Hart Shelves Measure That Would Make Construction of Malibu Sewers Tougher

Times Staff Writer

Unable to muster support from the Assembly Local Government Committee, Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) has shelved for this year a bill that could make it tougher for Los Angeles County to build sewers in Malibu.

During a hearing Wednesday, lawmakers expressed reservations about revamping state law on sewer construction merely because of a dispute in Malibu. So Hart delayed a vote on the measure until after a second committee hearing in October or November in Malibu.

"It's an uphill fight," Hart acknowledged, citing strong opposition from Los Angeles County. Hart, whose district includes Malibu, could ask the committee to reconsider the measure next year.

The county Health Services Department says that failed septic systems along Malibu beaches are a public hazard. County officials are pushing plans to build sewers and require residents--who have voted three times against the proposal--to pay for them.

More Findings on Hazards

At the urging of Malibu residents, Hart has sought changes in the sewer law to require more detailed findings of danger to public health before such work can proceed. His bill would require that the county health officer document "that the existing sewage disposal facilities and practices pose a danger to public health." The bill would further require that health authorities specify the areas where the threat exists.

A. David Kagon, testifying for the Malibu Township Council, told the committee that his group, which represents 1,250 families, supports Hart's bill, which the Senate narrowly approved in June. Kagon argued that Malibu residents are being disenfranchised by the county because they have repeatedly voted against the sewer system, which he said could stretch throughout 20 miles of Malibu.

Clancy Leland, the county's capital lobbyist, brushed aside criticism of the plan, saying sewer opponents "don't want future development" which could be triggered by a sewer system.

Moreover, Leland told the committee that the county is "not going to sewer all of Malibu . . . only a small portion of it." Leland said that the Board of Supervisors could make a final decision on the sewers before the end of the year.

Cost Estimates

Leland insisted that the public health threat "will continue until sewers are put in." He estimated that sewers could cost about $10,000 per property owner. However, Hart has estimated that the sewers could cost between $13,000 and $26,000 per property owner.

Several committee members expressed reluctance to change the sewer law, which has been in effect since 1931. Assemblyman Tom Hannigan (D-Fairfield) said he is "hesitant to vote for a bill that imposes these more stringent restrictions on local governments throughout the state." He indicated that Hart might win more support if he reduces the scope of the measure so it affects only Malibu.

Leon Cooper, president of the Malibu Township Council, said Thursday that he is disappointed that Hart's legislation stalled in the committee. Further, Cooper questioned whether the bill would help Malibu if it is revived next year and is enacted into law after the county has begun the sewer system because "if the Hart bill became law it could not be retroactive."

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