Malibu City Council Majority Goes Out of Its Way to Burn Enviro Bridges
• Three Members Say No to Appeal of Legacy Park and Slam Groups that Champion Ocean Causes
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
How can city officials play fair when what is before them is their own project? “They don’t” was the answer of environmental groups and surfing organizations that appealed to the Malibu City Council this week to overturn the planning commission’s narrow approval for the Environmental Impact Report and permits for Legacy Park. The council voted 3-2 to deny the appeal with Councilmembers Pamela Conley Ulich and Jefferson Wagner dissenting.
The sense of inequity started at the beginning, when the city manager put on a nearly 45-minute presentation that gave ample time to the city’s consultants and staff to rebut the appellants’ reasons why the council should reconsider the matter.
Then Mayor Andy Stern turned to representatives of Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Baykeeper, Malibu Surfing Association and Surfrider Foundation and told them they had a total of 15 minutes to address the council.
“We should have the same time as the applicant. It is not fair,” said Tatiana Gauer, an attorney for Baykeeper.
Inequity was also evident in the way audience members were handled when they ignored council policy to not applaud after presentations or comments by speakers.
When applause took place after the city’s presentation and was not halted by the mayor, one wag in the audience shouted “No applause” to even things up.
The Baykeeper attorney urged the council to not proceed with the EIR and permits because a proper review was not done and there was new information that should be considered.
Heal the Bay head Mark Gold, who was on the city’s Technical Advisory Committee for Legacy Park, asked the council if they knew how “bizarre” it was that major environmental groups and surfing organizations were the opposition. “It is not the promise of what Legacy Park was supposed to be,” he said. “The project does not address wastewater issues.” He noted that much of the information presented by the consultants is not contained in the EIR.
Gold warned what would happen if the city continued to ignore the entire picture of wastewater disposal and not commit in writing to a Civic Center system. “You will continue to see us as the opposition,” he said.
That message was repeated by representatives of Surfrider Foundation and the Malibu Surfing Association: They reiterated that the groups were not trying to stop a park, but were more interested in solving the city’s pollution problems so that it will be safe to surf at Surfrider Beach “When will this city clean up the beach?” asked one rep.
The groups also said that testimony given by the consultants Monday night was not previously part of the record and accused city officials of reneging on a deal after the groups had helped raise money for the park. “You asked for input and you ignored it,” a surfing rep charged.
Each council member reacted differently to the criticism after public testimony was closed.
Councilmember Sharon Barovsky seemed the most incensed and attempted to set the record straight. “Don’t tell me I’m in favor of development. I stood in front of Ralph’s with a tin can,’ she shot back, demanding to know where the environmentalists were when the city was raising money to acquire the land.
Stern chimed in, “I wanted the Chili Cook-off [property] with no restrictions. You are wrong,” he quasi-shouted to an allegation that he is pro-development.
Barovsky said the council had originally considered a wastewater plant on the Legacy Park site, but contends that she was urged by the same groups, now protesting about wastewater, to do away with that plant.
At one point, Barovsky and local surfing activist Bob Purvey got into a shouting match. Barovsky said, “I don’t want to hear from you. Come back when you have a science degree.”
Barovsky said she did not want to hold up or stop the Legacy Park project for seven years for a wastewater EIR.
Stern echoed that same theme, using hats that he said were a black hat and a green hat to symbolize the politicians and the environmentalists respectively. “Now the environmentalists are wearing the black hat,” he said.
Conley Ulich discussed the nature of long-term partnerships. She said her mother advised that she should pick Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right Now.
“There are concerns about wastewater that have not been addressed. I am going with my gut and am not going to settle for Mr. Right Now,” she said.
However, Conley Ulich cautioned that delaying the project would mean no clean water for Malibu Surfrider Beach for a much longer time. “Be careful surfing out there. You have put some time between yourself and the rightful wave,” she said.
Councilmember John Sibert said that science should guide decisions rather than ideology. He said experts have said that it is the pathogens from stormwater runoff that pose the greatest dangers for surfers and swimmers. “The stormwater is a big problem. This will treat about all of this water. That is what you should care about,” he said.
Wagner said he likes the park, but would support the critics. “I will support you, but it has got to stop,” he said, meaning that delays in the short term would not help the environment.
Wagner said many questions are left unanswered on how the Lumber Yard center’s leachfield would impact the park and the groundwater, and how much more detail was needed about the shortfalls of the Legacy Park land for wastewater disposal. “That is the issue we want to answer for these groups,” he said.