Malibu City Council Attempts to Respond to Enviro Flak on Legacy Park
• Members Approve Design and Let Construction Contract on Debated Project Out to Bid
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
During a special Malibu City Council meeting last Thursday morning, some members used the opportunity during approval to bid out a construction contract and give final approval for Legacy Park to defend the city’s direction in building stormwater improvements on the Civic Center acreage, after being blasted by environmental groups and surfing organizations during an appeal hearing two weeks ago.
Councilmember John Sibert said there is an impression that the city is slowing down on wastewater treatment for the Civic Center and noted the belief that experts contend that most pathogens are carried into the ocean from stormwater runoff.
He said the city should not wait for three or four years to clean up the water from runoff when it could do so now. “Our message is not out there,” he said.
What the city regarded as its most damning evidence about what they consider the turnabout in positions by Santa Monica Baykeeper, Heal the Bay, the Malibu Surfing Association and Surfrider Foundations are letters produced by Mayor Andy Stern written by some of the groups almost three years ago.
In a letter signed by then executive director Tracy Egoscue on Baykeeper letterhead, the city is praised for its project. “As the concept proposal indicated, the detention basin and intermittent wetlands to be built with grant funds will benefit an area that received approximately 1.5 to 2 million annual visitors. Improvements to water quality will address a number of impaired beneficial uses, including rare, threatened and endangered species, estuaries and wetland habitat, wildlife habitat and contact and non contact recreation. The project will help manage stormwater, in turn aiding in compliance with the TMDLs applicable to Santa Monica Bay beaches and Malibu Creek,” Egoscue wrote.
Stern said the key issue the groups most vociferously protested was the city moving forward with stormwater at this time and allegedly turning its back on wastewater. The groups had accused the city of a bait and switch after they had agreed to endorse grant funds from government agencies. Talking about the 2006 endorsement letters and how they solely focused on stormwater improvements over three years ago, Stern said, “No one here is [talking] about wastewater.”
Continuing to read from the letters, Stern said a missive signed by Mark Gold, who heads up Heal the Bay, wrote, “Heal the Bay strongly supports the Malibu Civic Center Stormwater Management Project for funding under the SWRCB consolidated grant program.”
The letter goes on to state, “We would like to offer our enthusiastic support for the Malibu Civic Center Stormwater Management Project. This project is necessary to comply with the Malibu Creek Watershed and Santa Monica Bay Beaches Bacteria TMDL requirements and implementation will help improve the water quality at Malibu Creek and Lagoon as well as Surfrider Beach.”
Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said she could not truly understand the protests since in effect, it is environmental groups and surfers that are asking the city to delay cleaning up the stormwater runoff. “The environmental groups are saying, ‘Go on ahead and pollute.’ My vote was to not keep polluting,” she said.
Talking about the split on the council, Councilmembers Pamela Conley Ulich and Jefferson Wagner both voted no, the mayor said, “I know Pam and Jay have different views.”
Conley Ulich said, “At the end of the day, Sharon, Andy and John, they are on our side. We are all on the same side. We are standing together for this park.”
However, Stern turned toward her and snapped, “If you had a third vote, this meeting would not exist.”
The meeting before the council was to review the plans and design elements for the park and direct the staff to advertise the project for bid for a construction contract. That motion passed on a 4-0 vote, with Wagner absent.
The council spent a considerable amount of time hearing about the various design elements of the park, such as trying to make improvements fire proof by using metal instead of wood and explaining how different kinds of artwork would be used in the park.
The council approved the use of steel trellises, decided not to create an ad hoc committee to review the artwork as sought by Conley Ulich, but instead agreed to hold a public workshop for comments after the consultant brought forth a final design plan.
The council also agreed to curbs rather than wheel stops for parking for the diagonal spaces along the north side of the park on Civic Center Way.
Members on a 3-1 vote turned down medians on Civic Center Way, but agreed to look at the Malibu Green Machine’s plans for the median along Pacific Coast Highway after tentatively turning down a brick work center piece on Civic Center Way much like at Cross Creek Road.
Consultant and engineer Norm Haynie asked the council to reconsider not having any restrooms in the park, but was told there would be public restrooms in various locations throughout the Civic Center, including the library and at the city-owned Lumber Yard shopping center.
Malibu Chamber of Commerce CEO Rebecca Evans said she wanted to lobby for no medians on Civic Center Way and did not want to see wheel stops, but rather curbs on Civic Center Way.
The council debated for some time about how to continue with selecting artwork. Conley Ulich found fault with the gopher snake piece that children could climb on saying it might send the wrong message to children since there are dangerous rattlesnakes in the area.
She wanted artists directly contacted for input, but was persuaded by the consultant and other council members there needed to be a more organized way to gain public input.