Legacy Park Proceeds Despite Litigation
BY BILL KOENEKER
Malibu city officials are gearing up for a first-rate photo opportunity, when council members and county and other dignitaries will gather for a groundbreaking ceremony at Legacy Park on Sept. 21.
Armed with shovels, the folks in business attire will symbolically turn over the first scoop of dirt.
City Manager Jim Thorsen confirmed that actual construction on the site will have started the week before with some preliminary and preparatory work. Crews are scheduled to start excavation right after the ceremony.
The photo opportunity and construction are starting despite a lawsuit filed by the Santa Monica Baykeeper that challenges the city’s approval of the permits and entitlements for the improvements at the Civic Center park, which features components for a storm water treatment facility and other park amenities.
City Attorney Christi Hogin explained there is no injunction stopping the city from proceeding with the park improvements, and she said she doubted whether Baykeeper could get one.
“There is nothing preventing us from moving forward. The plaintiff would have to show it is in the public interest to stop going forward,” said Hogin, who indicated the park itself and the improvements are a public benefit. “We are not doing any harm to the environment,” she added.
Both the city attorney and the city manager said the municipality is working toward a settlement with Baykeeper.
Hogin said, if for some reason the Baykeeper got the ear of the court, the environmental organization might win a judgment for additional environmental review based on the California Environmental Quality Act.
In the worst-case scenario, the court could force the city to spend more money for that additional review, according to Hogin.
Tom Ford, the executive director of the Baykeeper, said it was way beyond the point of trying to get an injunction, but he did agree the group and the city are still in the midst of settlement talks.
Ford said the organization had its experts look at the park and the hydrology of the Civic Center and reached a different conclusion than the city.
“We still maintain the contention that Legacy Park, as designed, will fall short of protecting Malibu Lagoon, Creek and Surfrider Beach. Our wish is the city understand this as well as us,” Ford added.
Ford said he disagrees with Hogin’s conclusion about what the court could do, but said the goal of the Baykeeper is not going to court, but education. “We rarely do end up in court,” he said.