malibu Eye Center.

€ After nearly three years of court battles, media mogul David Geffen agrees to open a public access path to the beach next to his Carbon Beach home.

€ Andy Stern is selected as Malibu's new mayor and Ken Kearsley is chosen to serve as mayor pro tem, a position he also held in 2002-03. In her outgoing speech as mayor, Sharon Barovsky says, "You're never going to have a better City Council."

€ Suffering from cancer, Planning Manager Mike Teruya announces his resignation.


€ The Pepperdine University men's volleyball team wins the national championship after defeating rival UCLA in five games on the Bruins' home court. The victory is the fifth title for the Waves and the first for the team in more than a decade. Senior outside hitter Sean Rooney is named Tournament MVP.

€ The City Council votes to increase the cost of appealing a project approval from $282 to $600.


€ In its annual report card, Heal the Bay lists Paradise Cove Beach and Surfrider Beach among the most polluted beaches in Los Angeles County, and Paradise among the state's top 10 beach bummers.

€ The Center for Law in the Public Interest and the Surfrider Foundation release a report accusing Malibu city officials and residents of trying to prevent the public from accessing the city's beaches. Several city officials say the report is full of lies and distortions.

€ Teachers and audience members boo Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as he gives the commencement speech at Santa Monica College. They blame Schwarzenegger for restricting state spending on education, although the governor has made no cuts in spending. A couple weeks later, a group of teachers write a letter to the governor apologizing for the behavior by some at the ceremony.

€ The Trancas Property Owners Association, which represents Broad Beach property owners, removes tons of sand from the shoreline and forms sand berms near the homes. The California Coastal Commission orders the association to immediately stop what it is doing because no permit had been issued.

€ A local laborer is found murdered on Morning View Drive. Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives say they believe he was shot and killed by another laborer, who is not found.

€ The Planning Commission approves a coastal development permit for the construction of a storm water treatment facility in the Civic Center.

€ The state Supreme Court rules in favor of the California Coastal Commission in its case against the Marine Forests Society, deciding that the process to select the commissioners does not violate the state constitution.

€ An investigation by The Malibu Times shows that comments submitted to the federal government in favor of the liquefied natural gas terminal proposed to be built off the coast of Malibu were signed by people who said they never made the comments. This comes a week after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announces his support for the BHP Billiton project proposal.


€ Billionaire developer and Denver multi-sports team owner E. Stanley Kroenke buys the Malibu Colony Plaza from Malibu Bay Co. for an undisclosed sum.

€ C.J. Amstrup is hired as the city's planning manager. Amstrup's resume includes 15 years of professional municipal planning experience, but none of it in a coastal city.

€ Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas accepts the terms of a letter from the city to help Malibu make changes to the city's Local Coastal Program. As part of the agreement, the city will send proposals to the Coastal Commission staff for amending the LCP in phases.

€ Nearly 300 people show up at Bluffs Park for the CineMalibu's Friday night screening of "Shark Tale," as part of a slate of summer screenings the city organized in partnership with several local businesses, giving people a chance to see movies on the big screen while they wait for the New Malibu Theater to reopen.

€ The City Council hires former Malibu political consultant Susan Shaw to help the city raise money from the public for the Chili Cook-Off site purchase.


€ The Coastal Commission rejects a coastal development permit for the Forge Lodge, a 16,240-square-foot bed and breakfast proposed for near the intersection of Corral Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway. The commission also issues a lengthy cease and desist order for Broad Beach residents that demands, among other things, that it not use security guards on ATVs to warn people about trespassing onto private property. And the commission unanimously votes to force oil companies to go through a state environmental review before they proceed with plans for offshore oil drilling. The oil drilling order comes a day before a federal district court judge says an environmental review by the Mineral Management Service on oil drilling permits was incomplete, and blocks its ability to renew the leases.

€ The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission votes to approve a $2.5 million grant for Malibu to go toward the purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. City officials say they have already received a $1.5 million commitment from Santa Monica College to use Measure S bond money for the acquisition and that more grant money will be made available from other agencies in the coming months. Malibu Bay Co., which owns the property, said in the fall of 2004 that it would sell the Chili Cook-Off site to the city for $25 million if Malibu can come up with the money by Dec. 31.

