Steve Uhring is a planning commissioner who has lived in Malibu since the mid-1990s. Prior to that, he worked as a business executive.
This is an abridged version of a much longer Q&A. We encourage our readers to read the text, in full, here.
In five words or less, what is the theme of your campaign?
Improving quality of life of Malibu residents
Tell me about your history in Malibu. What prepares you to take on this role?
I was a senior executive in a Fortune 500 company back in Chicago. What that taught me was how to work as a team, how to listen to facts and make decisions. From there, I joined an internet company where I was doing new business development and sales and marketing. Once I got to Malibu, back in ‘95, ‘94, I got involved in a couple things. They were going to build a million-plus square feet in the Civic Center. I got involved in that. That project never went anyplace because the city council said “no.” We came up with the Malibu Bay development agreement, which was an agreement the city council put together that I thought was just horrendous. It gave [real estate magnate] Jerry Perenchio the right to build stuff all over the place and the city got nothing for it. I fought that. We stopped them from building a 185,000-square-foot shopping center in Legacy Park. Then we raised 500,000 bucks to help them buy the land. Once you get into this stuff, you can’t get out. Measure M, Measure W, dark sky ordinance, Trancas Park... That’s what I’ve been doing the last 26 years.
Will you describe how you see your record on the planning commission so far?
I’ve got a municipal code and I’ve got a general plan. Those are the rules I’m supposed to pay attention to. So I’ve tried to do that. There are certain areas there that are open to interpretation. But whenever that interpretation came in front of me, I tried to err on the side of protecting the environment and our rural character. And I don’t apologize for any of those decisions. I think that’s what the people who put me there wanted me to do. I’m still there.
All right, let’s talk about mansionization.
The city council came up with the mansionization question. Anybody who had a buildable lot of an acre or less, we did not change anything of what their TDSF was. That probably covers 90-95 percent of the people in Malibu. Why did the city council want to do that? Thirty-six percent of the residents in Malibu have responded to the census—burnouts, short-term rentals and second homes. It impacts your schools. I wanted to live in a community that had good schools. And 8,000-, 9,000-square-foot homes, those are not starter homes for families. We gotta start thinking about what we want our city to be. We can start doing actions that help us get there.
Do you have the perception that [TDSF decision] from planning commission was popular in the city?
The city council did a terrible job of selling what they were trying to do. They never explained to the residents, “This is a concept, this is something we want to look at.” Nothing! All you heard were, “200 people or 300 people ... show up at the meeting and complain” ... Those people didn’t even understand what we had suggested. There’s words I can use for those but none I want to put on a tape.
What would you have done, were you on council?
Explain to people what the heck we were trying to do.
It’s generally acknowledged in Malibu that the Woolsey Fire and its response were mishandled. Do you agree and who do you think is responsible for mishandling the fire?
I think it was a mess across the board. There is a fairly large contingent of Malibu residents who are upset with the city manager, members of the city council and the way that was handled. They had done subsequent studies ... I don’t know where the hell those things have gone, I haven’t seen any changes get made. I’m not running to be an executioner. I’m running to be a city councilperson. I’ve let enough people go to last me a lifetime. However, if it has to be done, I know how to do it.
Seems like you’re saying there’s a city staff component to the fire’s mismanagement.
The city council is supposed to manage the city manager. There was a failure on the part of some of the stuff the city did. Either preparedness for the fire, execution during the fire ... city council’s in charge.
How would you characterize the city’s handling of the short-term rental issue so far?
It’s a disaster! Nine years! In my entire business career, I’ve never had a problem that’s taken me nine years to figure out ... We’re being run by outside agencies.
Do you think it’s a matter of additional communication? Do you think it’s a matter of being more firm or pushing harder?
Communication is key. Honesty is key... This election is not going to be a transactional process where somebody gives me their vote and the next morning everything’s right. But I don’t give up easily and I’ve won more than I’ve lost in my lifetime.
What do you think is the No. 1 issue facing Malibu today? And what will you do in your first year in office to tackle it?
Quality of life! The decline and the quality of life of the Malibu residents. The homeless issue, traffic on PCH, increasing crime, short term rentals... Pick one.