On Monday, the 20th of March, the City of Malibu officially announced issuance of the first fire rebuild permit for a replacement home that had nothing in the pipeline before the Nov. 9, 2018, Woolsey Fire. The “six months or less to a permit” goal, which wasn’t even discussed until well into December 2018, has been met.
While the cleanup has been slower than anyone had hoped due to lots of wet weather, Malibu’s planning and building and safety departments have proved they understand the city council’s commitment to get residents back into their own homes as soon as possible.
The city council has made this possible by changing some rules and providing three new planners to handle the increased workload. Both the council and the planning commission receive a report at the beginning of each meeting laying out how many properties are at each stage of the planning and permitting process. Applause and appreciation is expressed for any progress toward our goal. The staff is all on the same page.
The local architects I have spoken with have all been quite complimentary about the improvements in the process and responsiveness that are making this possible.
The city council is currently considering rebating part or all of the permit fees for owners (as of Nov. 8, 2018) who are applying for the previous square footage plus no more than 10 percent.
The LA County Fire Department, LA County Waterworks District 29 and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office also deserve credit for cooperating to solve the hydrant fireflow problems in the fire area.
The lot debris cleanups being done by the California Office of Emergency Services (CAL OES) are not getting good reviews. CAL OES has been slow to understand that natural background levels of several elements in the local soil are higher than the maximum allowable limits in their standards. Several homeowners have reported that they have had to bore into undisturbed bedrock to take samples proving that the natural background levels of cadmium and several other elements are higher than the CAL OES standards.
There is currently at least one homeowner who is waiting, since last Wednesday, only for the lot clearance sign off to get their building permit.
I attended the opening of the Radical Beauty art show at City Hall on Wednesday. Drawings, photography, poetry, song and film created about Woolsey were shown or performed. The photography and drawings are installed on the walls of City Hall where you can view them for the next three months.
During the opening reception, I had to opportunity to speak with several people whose homes were located outside the city limits. They did not have complimentary things to say about their experiences with the county’s planning and building and safety departments. They report that the county has added no new staff to assist in processing and has actually cut counter hours by a half hour per day. The staff seems overworked and not happy about it.
I have relayed the residents’ concerns to Supervisor Kuehl’s staff and hope to be able to advise of positive developments soon.