There is good and bad going on in Malibu. First, the good. Our congratulations to this year’s Dolphin Award honorees, all of whom went well past what any of us had a right to expect. These are our people, of all ages, who gave time and energy above and beyond the call of duty to this community for which we are totally grateful. On the other side of the coin, there was an incident at Malibu High School, or repeated incidents at the school, where a noose appeared and apparently reappeared. In our world, we all know what that means, the threat it implies and the long history of lynchings of African-Americans in this country. The school district dealt with it directly and the principal sent out a letter from the district to all of the students, their parents and staff related to the incident. The district has to find out what happened, who was responsible and take action. At the same time, we all know that teenagers can sometimes be incredibly stupid and do stupid things. Many other kids apparently knew of it and said nothing because, I suspect, because they viewed that as ratting someone out. That attitude has to change because these kinds of incidents can flair up into despair or violence. No school kid should have to endure this kind of treatment for just being who they are.
The tumult that we’ve seen in the LA County Sheriff’s Department seems to be playing out locally here in Malibu in that we have been through four station captains in the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station in a very short period of time. Locally, we don’t have our own police department and instead buy our law enforcement services from the LA County Sheriff’s Department as a contract city, along with our neighbors, the cities of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village. We also all belong to a governmental group called a COG and today, Tuesday, they called an emergency meeting to talk about the situation. Coincidentally, this week’s traffic enforcement increased substantially in Malibu. We all know that on weekends many expensive motorcycles and exotic sports cars head out to Malibu to get together and usually late afternoon on any weekend day, PCH sounds like a straightaway at Le Mans in France. Apparently, the sheriff’s department and the CHP got together to have a presence. Whether that’s related to the sheriff’s problems, I don’t know, but it certainly has improved traffic safety in central Malibu. Some people have asked me about having our own police department but, as I understand it, that is a very expensive proposition. When we became a city almost 30 years ago, I was told it took a city of 50,000 to afford their own police department and I’m sure the number has gone up since then. Still, if the LA County Sheriff can’t do the job, perhaps the local cities could get together and form our own department. It’s something to think about.
In another local fracas, Council Member Mikke Pierson and his appointee to the planning commission, Kraig Hill, have parted ways. There is a letter to the editor in today’s newspaper (page 8) where Kraig Hill explains his take on what happened. The reality is that although they both tried to smooth it over as a failure of communication, the reality is that Pierson fired him and to my mind for good reason. First, council members run for office and are elected and are answerable to the electorate, while planning commissioners are appointees of a council member and serve at the pleasure of the council member. My judgement is that many on the planning commission, including Kraig Hill, have absolutely been politically tone deaf to the citizens of Malibu. When the planning commission came up with the idea of downzoning all of Malibu by roughly 25 percent right after the Woolsey Fire, the citizens of Malibu went berserk. The planning commission claimed they were just following the rules as written under the code and that neighborhood standards required they downzone. I sat through that long hearing when at least 300 people showed up to berate them, questioning their judgment and sanity—and those were the polite people. Others were a bit more blunt. To my amazement, nothing anyone said seemed to penetrate to the majority of the planning commissioners, even though many of the speakers were longtime citizens of Malibu and their longtime neighbors. After a torturously long meeting, they kicked it back to the city council who apologized to the citizens of Malibu and then had the good sense to kick the entire idea out. You might think that some of the planning commissioners might have learned something from that grueling experience. I know many people who were screaming for the planning commissioners’ hides.
Recently, the city had a plan to make some significant changes on Civic Center Way, went through a development and engineering process and, as with any project, sent it to the planning commission. Normally, you might believe that this city’s own project would sail right through the planning commission. If so, your belief would be totally incorrect. The planning commission then set about redesigning the city project in another tortuously long commission meeting. Some of the changes they made were so horrendous that two of the city council members filed an appeal of their own planning commission’s decision to their own city council. The city council made quick work of the planning commission’s decision and changed most everything back. My guess is that was the straw that did it and in my judgment it was about time.
Next week, we’ll pick up on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) and their plans for camping in Malibu Bluffs Park.