Respected historians have summized that while it was not one single, dramatic event that led to the decline of the Roman Empire, internal corruption and political incompetence played a major role.
And, history seems to be repeating itself here in Malibu, as greed and power dominate the political landscape, threatening our way of life in a town that used to be a rural coastal gem. Malibu’s global reputation is becoming that of an overpriced, bougie Bevery Hills by the sea, attracting overseas money to buy (and build) mansions, and developers looking to maximize their investments by “paving paradise to put in a parking lot”.
Unless a drastic move is made by the community to save Malibu from the pro-over-development politicians that are currently running this town, our coastal utopia may be headed for the same fate as our European counterpart.
Malibu Gets Sacked
Just as Rome was in the hands of someone other than the Romans during the first time it was sacked, it was painfully obvious at the September 11th City Council meeting, that Malibu was in the hands of someone who suddenly forgot he was third generation Malibuite (Mayor Skylar Peak). Malibu City Council voted 4-1 to approve funding for the Environmental Impact Report for Bluffs Park for one of the last remaining coastal bluffs in California. A perfectly planned – and executed – sack on the community, and the majority voters who re-elected Peak as part of the pro-environment ”Team Malibu”.
The slate’s most important task when they took office, was to keep their campaign promise to protect Bluffs Park, a space designated for passive recreation by the Coastal Commission, in order to protect the sensitive ESHA and wildlife habitats. Developers and the enemies of open space were well orchestrated at the September 11th meeting and out-gunned the majority preservationist sentiment in the city. And now, with Mayor Skylar Peak’s open defection to the pro-development side, there seems to be a significant paradigm shift overall.
Since the new Council took to the dais, you could get dizzy watching Mayor Peak going from one side to the other. His astounding ability to be consistently inconsistent is now picking up speed. Instead of his flip-flops taking months, they have dwindled down to only weeks.
At the May 8th City Council meeting,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1X06tVBwoo, Peak supported the pro-ennvironment sentiment against developing Bluffs Park:
“Something I am frustrated with is, if we are going to go and put something like in that area, are we going to try and ask for them to please allow us to do something we know they are not going to allow us to do? I a tired of wasting time.” – Skylar Peak
“We need to really focus on seeing how we can acquire further land to deliver these items in an efficient time frame to the community”-Skylar Peak
“I don’t feel comfortable right now saying we are going to do an EIR for something that I already see and foresee with so many problems that is not going to give us the soccer fields that are requested by any means.” – Skylar Peak
When Council Member Rosenthal asked why Peak thought the EIR would cost more than $150 -200,00 dollars: “One of the people that came here tonight told us that it would cost upwards to a million dollars “- Skylar Peak
Peak’s ramblings in one direction, yet voting in another, suggest subtle intimations of a mind diseased, yet as time reveals, it may be even more likely the calculations of a much more darker undercurrent.
Mullen chimed in as well citing numerous reasons for voting down the funding at the same meeting relaying public sentiment as a major factor to why Council should not to fund the EIR.
“In my view, an overwhelming majority of Malibu residents do not want Bluffs Park developed.” Mullen said “I got 28 e-mails from pro (park development) people and 87 emails from the against people.“
On June 22, 2017 Peak puts the previous vote against the City funding for the EIR on Bluffs Park back on the proverbial chopping block.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Joe Edmiston of SMMC/MRCA and the City has it’s own issues. Edmiston recently threatened to take back Bluffs Park, ending the swap, if the City doesn’t meet his demands regarding the Puerco Canyon Camping sites.
So, how does Peak respond to Edmiston’s threats? By facilitating the acquisition of more land for Edmiston of course! Peak was instrumental in the introduction of philanthropist Alex von Furstenburg and the donation of 38 acres to the conservancy expanding the potential camp site at Charmelee (http://www.malibusurfsidenews.com/open-space-donation-adds-key-piece-coastal-slope-trail), meanwhile the City of Malibu has yet to aquire even one new piece of land that can go toward the use of recreational facilities for the Malibu community.
