In preparation for this November’s city council election, The Malibu Times sat down with all five candidates vying for one of two open seats.
The order for each interview was determined by a blind drawing, with candidate Olivia Damavandi picked to go fifth.
This is an abridged version of a much longer Q&A. We encourage our readers to read the text, in full, here.
What would you say is the theme of your campaign?
The theme of my campaign is that we need a city that solely represents the needs of Malibu residents and that we need to protect our residents from outside agencies that want to control how we use our land, how we educate our kids and whether or not we can make PCH significantly safer. These issues are causing a lot of uncertainty. It’s making me question—worry—about what our city’s going to look like over the next decade, two decades.
Tell me about your history in Malibu. What from your past prepares you to take on this role?
I was born and raised in Malibu. I attended our local schools: MJC, Webster, Malibu High School. In high school I was voted mayor for a day, which is actually how I segued into local politics. I spent the day at City Hall talking to all the departments and learning about how our city functions. Then I ran a council meeting. And I knew right then and there, this was something I wanted to be part of. I was enthralled by local government because I realized that you can actually make changes that really improve quality of life, whereas on state or county or federal level, it’s very difficult to implement change.
After graduating from Malibu High School and going to college, I came back to Malibu to serve as the assistant editor and staff writer for The Malibu Times. At my job at The Malibu Times, I covered Malibu politics primarily. It prepared me because I know the ins-and-outs of city government I know how it works and most importantly I’m prepared for leadership because I’m trained to make good decisions based on fact. After after my job in the city, I went to Columbia Graduate School and then came back home to Malibu to serve as the city’s media information officer. In that position I worked directly with the city council and city departments to create communication strategies that better informed our residents of things going on in the city. Part of the reason I was hired was to speak out against the negative reputation which Malibu has unfairly acquired from outside agencies.
How do you think your experience as the only candidate with school-aged children shapes you as a potential council member?
I think it makes it very clear what my incentive is. I’m not running for Malibu City Council to put a feather in my cap. I’m running because I’m concerned—gravely concerned—about the direction our city is headed, especially in terms of public safety, traffic and the quality of Malibu High School.
I hear the concerns. I listen to parents every single day. And what I hear is that they’re worried whether Malibu’s going to be a sustainable or realistic place to raise their kids.
If I had to bet on someone in a fight, I would bet on the fighter with the most to lose. Three generations of my family are living here now. I have my parents who are still living in the same house that I grew up in. I’m living here as a parent, and my small children are living here. So, I’m acutely aware of each demographic and its wants and its needs. It’s very apparent to me, the same way parents are worried about raising their kids here, my parents are worried about aging here. You know, if they need to get to a hospital, can they get there in traffic? Our urgent care needs help. So, for our seniors, it’s also becoming more unrealistic. They need more services, too.
Given that you’ve been in Malibu your whole life—more or less—but you haven’t held that leadership position, do you feel that you have the name recognition you need to win this election?
I have no idea—I have no idea. That’s the truth.
On your campaign website, you list MRCA conflicts top among issues on your campaign platform. Do you think this is a universal concern among residents, or is it more a neighborhood concern? And do you think the city is opening itself up to potential lawsuits by fighting the MRCA on this issue?
Malibu residents should be very concerned about this because it’s only a matter of time before their neighborhood is next on the chopping block.
I’m not against public access to our public hiking trails and our beaches, but not at the expense of private property rights.
Nobody is inviting thousands of people per weekend to use their property. That is not what the neighborhood is zoned for. The MRCA needs to follow the rules like everybody else who lives in our neighborhoods, and respect the residents who live there. Nobody is against public access, nobody is against public hiking trails, nobody is against the public’s right to access nature and enjoy it. We’re just asking, don’t ruin our neighborhoods. Because you don’t need our neighborhood in order to access those recreational amenities. There are trailheads that already exist.
And, in regards to a potential lawsuit—do you think that’s something the city is opening itself up to?
I think we’re legally defensible, the city should always protect its residents.
A lot of candidates created platforms about vacation rental policy in the city weeks ago, but council just suggested it may be open to an all-out ban. Do you think that’s a good idea and if it came up while you were on council, would you vote in favor of a full ban?
I don’t think the Coastal Commission would ever allow a ban in Malibu. Because I think the ban is unlikely to hold water in court, I think they need to be heavily regulated.
I think we need an ordinance that holds owners responsible for tenants’ behavior. The key to this thing is enforcement. We need to hire additional enforcers who deal only with this issue, with the short-term rental issue, because if we can’t enforce it, we might as well not bother, you know, dealing with it.
What do you think is the No. 1 issue facing Malibu today and how do you plan to tackle it?
Public safety—and public safety comprises Pacific Coast Highway and homelessness. I think public safety is the one issue that impacts us all, regardless of our demographics, on a daily basis. We need more law enforcement on PCH. We need to reprioritize our budget to focus on increasing law enforcement. We’re a town of 6,500 full-time residents, and we host 15 million visitors a year. We need to find a way to educate visitors about how dangerous Pacific Coast Highway really is, before they even get here. I would launch a social media campaign about the dangers of PCH; it’s inexpensive and extremely efficient, as we’d be able to reach millions of people all over the world who visit Malibu but are unaware of our treacherous main thoroughfare.
I had the very unfortunate privilege of covering Emily Shane’s murder while I was at The Malibu Times and it hits home even more now that I have my own kids. It shouldn’t take four 9-1-1 calls for a guy speeding like hell from Topanga to Heathercliff to get pulled over. It just shouldn’t happen. And residents might not be happy about getting pulled over for speeding tickets more frequently, but I know that if Emily Shane was any of their kids, they would vote “yes” on getting more cops here right away.
You did mention as part of public safety at the beginning of your answer, the homelessness situation. I was wondering if you wanted to speak to that.
I think the city does a fantastic job at trying to help the homeless, and I don’t think many people know about all the services that are offered within the City of Malibu. That being said, I think we need to really look at the success rate of our policies and from that point determine what, if anything, should change, and if that money could be spent on more efficient or more effective avenues, like, you know, our kids or our environment. We need to work more closely with the county and the state because we don’t have the resources or the capital to deal with this problem. But I think the city’s doing a good job in trying to help the homeless.