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Talks Get Factions in Malibu to Stand on Common Ground

June 29, 1989|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

It had the potential for an impressive pre-July 4 fireworks display: Nearly 100 of Malibu's community leaders, including several warring factions, sitting side by side in a classroom for up to seven hours with only a brief break for lunch.

Yet, by day's end there were no reported injuries.

"There haven't been any tomatoes or eggs thrown yet," activist Missy Zeitsoff said at one point during the so-called summit Saturday. "That's pretty good."

The conference, ostensibly called to outline a "future agenda" for the coastal community, was actually more of a large-scale peace talk. The meeting was arranged by Malibu Township Council President Larry Wan after a deep split developed between community leaders over the proper course they should follow in their quest to make Malibu a city.

Past Pyrotechnics

Recently, two members of the Malibu Committee for Incorporation's steering committee were ousted from the group and a third resigned in protest after months of inner turmoil over the cityhood campaign. The flap was just the latest in Malibu's rich tradition of political pyrotechnics, but it was serious enough for Wan to call a private meeting, which included the ousted members and other community leaders.

That gathering encouraged Wan to pull together Saturday's larger forum at Pepperdine University so that selected civic leaders could air their concerns. And to ensure that all parties would sit in neutral corners, an independent "conference facilitator" was hired to run the meeting.

And although the "Leadership Conference on Malibu Vision and Destiny" provided no long-term answers and no major surprises, it served notice that local leaders might make it through future city council meetings without being showered with abuse.

"It was like an introduction day in which people found out that not everybody in Malibu has fangs and claws," said Mike Caggiano, a cityhood advocate. "People have long expressed fears that Malibu would be like Beirut West after incorporation. But what emerged was that people realized they have commonalities."

In fact, they agreed on many things. Incorporation would be good. A sewer system, like the $43-million one approved by county supervisors in January, would be bad. Traffic is not nice, but Malibu is, which is why they all live there in the first place.

Points of Agreement

They said they liked the ocean, the mountains, the air and the wildlife. They liked the family life and the "Malibu life style." And, they like the property values and the profit potential.

At one point, people were feeling so agreeable that one woman even suggested that she loved the "smell" of Malibu.

"The smell?" a half-dozen or so people intoned.

It was so pleasant that Wan said another conference would be planned. Next time, they will even dare to break into small groups to discuss solutions to problems.

"It ended with people leaving on a real high, realizing that there's flesh and bones and heart inside everyone," Wan said. "I was particularly glad to see that it wasn't the same vociferous people talking all the time. And it showed that people here have a real good sense of humor."

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