Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin—whose tenure in Malibu began before there was a “City of Malibu” back in August 1990—announced last week that she would be stepping down from her role of providing legal services to the city, effective Dec. 15.
Hogin, who saw Malibu through its incorporation in March 1991, also defended Malibu’s interests in dozens of lawsuits over the years, from defending the Measure R formula retail ordinance to fighting against the implementation of a sewer system.
Now, Hogin is stepping down from her role and away from the three other cities where she is also city attorney, calling it a “personal moment” for her to prioritize spending time with a new family member: her newborn grandson.
“The election felt like a good transition time,” Hogin said in an interview with The Malibu Times following her announcement, adding, “I have a calendar and they keep handing me birthdays, so I knew that one day this would happen.”
In preparation for her eventual retirement, Hogin said, a few years ago she and her husband, attorney Michael Jenkins, merged their law practice, Jenkins & Hogin, with the larger practice Best Best & Krieger, LLP, “especially to make sure there was a deep bench and resources for all my clients.”
And there was one other reason the timing was good.
The city, which just a few years ago was embroiled in several costly legal battles (racking up nearly $1 million in litigation costs in 2015 alone), is now involved in only one ongoing piece of litigation, a long term dispute with the Malibu Township Council.
“In terms of litigation, we have really hit a good spot,” Hogin said.
“I’ve had as many as 17 open land use cases at one time,” she added. “I mean, there was a point in the late ’90s, early 2000s, where there were just a lot of challenges to find out whether or not the city was going to defend its land use decisions, and we did defend them successfully.”
That success, she said, was part of why the number of cases is now so low.
“We have kind of created a more credible reputation for dealing with the laws that we have to deal with, and I think that now, [state and regional] agencies—and certainly the courts—see Malibu in a much more mature light than in the very beginning when we kind of came on the scene as an angry upstart,” the attorney said.
Another reason for the city’s legal success, Hogin added, was that Malibu City Council members have always taken their governance role seriously.
“While everybody wanted to be absolutely positively sure of what legal constraints were, which is good, council members by and large respected those boundaries,” she said. “So, we’ve had a lot of success in Malibu creating laws we could defend and taking actions that were upheld. I hope that tradition continues.”
Hogin’s departure comes the day after the swearing in of a new batch of council members, with attorney Bruce Lee Silverstein, planning commissioner and businessman Steve Uhring and Realtor Paul Grisanti replacing termed-out council members Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner and Skylar Peak, as well as Council Member Rick Mullen, who did not win re-election.
Silverstein, in his election bid, publicly pledged to remove Hogin as city attorney, along with pledging to fire City Manager Reva Feldman. Silverstein would have needed to rally a 3-2 majority on council in order to remove the two longstanding city employees. He would likewise need a majority to remove Best Best and Krieger as Malibu’s legal counsel.
When asked about Silverstein’s pledge to remove her from office and the timing of her departure, Hogin said his election had nothing to do with her retirement, which had already been planned after the birth of her grandson.
“I don’t know [Silverstein], but that also means he doesn’t know me. We’ve never worked together,” Hogin said. “I point out, I’ve worked with every council member that’s ever been elected, and managed to develop a trusting attorney-client relationships with all of these city councils, because I—you know, I know what my job is.”
Upon news of her departure, Mayor Mikke Pierson made a statement praising Hogin’s work as city attorney in a press release provided by the City of Malibu.
“I am sorry to see City Attorney Christi Hogin leaving the city after dedicating so many years of hard work, compassion, knowledge, skills and professionalism serving the community of Malibu. It has been my great pleasure working with her, and I wish her well on this new chapter in life as a proud grandparent,” Mayor Mikke Pierson said in the statement. “Christi is legendary among small California cities.”
This is technically not Hogin’s first departure from the city, despite being the longest-serving city staffer and the only city employee who was around for Malibu’s incorporation.
She resigned from office in 1999, only to be rehired as interim city manager in 2000. In 2001, Hogin resumed her role as city attorney.
When asked if she would change her mind and return to resume her position once again, as she did two decades ago, Hogin laughed.
“No, I won’t,” she said. “I won’t be back.”
But her institutional knowledge of the city isn’t going anywhere. “Luckily, my brain will still exist on this planet and my friends in Malibu will always have access to it,” she said.