€ Malibu resident Richard Ackerman buys the Roy E. Crummer property, the 26-acre site located next to Bluffs Park. City officials say they hope they can work with Ackerman to donate some of the land so that ball fields could be built there.


€ Malibu residents help Hurricane Katrina victims in the Gulf Coast. Several local organizations raise money for and send care packages to the victims, and others help rescue animals.

€ Two cyclists, Scott Bleifer and Stanislav Ionov, are killed when they are hit by a catering truck on Pacific Coast Highway. Bicycle riders demand something be done about safety on the highway, but the city is at a loss to help them, as it has no control over the highway. Sen. Sheila Kuehl calls for the meeting of a committee to discuss the issue.

€ An appellate court rules against the Sierra Club and in favor of the city's approval of the Forge Lodge project. With the municipal approval now secure, the project's attorney, Alan Block, says his clients, Daniel and Luciana Forge, have good grounds for challenging the Coastal Commission's rejection of a coastal development permit for the project.

€ An appellate court overturns a trial court ruling and sides with the Trancas Property Owners Association that a settlement between the city and developer Trancas PCH was illegal. Also in the decision, the court says the City Council violated the state's open meeting law for local governments, the Brown Act, by voting on the settlement during the closed-session portion of a meeting.


€ Former Planning Commission Chair Robert Adler, who was fired in 2003 for allegedly violating the Brown Act, says all the council members who were involved in the Trancas PCH settlement should resign to prove that they are not hypocrites. Nobody resigns and Stern calls Adler "a bitter man."

€ Daniel and Luciana Forge file a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission to challenge the state agency's rejection of a coastal development permit for their proposed bed and breakfast project, Forge Lodge.

€ Public Works Director Yugal Lall and Parks and Recreation Director Paul Adams announce they are leaving in November. Lall takes a job with the city of Moorpark and Adams is going to South Gate.

€ Work begins to repair Las Flores Canyon and Hume roads, which were damaged by mudslides, with Hume Road collapsing. The work means that Las Flores Canyon Road will be closed most of the day, every day.

€ Malibu Creek Plaza donates $250,000 to the city for the municipal purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. Owner Steve Soboroff says at a City Council meeting that other people who "talk the talk" need to "walk the walk" by giving money to the cause.

€ In a rare decision, a three-judge panel from the Court of Appeal's 2nd District agrees to rehear the Trancas PCH case, but only regarding the issue of whether the City Council violated the Brown Act. Earlier in the month, the court received a letter from the city and county of San Francisco saying the ruling that the council violated the Brown Act could force local governments to negotiate settlements in public, putting them at a disadvantage. It is not known if that letter inspired the court's decision for a rehearing.

€ The Trancas Property Owners Association sues the Coastal Commission over its cease and desist order it issued in August, saying it is too vague for a reasonable person to know if he is violating it. A Coastal Commission staff member says the cease and desist order is meant to prevent the property owners from interfering with public beach access and that the property owners know that.


€ Cross Creek Plaza owner Steve Soboroff says the movie theater and the Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop should be ready to reopen in February. He says the other businesses damaged in the April fire will need more repairs, but should reopen by the spring.

€ City Manager Katie Lichtig announces at a City Council meeting that the city will not be receiving $8 million in grant money for the Chili Cook-Off site purchase that it had been expecting. The major reason for this is over a conflict involving the appraisal of the property. Lichtig announces a new financing plan for the Chili Cook-Off site acquisition that involves the selling of more certificates of participation, which are similar to bonds. Some activists and residents say city officials have handled the situation poorly.

€ The Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy pledges to match all money donated from Nov. 15 to Nov. 30 by the public, up to $500,000, to the city toward the Chili Cook-Off site purchase.

