“It was not always the case that the people of Malibu loved the board of supervisors in the county, but I’m just saying, in a roundabout way, we take credit for the incorporation of Malibu—coincidentally, by threatening a sewer,” LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl joked Friday. “Think about that for a little bit.”
Kuehl was speaking during the ribbon cutting for the City of Malibu’s new wastewater treatment facility—newly christened the Civic Center Water Treatment Facility. But her lighthearted remarks, met with laughter from the who’s-who crowd of government officials and bureaucrats present for the ceremony Friday morning, would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
The threat of such a project is largely considered the catalyst for Malibu’s cityhood. But Malibu could not fight the specter of a wastewater treatment facility in its downtown forever, and by 2016 ground was broken on the state-of-the-art plant. That occasion, like Friday’s, was celebratory, with City Manager Reva Feldman recalling a truce between city and county officials over pancakes at IHOP.
The facility which, true to promise, emits no “sewer” odor, produces recycled water ready to be used to water plants throughout the Civic Center. The plant was praised by many of its visitors last week. One of them was California Senator Henry Stern, who was raised in Malibu and was a featured speaker at the ribbon-cutting.
“I think this recycled water future is visionary and that’s what we’ve come to expect from the City of Malibu,” Stern said, later adding that the sewer would “not make Malibu a new home of giant development and mega-infrastructure, but smart infrastructure, that actually works for this community, that’s right size for us, that allows our civic center to thrive, that allows our businesses to keep thriving.”
Mayor Rick Mullen—master of ceremonies for the occasion—was the only speaker who seriously addressed the decades of furor over the idea of a civic center sewer.
“I can’t, as the mayor of Malibu—and one who is dedicated not only to our city’s sacred mission statement, to preserve our rural character, but also dedicated to the original vision of the city’s founders—give this speech without mentioning the famous ‘Fight Sewers’ bumper stickers that were sort of the battle cry for cityhood way back when,” Mullen said during his closing remarks, adding, “We’ve never forgotten those concerns about overdevelopment, and I think nothing illustrated this better than the recent property acquisition of open space just this last month that takes a potential shopping center out of the middle of town.
“And so, for all the ‘Fight Sewers’ purists out there, and I don’t know if you’re out there: I’m one of you, and we’re all one of you,” the mayor said. “We’re staying true to the founders’ vision for Malibu and this system, and this facility, does support the original vision, which includes keeping the water clean, recycling that water for local use right here in Malibu.”
Phase 1 of the project, which was completed in September, came in “on time and under budget” according to Feldman—to the tune of $21,652,803. Phase 2, which will connect the project to residential areas including Serra Retreat, is set to be completed by 2019. At its maximum capacity, after all phases are completed, the facility is designed to handle 507,000 gallons of wastewater each day—and could produce up to 125,000 gallons of recycled water daily. The total price tag for the sewer is expected to come in around $60 million.