Malibu West Forum Focuses Attention on Trancas Fields Issue
• 'Surprise' Question Not Given to Candidates in Advance Asked about Their Positions on Measure M
BY BILL KOENEKER
The Malibu West Swim Club was the scene this week on Monday night for another candidates' forum conducted much like the forums so far.
Candidates were given the questions before except for one question, which was not sent to the candidates in advance and were told they had two minutes to make an opening statement.
Most questions had a two-minute limit for answers except for one, which candidates were given a one minute time limit.
It was probably the one question-and answer-that almost everybody in the room wanted to hear and arguably the most important for Malibu West. The council hopefuls were asked about Trancas Field.
The question was: The City of Malibu has been involved for over 20 years in legal disputes with a property owner of a 30 acre parcel on Trancas, across from Tapia up to La Gloria. The property owner is claiming the right to complete a subdivision, which was begun but never completed prior to Malibu cityhood. If the city loses that lawsuit, the owner would be able to put at most 19 homes on that property instead of six. Many of us in Western Malibu are aware and concerned about the fact that a prior city council offered a settlement, which included the right to build 32 condominiums, a right which the property owner would not have even if they won the lawsuit, according to the California Subdivision Map Act. This right to build condominiums would have been granted if not for a successful lawsuit against the City of Malibu by Broad Beach [homeowners]. Will you commit to the people of Western Malibu that you will never allow condominiums on Trancas Field?
John Sibert, who is seeking reelection, commenting on the longest running litigation in the city's history, said it is a very complex issues and not the sort of matter that lends itself to an easy simple answer. He did say he was opposed to condos on the property.
Joan House, who was on the council during some of the litigation and settlement talks, told the audience anybody who wanted to be on the council should be careful about a full fledged endorsement of any action since they would have to vote on the matter later and an answer now would not give a fair hearing to all of the parties and the council member would have recuse themselves.
Newer candidates were not so careful in their answers. Skylar Peak promised he would do everything possible to stop condos on Trancas Field.
He said it would be a compromise with developers since it would be giving them more than entitled.
Hamish Patterson implied that there were such strong differences between the candidates that the line was already drawn between those who would cave to developers and himself.
He said it was easy for the voters, if they wanted development, then they already knew who to vote for.
Patterson said Malibu was close to turning into an Orange County city.
Andy Lyon said instead of answering questions chosen for the candidates he would continue to talk about the Malibu Lagoon restoration project that he said was fast approaching.
After the forum, council hopeful Hans Laetz was asked by the Malibu Surfside News his position. "Joan is correct. You can't state a position and still give a fair hearing. You would have to recuse yourself."
On the matter of condos. "Firstly no secret deals. That is what the city council tried to do when it reached a settlement on the condos. I would want to look at it. What if the footprint is smaller than the maximum number of houses allowed?" he said.
The second question dealt with protecting mom and pop businesses that serve residents rather than tourists. The gist of the question was: Will you support creating legislation in Malibu that enables the planning commission to reject at some threshold the addition of new tourist-serving shops in order to ensure that shopping centers in Malibu cannot gradually phase out resident-serving businesses?
Missy Zeitsoff said her track record on the first city council was the best answer for her. She noted the council imposed a commercial building moratorium. Zeitsoff said the city should be monitoring how any new project relates to the city's aging infrastructure.
Peak said he would stand up for the mom and pops and he recognized why some folks did not feel comfortable with some of the chains or high-priced stores entering Malibu's market place.
Laetz said part of his campaign advertising is centered around the photo of the Sephora opening in Malibu. He said promoting Malibu as a shoppers' destination is wrong.
"What the Malibu Preserve group wants is so little," he said.
Sibert, who will vote on a choice of options to preserve small businesses at next week's city council meeting talked rather about a shop local approach before any other mechanism would work.
Other questions had to do with whether candidates would support enforcement of a dark sky policy in Western Malibu and if city council members should stay faithful to the General Plan rather "than compromising it in favor of receiving benefits from developers."
The question that was not given in advance to council hopefuls had to do with asking candidates' understanding of what Measure M would have done in 2003, whether they supported it and if they thought that kind of deal was in Malibu's best interest today.