Council Member Makes Unilateral Changes to Trancas Park Plans
• Action Raises Serious Procedural Issues Even Though Some May Prefer the Outcome
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
Proposed plans for Trancas Park, including an effort to “Save the Ridge,” were the topic of discussion last week among what was described as a small coalition of Malibu West residents meeting at City Hall with Councilmember Sharon Barovsky, City Manager Jim Thorsen and Bob Stallings, the head of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Both groups of appellants—one called the meeting, “the city’s settlement,”—were invited and attended without the attorney who represented them at the appeal hearing.
No other council members were present. Councilmembers Pamela Conley Ulich and Jefferson Wagner, who voted against the park were not invited.
Conley Ulich has already questioned the propriety of the meeting and asked City Attorney Christi Hogin, who was on vacation from March 25 until April 2, to look into the matter.
A park proponent, Justine Petretti, informed the press, who were not invited to the meeting, about the session this week. Petretti maintains the local media has taken sides in the controversial matter, which has pitted neighbor against neighbor in Malibu West, because shortcmings ofthe project have not been ignored .
“We came to an agreement that made us all happy (well, all but one person) as nine out of the 10 people in attendance left this meeting with a smile on their face. I attended this meeting to represent the playground and picnic area faction,” said Petretti, who indicated the revised plans developed by the city staff, during overtime hours, call for leaving the ridge intact, reducing the dog park from three quarters of an acre to a half-acre. The picnic area was set back and reduced in size and a shade structure and several picnic tables were eliminated.
Barovsky confirmed the meeting, saying it was requested by park proponent Lynn Norton, who provided the names of those invited. “It was not a secret meeting,” insisted Barovsky, who indicated it is her practice to meet with her constituency when requested to do so.
However, Conley Ulich had questions about the process, including if the project is revised, whether the council would have to approve such revisions and if that requires the city to have a public hearing. She has also called on Barovsky to inform the council and the public about how the plans for the park have been changed.
Barovsky told The Malibu Surfside News what unfolded that day. “[City Manager] Jim [Thorsen] met with the consultants. Then brought three alternatives [to the meeting],” stated Barovsky, who said the individuals who looked at the plans included Mona Loo, Bruce Leonard, Les Moss and others, who came up with a so-called compromise.
“The dog people gave up about half the size and Justine gave up some of the size of the picnic area. I walked away feeling really good. The major issue was the grading for me,” added Barovsky.
However, one of those not invited to last week’s meeting is park critic Cindy Vandor, who has many questions about the process and numerous other questions.
Vandor, like others, seemed taken aback by Kim Belvin, one of the appellants, referring to the matter as the “city’s settlement offer.”
“What is a settlement offer? Settlement of what? By whom? Who is authorized to make an offer and to whom are they making it? What is the legal standing of those who negotiated this ‘settlement offer’ and the enforceability of the ‘settlement offer’”?
An attorney, who did not want his name used, was asked about such a meeting and how the revisions were characterized.
He said since there is a 30 day time frame from the approval of a project and challenging its Environmental Impact Report as required by the California Environmental Quality Act, he would advise any client to file a lawsuit and then toll it, if any settlement negotiations were to be undertaken. He said otherwise there is nothing that is legally binding.
Vandor also expressed concern that what she believes are many more impacts are being ignored. “Who is negotiating these impacts, with whom, when and how?” she asked.
Vandor also questioned how and if one council member could alter construction plans.
Repeated calls to Thorsen, who was not in the office Monday, were not returned.