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Paul Grisanti

Twelve months ago, the repopulation of Malibu was just beginning. Anger, confusion, pain and uncertainty about the future were the primary emotions tearing apart our lives and the community. The County of Los Angeles and the City of Malibu were just as gobsmacked as the residents. Finger pointing, commiserating and rumors were the currency of the day. The fire was larger than anyone (state, county or city) had contemplated, occupying three of the four wildfire corridors through the mountains. The response during the disaster had been a disaster. It could only get better.

The county and the city soon began a series of meetings about what had happened and how to begin the recovery. 

I’m grateful that the city was in good enough financial shape after Woolsey—thanks to a very prudent city manager and city council—to spend over $13 million on the emergency response, infrastructure replacement, and lots and lots of mud removal without additional debt.

I’m grateful that Supervisor Sheila Kuehl embraced the disaster and was able to influence the various county agencies to send their top decision makers to the listening meetings.

I’m grateful that Supervisor Kuehl embraced the problem we were going to have meeting the fire flow requirements in most of the areas served by Waterworks District 29, and that she was able to make solving that problem a priority for Fire Chief Osby and District 29.

I’m grateful that Sheila’s office and our city manager, Reva Feldman, remained committed to a fire flow solution with biweekly calls to Chief Osby and District 29’s Mark Pestrella as they negotiated two very complex solutions over a four-month period.

I’m grateful that City Manager Reva Feldman and the city council made rebuilding Malibu their top priority in every meeting during the last year. Political divisions were set aside to find obstructions and remove them. Codes, ordinances and the Local Coastal Program were modified to speed the process. Additional staff was hired to assist with the necessary plan research and processing for rebuilds. 

I’m grateful that City Manager Reva Feldman and the council ran the numbers and restructured the budget, canceling or delaying pet projects. This allowed the city to free up the funds to motivate residents to rebuild by paying for owner-occupied fire rebuild permit fees. The amount of fees waived in the last 12 months is currently approaching $1 million.

I’m grateful that an ill-advised change in the total development square footage was rejected by the council, which decided to focus on rebuilding Malibu in response to an outpouring of opposition from residents.

I’m grateful that Reva and the city council have changed the climate for the employees in the planning and building departments by applauding the speedy processing of applications and setting a goal of application to permit in six months or less. 

As the recovery has progressed, Reva identified a timing problem with California code check and addressed it by bringing a code check employee in house to speed the turnaround time.

I am grateful for a brilliant hiring decision in adding Yolanda Bundy to the building and safety staff. Yolanda has the right experience and the right attitude to motivate and encourage the compassionate treatment of applicants.

I am grateful for each of the 39 permits were granted and for the 196 rebuild applications received so far.

Most recently, I am grateful for our City Attorney Christi Hogin, who brought us the good news of a $13.7 million settlement with SCE to repair our depleted reserve account.

I hope that the next 12 months brings even more progress towards a more resilient Malibu.

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