Some Respect for Malibu, Please

The saga of Malibu is beginning to have the feel of one of those interminable television melodramas. And, unfortunately, a new court decision makes it certain that the coastal community's fight for self-determination will drag on even longer.

A synopsis: Residents of Malibu voted in June to form their own city. Much of the sentiment to separate from Los Angeles County had to do with swelling opposition to the big-development emphasis of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The board had been pushing for a major sewer system in Malibu, opting for a more reasonable scaled-down version only after being pressured by the state Coastal Commission. The county, under court order, finally agreed to a cityhood vote, but delayed the actual date of incorporation until next March.

A state appellate court now has ruled that, based on a 1985 law, the county can legally keep Malibu a city in name only until next year. Proponents may rightly ask for emergency legislation clarifying the law or they may appeal to the Supreme Court.

And there's more to this story. The state-created body that oversees communities officially becoming cities, called the Local Agency Formation Commission, put in its two cents. Last year the agency, which just happens to include two county supervisors--awarded the county control of any Malibu sewer system for up to 10 years after it becomes a city. But the county could be on shaky legal ground once incorporation takes place. Thus the difference between immediate cityhood and delayed cityhood becomes crucial to Malibu's future.

Now, a race against the clock is on to see if the county can get the sewer plans through the usual Coastal Commission approval process before the new Malibu City Council has the power to block it.

Even though the appeals court has sided with the county, simple fairness dictates that the wishes of the Malibu voters be respected. The danger is not a reasonably scaled sewer system--it is the county's contempt for the will of voters of Malibu.

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