The baggage in the relationship between Edmiston and the City seems to be busting at the seams… so let’s try to unpack it shall we?
1976: The California Coastal Commission adopts its list of land acquisitions for public purchase. 130 acres at Malibu Bluffs in put in the number one top priority category.
1979: The Malibu Bluffs are purchased with State taxpayer dollars for use as a State park for all the residents of California and visitors from throughout the world. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/ventura/malibu-qa.pdf
1982: Malibu’s ball fields are located at Malibu Lagoon. While they are being restored, The Coastal Commission approves a temporary (five years only) coastal permit for construction of the ball fields at Bluffs Park. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/ventura/malibu-qa.pdf
1985: The Coastal Commission denies a permit amendment request to develop a community park on the entire 94-acre property. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/recap2/chapter4.pdf
2002: The Malibu Coastal Program is certified and designates most of Bluffs 84 acres as ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas – not developable). States that ball fields should revert back to State and allows relocation of the ball fields to adjacent private lands.
2005: The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy ( SMMC) accepts a deal to acquire 600-acre King Gillette Ranch in Malibu Canyon, along with Bluffs Park. In order to pay for that ranch, SMMC agrees to sell the 10-acre developed ball-field portion to the City of Malibu for $2.5 million.
2007: The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy designates the 84 acre of Bluffs as an “Open Space Preserve”. They propose possible camping on the site. 2008: A paragliding company conducts illegal grading on about one acre of ESHA land in the center of Bluff’s Preserve. (land now filling back in with native habitat).
2010: City Council decides to fight to stop camping development plan on Bluffs. In letters filed, City attorney lays out the clear legal reasons that Bluffs Park can never be developed. Included are statements that Bluffs is primarily ESHA and along with wildlife laws is not developable.
In 2012, Council members held secret a back-door meeting to gain control of Bluffs Park by giving away Malibu’s 535 acre Charmlee Wilderness Park to SMMC. A leaked in-house SMMC email confirmed a secret meeting was held by then Mayor La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House. They offer SMMC Director Joe Edmiston a swap.
Then in 2013, a second secret meeting is held between SMMC’s legal team and Malibu City’s “to hammer out the details” of the swap. Edmiston, so assured of Council backing, recommends his two Boards approve the swap and coastal development permit application for new campsites at Charmlee. This second meeting occurred on January 7th – a full week before the City Council’s first open public meeting on the proposal.ret meeting was held by then Mayor La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House. They offer SMMC Director Joe Edmiston a swap.
Affected residents never received any public notice of this swap by mail, nor did the City publish notice in the local newspapers. In this is absolutely illegal January 14th City meeting, Council goes ahead to authorize swap. Moving at warp speed, they direct City Attorney to “negotiate agreements and implementing documents”. Residents fill city hall to overflowing capacity to protest swap – demanding that if City planned to give away over 500 acres of residents’ land, it must go to a ballot. Council denies request and forges ahead.
CALIFORNIA STATE LAW VIOLATED: State law and City policy require three Council members (a majority) to approve a City action at a public meeting, yet these negotiations occurred before any public meeting was scheduled. Before Christmas 2012: (a) at least two of the Council members conducted secret negotiations on behalf of the City, and (b) at least three Council members had secretly obtained shared knowledge, through City Attorney Hogin, of the swap proposal promoted by House and La Monte. That is a violation of the Brown Act, the state law requiring government business be conducted in the open so the public may participate and offer timely input on local government decisions. Due to this illegality, the local environment group, The Malibu Township Council (MTC) formally requests City Council set aside its actions. Council rejects this.A Brown Act Violation lawsuit is then filed by MTC against Rosenthal, La Monte, Sibert and House. This is House’s third violation. This lawsuit is still in the Courts today.
