Strapped Malibu Awaits Funds for Disaster Repairs

Malibu officials are hoping for two things nowadays: clear skies and a torrent of emergency funding.

A week after the city reported $250,000 in damage from the most recent fire, officials are anxiously waiting word on whether the state's Office of Emergency Services will advance relief funds still being processed from the last three disasters.

State and federal emergency agencies still owe Malibu about $3 million for repairs stemming from the 1993 fires and the mudslides in 1994 and 1995. The city's general fund has run dry after paying for that damage, indefinitely postponing the repairs now needed for last month's fires and the Kanan Dume Road mudslide.

"We're in a pretty desperate financial situation," said John Clement, public works director. "Both of these things are top priorities, and I have no money."

City officials expect to hear today from state officials about whether money can be advanced to Malibu, which has suffered six disasters in its first five years as a city.

The firestorms that swept through Malibu at the end of October destroyed retaining walls and guardrails along Latigo Canyon Road, damaged electrical equipment and charred roadways.

Kanan Dume Road, which has been closed since Sept. 24, has lost three traffic lanes because of erosion under the asphalt. A 50-foot-deep chunk was sheared off the side of the road, which sinks more every day.

When the winter rains begin, Malibu will have to brace for further damage from mudslides on the hills where brush has been burned away.

Officials said they are worried that winter storms will send boulders tumbling down Malibu Canyon Road, further limiting access to the beach community, which could prove dangerous if another disaster strikes.

In an Oct. 28 tour of the fire-ravaged canyons, James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and state spokesman David Fukutomi promised to consider ways to expedite Malibu's request for disaster relief money.

Clement said Malibu needs an advance of at least $1 million to repair fire damage and brace the slipping earth under Kanan Dume Road.

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