Mayor Pro Tem: 'There’s no Backroom Deal' on Land Swap

Mayor Pro Tem Joan House says she hopes the land swap will solve the need for more active recreation areas for Malibu's youth.

Mayor Pro Tem Joan House explained the origin of the idea for a land swap between the city of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Monday, denying claims from some of a back room deal.

Before the council voted unanimously to direct Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin to further explore the proposed deal, House called for support on the proposal.

"There are no details, as far as the city is concerned. There is nothing written down. There is nothing that we’ve promised. There’s no backroom deal," House said. "I'm a little bit sorry that people keep mentioning that and look for something that doesn't exist."

The idea came up during a meeting with Mayor Pro Tem Joan House, Mayor Lou La Monte and SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston.

"First of all, it was not Joe's idea," House said following a nearly two-hour public hearing at Monday's meeting at Malibu City Hall.

She said she first approached La Monte with the idea of swapping the city's Charmlee Wilderness Park for Bluff's Park, which is operated by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC). The city hopes to place a skate park and more ball fields at Bluff's Park, but efforts have been stalled by Edmiston and the SMMC.

"I listed quite a few things, which I will list for you, and I asked, 'what do you think of a land swap,'" House recalled. "I said, 'It just seems like it is a good thing to consider.' I gave the mayor all my reasons and he said, 'I'm on board, I'll make a meeting with Joe.'"

She said a meeting was set with Joe to discuss the idea.

"There was no conspiracy. This was not initiated by Joe. It was just an idea that I happened to have," House said.

She went on to say that it was La Monte who brought up the land swap at the meeting with Joe.

"We did not have any idea where we were going. Once [Joe Edmiston] said, 'Well it interests me,' his mind was working a little bit overtime," House said. "Then we came back and spoke to [City Attorney] Christi [Hogin] and [City Manager] Jim [Thorsen]."

She said she got the idea from the need for parks, play areas and fields in Malibu. House, who is on a Parks and Recreation subcommittee with Councilman Skylar Peak, said she also tried to explore where the city could find more places for organized sports.

"We tried to do a temporary skate park at Bluff's Park and Joe was the stumbling block," House said.

She said she also tried to explore if games for young children, between the ages of 5 to 7 years old, could be held at Trancas Park, but it is deed restricted to the Malibu Township Council.

"I brought in people and Councilmember Peak was there and they said it is deed restrictive so you can't have any league play. Here's a perfectly good field that the city paid for, that the city pays for its staffing, the city pays for the water," House said.

She said a small group that attended that meeting "stonewalled" her inquiry.

"So, stonewalled from Joe. Stonewalled from the Malibu Township Council by Trancas Park, which we paid for and built, so here we are," House said.

She said Bluff's Park is too small to meet the needs of the children and adults in the community.

"I started connecting the dots. How can we get more playing area, more active sports playing area and not harm Charmlee? Well, a swap. Charmlee is deed restricted," House said.

She said Charmlee will stay the same, and that the only difference will be the administration that runs it.

Mayor Lou La Monte said the meeting was to decide whether to move forward.

"There were no preconditions. There was no deal, it was just a lunch," La Monte said.

He said that Edmiston added on the request to settle the lawsuit over Ramirez Canyon and a time limit of coming to a decision by the end of January.

"It certainly isn't something that we asked for," La Monte said.

At the end of the meeting, the council directed City Attorney Christi Hogin to further explore the land swap and the settlement over Ramirez Canyon.

The council asked her to first allow time for the city to determine if it could build more recreational facilities at Bluffs Park and determine what fire safety standards would be in place for the SMMC's proposed camping plan at Charmlee. The city attorney will also ask if the proposed deal can also include a discussion about restricting camping in Escondido and Corral canyons.

The SMMC board has already given a nod to its approval of the settlement and proposed land swap.

Hans Laetz January 15, 2013 at 11:50 PM
The "field" at MHS is a small practice turf, not a soccer field. The school teachers and principal have decided that it is a necessary tradeoff for another tennis court. It is a school, and the school decided what to do to best fulfill its educational purposes. The school is not there to meet the neighbor's selfish interest. Please note the new tennis court is near Terry's house, which may explain why he is so bitter about that, too. Nothing about that was done in secret, Terry was just unable to convince the school and the city that his personal preference should control. Terry is very bitter that the new light standards are in the field of view that he has enjoyed, across the public school property. If a house had gone in, he would have long have lost his ocean view. There are 12 houses blocking my ocean view, and I wish they were gone. No, I don't, they are nice people. But I don't live 6 blocks across flat land from the ocean, and demand blue water views. Usually I ignore this sad man's bitter posts, but is important to correct the record.
Terry January 16, 2013 at 01:05 AM
point is field is being lost. how does ayso feel about loosing a practice field. yes i am against the lights at the school. i am against giving charmelee away i am against camping at charmlee with or without fires. i was against the lagoon project and ruining surfrider beach i believe the current city counsel should be recalled. however i would fear it worse if people who didnt respect the residents of malibu and value their private property rights were elected in there place. i dont believe my posts are bitter. i believe they reflect the majority of malibu residents and property owners.
Terry January 16, 2013 at 01:50 AM
in my book addressing u would be a total waste of time.
R J January 16, 2013 at 04:23 AM
Once again there is this zeitgeist of biased judgement based on misunderstanding and poor communication that has polarized the people of this community to the point where it has become personal with a Hatfields and McCoy flavor. It is this polarization that creates such an obfuscation of the issue so that the real issue lacks clarity. Instead of this "what can you do for me" mentality why can't we reconnect and ask "what can WE do for US?" Unfortunately a proactive, united, cohesive bond with one another will never produce positive results for US as long as misunderstanding and polarization prevail-which it is. So apropo are the words of Lao Tzu: " If you don't change direction, you may wind up where you are heading." I submit, that we put away, no, throw away our differences, and come together with an informal FRIENDLY meeting (can we do that) and be as one Malibu, not this us vs them dichotomy, and come up with something we ALL would agree on. For many years I have tried to live by the words of Chief Joseph: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever". I know we can do that.
Preserve Malibu January 16, 2013 at 10:00 PM
As a community of residents, let's put together a meeting immediately within the next few weeks. If you are interested in talking with your neighbors, we're willing to host a meeting. We need to hear from you to schedule it. It's time to get involved. This is our town. The majority of people don't like being vocal in public, dislike putting our names out there but our love for Malibu needs to be far greater. Let's sit down, work together and stand together to fully understand and participate in these critical issues. Let your voice be heard. Please either go to 'Preserve Malibu' on Facebook or email: PreserveMalibu@gmail.com and let us know what dates work for you within the next 2-3 weeks. Together we can preserve Malibu!


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