Update on Malibu Township Council Brown Act Suit click here: Malibu Township Council Seeks Supreme Court Review
“What plan can happen and what plan we can provide you, the parks you desire, for your children and our children, is by this council TO GET OFF ITS BEHIND and PURCHASE some property that has NO INCUMBRANCES what-so-ever – NO LEASES WITH JOE, No California Coastal Commission’s oversight, that is completely surrounded by commercial properties and purchase the property and deliver you the parks.TELL THAT TO YOUR CHILDREN. THANK YOU.” – Jefferson Wagner, Sept. 11, 3:07
While abuses of power and bribery were simply a way of life in Roman times, it seems as though its business as usual for Malibu City Council as well. Historical references of the shady kind were uncovered recently when The Local learned one of the candidates took the old adage “When in Rome…” a little too far and was literally caught mid bribe (during the campaign) with a developer, (negotiated via his campaign manager). This developer has seen many concessions granted to him by the City this year.
Everything was for sale on the road to the Roman collapse: public office including army commands, judges’ verdicts, tax assessments, access to authority on every level, and particularly the emperor. The traditional web of obligations became a marketplace of power, ruled only by naked self-interest.
And modern day Malibu politics is no different than its failed European counterpart with the modern day Malibu Emperor’s naked self-interests out there for the world to see.
Well almost naked…do speedos count?
Mayor Peak has most certainly shown favortism with his personal relationship with developer Richard Sperber. Peak presided over, instead of recusing himself from the March 13th meeting where Sperber’s property was on the agenda for blatantly violating their CDP. Peak is sure to face further scrutiny with the recent decision by Council to waive Sperber’s attorneys’ fees in a frivolus lawsuit against the City leaving the taxpayers holding the bag.
I mean if you’re going to drop the charade and go full out to protect developers, why not go all the way right?
The settlement of Sperber’s lawsuit against the city states that “Each Party agrees to bear his, her or its own attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the Lawsuit.” This means city taxpayers are holding the bag for the city attorneys’ fees for defending against Sperber’s lawsuit against the city and its officials. Curiously, the staff report does not disclose that the city is burdened with those fees. It also kept secret the amount of fees Sperber’s frivolous lawsuit cost the city.
Attorney Frank Angel is representing Malibu resident Chris Farrar in a lawsuit with Sperber regarding the use of his CDP affecting Farrar’s property (as well as a Marine Protected Area that Peak’s late father Dusty, fought for decades to protect). Angel had this say about the recent decision made by council to waive Sperber’s attorneys’ fees:
“I say frivolous because Sperber’s lawsuit complains about a stop work order (long since lifted) caused by his own violation of the grading limit in the CDP the Planning Commission had approved for him in January 2015. The lawsuit settlement’s fee clause, in these circumstances, is eyebrow-raising, to put it very politely. When the city settled the litigation fees in the case it, the Coastal Commission, and the SMMC were engaged in over the SMMC’s public works plan, it claimed and received $150,000 in fees from the SMMC. Why not here? Do we need to hold out a tin cup to ask for spare change to help Mr. Sperber pay back the city treasury?”
Recently, The Local co-founder Steve Woods reached out to Mayor Peak to give him a chance to clear the air about Bluffs, the Sperber project and the rumors he is cock-blocking (sorry, no subtle way to put it) the purchase of the Yamaguchi property, among many other decisions he has been involved with and that the community is concerned about.
Peak, in true shady form, kept up the charade – and get this – threw shade at The Local voicing his displeasure at our reporting. Go figure! Peak even went as far as to call our reporting “opinion” – and accused us of taking his Bluffs Park campaign speech at Michael McDonald’s house out of context.
Not so fast Mayor Peak, we happen to have it all on audio – and here’s the link:http:/youtube.com/thelocalmalibu
Can you imagine if the Romans had access to audio (and video) during the fall of the Roman Empire?
Oh to be fly on the Imperial Palace wall!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Just to be fair, before we threw mayor pro-tem Mullen under the chariot for supporting the Bluffs Park EIR vote, we did make an effort to reach out (see email below) and get his side of the story. This is what we got…
For the record, we’ve done the phone thing before and all we got was the run around. Nothing printable and nothing provable. So – thanks but no thanks.