Partly in an effort to block Los Angeles County officials from building a costly sewer system in Malibu, community leaders said Tuesday they will seek cityhood for the coastal community.
Advocates of the proposal, who lost a close incorporation election in 1976, said they will try to capitalize on "anti-county" sentiment that reached a peak last week when more than 1,000 angry sewer opponents packed the Board of Supervisors chambers. Supervisors, bowing to pressure, delayed a vote on the planned $86-million sewer system saying they wanted to examine scaled-down alternatives.
"The sewer fiasco has given us greater impetus to restart the incorporation drive," said Leon Cooper, president of the Malibu Township Council, a civic group that represents more than 1,000 families. "We're not going to wait around for the county to clobber us again."
As in previous efforts, incorporation proponents said a municipal government would allow locally elected authorities to decide planning issues along the 28-mile-long Malibu coast. Although Cooper said county officials could still build a regional sewer system or other large-scale developments without Malibu's approval, cityhood would give the community of 20,000 residents new bargaining power. A city government, he said, could better represent local interests in dealing with the county on the sewer question as well as local land-use issues.
Community residents have considered incorporation for Malibu for more than 30 years and twice voters have rejected it. However, Cooper said the sewer issue has unified factions that previously have split over incorporation, as evidenced by the formation last week of a group of developers, environmentalists, politicians and private homeowners who joined to oppose the regional sewer plan.
In the 1976 election, developers and the Chamber of Commerce campaigned heavily against the cityhood ballot measure and it was defeated by 108 votes, 3,668 to 3,560.
Louis Ragsdale, president of the Malibu Board of Realtors, which joined the Malibu Chamber of Commerce last week in publicly opposing a regional sewer, said it was too early to say how his group would vote on incorporation. However, he said that the community's anger over the sewer issue could swing the election.
"We've still got a sewer problem in Malibu that needs to be solved, but when you think of the county sewering (only) half of Malibu for $86 million, it makes people wake up," Ragsdale said.
Supervisor Deane Dana, who represents Malibu and has been a leading backer of a regional sewer plan for the community, withheld comment on incorporation. He said it needed further study.
Cooper is scheduled to meet this week with officials of the Local Agency Formation Commission to discuss incorporation boundaries and the requirements for seeking cityhood. He said they are considering a 20-mile coastal boundary for Malibu, extending roughly from Topanga Canyon to Trancas and inland about five miles to the first ridge line.
Besides the 1976 vote, officials of the commission rejected a 1983 request for a Malibu cityhood election because of inflation and the passage of Proposition 13, which prevents cities from raising money by raising taxes.
Cooper said his group is seeking to place the issue before voters in the November, 1988, general election.
Times staff writer Daryl Kelley contributed to this article.