Mayor Puts View Protection Task Force Members on the Defensive
BY BILL KOENEKER
Supporters and critics of the municipality’s View Protection Task Force showed up at this week’s Malibu City Council meeting to sing the praises of the panel or else to second Mayor Andy Stern’s public comments bashing the workings of the task force for producing a work product that included an ordinance.
What struck some task force members were Stern’s remarks this week when he acknowledged he had not read the proposed law. “I did not look at it,” he admitted, but that did not stop the mayor from criticizing the panel’s work. “The depth and detail is not what we are looking for,” he added.
Stern said his comments about rejecting the idea that the panel should develop and then recommend a citywide ordinance was consistent with his position on the issue all along.
“None of us voted to draft an ordinance. We wanted you to talk to the public about what they want in an ordinance, to see what the public wanted. My desire is to move it along,” the mayor said.
Sam Hall Kaplan, the chair of the task force, insisted that drafting an ordinance was the charge of the council, reminding members of the motion that was approved by the council last year for the task force “to develop a city-wide ordinance.”
“The question before us was what type of ordinance would best serve Malibu,” Hall Kaplan added.
Task force member Barry Tyerman said the committee was a cross section of the community. “We tried to balance the interests of those seeking views and foliage owners, mindful of the city’s resources,” he said.
However, one task force member, who had been commended by task force members last week, said he was offended by the elimination of the Malibu Country Estates view protection regulations in its overlay district from the proposed ordinance and quit the panel effective Monday night.
“I told the committee to leave it alone. I am personally offended by the committee, which is run by a few power hungry people,” said Hiro Kotchounian, who was appointed by Stern. “They are exceeding their authority. The committee was not elected by the people.”
Task force member Susan Zimmer applauded Stern’s remarks and, without elaborating, said, “I want to thank the mayor for instructing the committee to not write an ordinance. The committee did not follow the council direction.” She went on to say the task force’s recommended ordinance follows too closely the Palos Verdes law, which is for a planned community. “It is not balanced or fair.”
Councilmember John Sibert said he was not too concerned about how the work product was delivered to the council. “It hasn’t come to us. It is only the beginning. I don’t care what form it comes in. I would like to see a minority report with a rationale and supporting evidence,” he added.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich noted she had viewed the meetings, which she described as “not peaceful,” and took place in “a toxic environment.” She said she was looking for three items from the panel. “One, come together to talk as adults. Two, mediation has to be an objective. Three, the cost not to be borne by the city. These trees are not that important in the realm of life. Have a dissenting view but be respectful,” she added.
Councilmember Sharon Barovsky pointed out to task force members the problem the city has had with crafting decisions, laws and projects. Citing the Trancas Canyon Park proposal as an example, she said no matter how many meetings, workshops or hearings are conducted, some folks want another meeting for another idea and there did not seem to be any endpoint.
The matter was not on the council’s agenda, consequently no action was taken by the council, nor was any date set for the item to come to the council dais. The task force has scheduled two public meetings, where it anticipates getting public feedback.