City Council Set to Air Controversial View Restoration Proposal
• Member Division Mirrors Community
BY BILL KOENEKER
For the last three years, according to the planning staff, the city has held 31 public meetings regarding a citywide view restoration ordinance.
That includes 19 View Protection Task Force meetings, two Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee meetings, two public workshops, three planning commission hearings and five city council meetings.
What has become a highly divisive issue among the public and council members, however, moved closer to adoption by the city council at its previous meeting, after a series of motions narrowed down the shape of the proposed ordinance.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the council directed staff to complete a draft citywide view restoration ordinance "which includes the city making a determination in view disputes and to protect views as they existed on the date of acquisition of property or date of cityhood, whichever is more recent," according to the planning staff.
At that same meeting some council members invited the public to contact the staff to express their interest, so staff could get a better idea of the types of issues that may arise.
"To date four members of the public (that have not been involved in the ordinance discussions to date) have notified staff that they would be interested in using a view restoration ordinance," a staff report states.
"Staff's conversations with three (one call was anonymous and left no phone number) of the individuals consisted of answering their questions and asking them what types of information they had to establish their pre-existing view. Photographs were the item most of the callers indicated they would rely on."
The planning staff also began a discussion of permit fees and other costs.
"In order to recoup costs, the claimant is required to submit fees at the time of submittal of a view restoration claim application. [There are] preliminary estimates of the required fees. Once an ordinance has been adopted, staff will present an amended fee schedule for city council's consideration."
The fee is estimated at $6940, which includes planning department time, consultants such as arborists and biologists and public noticing.
That does not include permit decisions that are appealed or code enforcement staff time. Appeal fees will be calculated separately and presented in a fee schedule for the city council, according to planners.
"Additional fees to cover litigation expenses may also be required if a permit is challenged in court where the city is named as the defendant/respondent in the case," the report said.
Previously, the council could not agree on whether to make the ordinance protect a view that existed on the date of ordinance adoption, date of incorporation, or the date of a property acquisition, but no earlier than March 28, 1991.
After hours of deliberations, the council at the last meeting voted 3-2 with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and Councilmember Lou La Monte dissenting, to allow retroactivity to the date of incorporation or point of purchase.
Councilmember John Sibert, who is running for reelection, was the swing vote and had asked if the council was going to have another vote on the proposed ordinance and was told yes.
Councilmember John Sibert said he wanted a trial run, have folks come in and show what kind of information or evidence they have to determine how many cases there might be and what kind of data people could provide before the council enacted any law.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he was willing to support Sibert's proposal, would not support a retroactive ordinance and said the view restoration proposal created a brand new right at the expense of the foliage owner.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said she supported the notion that folks had paid for their view when they bought their homes and the loss of those views because of foliage growth meant a loss of equity. "People have a right to a view. They paid for a view when they bought their houses. In three or four years there is nothing," she said.
The citywide view restoration ordinance is described by municipal planners as a proposal "establishing a private right of action for property owners to restore pre-existing views that have been significantly obstructed by landscaping on neighboring properties."
The majority of the planning commission in June was able to tether together a proposed citywide view restoration ordinance using various parts from other cities, staff and commission recommendations.
A majority of the planning panel turned down a proposed ordinance that would have been more closely modeled after a Rancho Palos Verdes version.
The impetus for the proposed ordinance came from the voters on April 8, 2008 when an advisory measure asked the citizens, "Should the Malibu City Council adopt an ordinance that would require the removal or trimming of landscaping in order to restore and maintain primary views from private homes?" The measure was approved by 60 percent of the voters.
The then city council decided on June, 2008 to create the View Protection Task Force to gather public input on what should be included in the citywide ordinance.
During the subsequent public hearings and workshops there have been some speakers who urged the commission and the city council to adopt the UPTF's proposed ordinance.