Council Members Criticize Planning Commission Action
BY BILL KOENEKER
Some Malibu City Council members took the planning commission to task for the majority decision refusing to rehear a request for a proposed shopping center office complex known as La Paz (see story at left).
The council stopped short of taking any action, but had sharp words for what happened.
A previous planning panel had heard the request and made recommendations and a majority of the current commission last week indicated the matter should be forwarded to the council since they considered the revisions insubstantial and had no authority to rehear the matter.
“I watched the planning commission meeting,” said Councilmember Andy Stern. “It was very clear Greg [Kovacevich], our assistant city attorney, said it was their task to hear it and the majority of the council did not hear it.”
Stern said he watched as Kovacevich cautioned the commission that by not hearing the matter, they might expose the city to litigation. “I don’t know what might happen. I don’t know if the city might get sued,” he said.
Stern said he could not recall a committee or commission “flat out ignoring the advice of the city attorney.”
Councilmember John Sibert talked about another aspect of the commission meeting. “There were a couple of events that bothered me,” said Sibert, who had previously served on the planning commission for six years.
Sibert said the way some commission members “dressed down” the staff “is wrong. The city operates like a corporation. We are the board of directors. If there are issues with the staff, it should never be laid out in public. The city staff should not be chastised by the commission.”
“I agree with John,” said Councilmember Sharon Barovsky. “If I turned and started yelling at [Planning Manager] Stacey Rice, they can’t respond. They can’t say,. ‘Mrs. Barovsky, you are dead wrong.’ They are not permitted. They can go to [City Manager] Jim Thorsen. It is just really not fair.”
Barovsky said she watched the meeting and heard the accusations made against Vic Peterson. “I am mystified. Why Vic? That item was placed on the agenda by the city attorney. That is the process she thought we should follow. “I’m a little bewildered why Vic would get blamed. I agree with John to go after the staff is wrong. And sometimes you don’t have all the facts,” she said.
Barovsky said there was a majority of the commission that had not heard the La Paz application, including former Councilmember Jeff Jennings, who now serves on the commission, and new Commissioners John Mazza and Ed Gillespie.
“It upsets me the commission would vote not to hear something the majority had not heard,” she concluded.
Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich was absent, and Councilmember Jefferson Wagner had no comment on the meeting.
The comments were prompted by Realtor Paul Grisanti who said he was “flabbergasted” by what happened at the commission meeting last week.
“I’ve never heard of a planning commission meeting where everybody is there and the planning commission removes it from the agenda. What happened there?” he asked.