€ The city mourns the loss of two Malibu High School graduates, Keith Patrick Naylor and Tyler Love, who are killed while riding a motorcycle on Pacific Coast Highway. Naylor and Love were 22 years old. The crash remains under investigation.

€ A Ventura County Sheriff's detective determines that 24-year-old Devin Goodman was killed when his truck flipped over on Deer Creek Beach. No body is immediately found, but Goodman's body is discovered several days later in the ocean about a half-mile from the scene of the crash. Goodman's death comes during his mother's final days with an illness. She dies in December and a funeral service takes place for mother and son.

€ Mary Markey Kuepper, a 55-year Malibu resident who founded Keep Christ in Christmas, dies at the age of 88 in a Santa Monica care facility from pneumonia.

€ The city learns it will receive at least one grant for the Chili Cook-Off site purchase, a $2.5 million award from the State Water Resources Control Board that does not have the restrictions of the lost grants.

€ The City Council gets an earful from its opponents at a meeting when they lash out about the loss of grant funds for the Chili Cook-Off site purchase. The council members respond that their opponents are trying to politicize a community project. Mayor Pro Tem Ken Kearsley says the local newspapers have been using outrageous headlines in their coverage of the issue, saying they "might subscribe to the Joseph Goebbels school of journalism."


€ The alleged "Big Nose Bandit" is caught in Costa Mesa. Amir Hossein Saadat is wanted in connection with the June robbery of the Malibu U.S. Bank and several other bank robberies throughout Southern California.

€ The city says it has raised almost $900,000 from the public during the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy's matching pledge time frame. The group's president says he does not think the city necessarily raised that amount of money between Nov. 15 and Nov. 30, but says the group will make its $500,000 matching donation anyway.

€ City Manager Katie Lichtig announces she is stepping down after the first week of January to take a job as the assistant city manager in Beverly Hills. Lichtig has been with Malibu since 2001 when she was hired as the assistant city manager. She became the city manager in 2002.

€ Former Malibu Chamber of Commerce President Chris Hasselquist kills himself. He was 50. A Malibu native, Hasselquist was known in the city for his computer business and for his political involvement.

€ Escrow opens on the Chili Cook-Off site, but the deadline to close the deal is no longer Dec. 31. Malibu Bay Co. says it wants to finish its negotiation with a business that plans to rent the old Malibu Lumber building. The business is rumored to be Urban Outfitters or Anthropolgie, which is owned by Urban Outfitters. Escrow will close 15 days after Malibu Bay's negotiation is concluded or by March 31, whichever comes first. To pay for the property, the city will sell $18 million worth of certificates of participation. Other money will come from private donations, Santa Monica College Measure S bond money, the county, a State Water Resources Control Board grant and the city's general fund. Money coming from the county and the grant might not be available before escrow closes, so the council decides the city will front that amount through its general fund until the money comes in.

€ The City Council instructs the city attorney to draft a proposed measure that will ask voters whether they want council member term limits extended from two terms to three, or possibly eliminate the limits altogether.

€ The City Council selects former Santa Monica City Manager John Jalili to be the city's interim city manager.

€ An appellate court reverses a trial court ruling and orders activist Wade Major to pay the attorney fees to political opponent Ozzie Silna for a 2004 lawsuit involving that year's City Council race.

€ The environmental group, CLEAN, files a lawsuit against the Mariposa Land Co., the owner of four lots on Cross Creek Road, claiming the company has polluted Malibu Creek with storm water runoff.

€ The biggest waves to hit the Southern California coast and Malibu in recent memory, sweep through the week before Christmas, with some waves reported as high as 15 to 22 feet. Local surfers are excited and head out to catch the "Big One."

€ Mayor Andy Stern signs the contract to put Bluffs Park in escrow. The city is spending $2 million to purchase a 10-acre portion of the property that includes the ball fields, the Landon Center and a running path.

€ Stern pulls papers from City Hall in what could be his first step toward a re-election bid for City Council. Stern must return a paper with 20 signatures by Jan. 13 to become an official candidate. He says he will most likely run, but might not be able to do it depending on the health of his wife, who may need open-heart surgery.

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