Malibu cityhood supporters have again turned to the state Legislature in a bid to speed incorporation of the seaside community.
A measure that would nullify Los Angeles County's efforts to delay that cityhood, similar to one vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian in September, was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Ed Davis (R-Santa Clarita).
Cityhood backers expressed confidence that the new measure will win the lawmakers' approval and be ready for soon-to-be Gov. Pete Wilson's signature by mid-February.
"We're optimistic, and we think our chances look good all the way around," Mayor-elect Walt Keller said.
If approved, the measure, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Hart (D-Santa Barbara), would clear the way for Malibu to become a city almost immediately after being signed by the governor.
Unlike the previous bill, also sponsored by Davis, the new measure contains several provisions aimed at thwarting possible further delays by Los Angeles County officials. The earlier measure swept both houses of the Legislature without dissent before being vetoed.
"The best-case scenario is that, if approved and signed by the governor, we could be a city by mid- to- late February and at the latest by the end of March," Councilman-elect Mike Caggiano said.
Although voters overwhelmingly approved cityhood last June, the Board of Supervisors has gone to court to delay the actual incorporation until March 28 in a bid to start work on a controversial sewer system that Malibu's future leaders oppose.
Deukmejian's veto of the earlier measure was roundly denounced by cityhood backers, who accused the governor of caving in to political pressure from county officials.
Until recently, these officials hinted that they might try to delay cityhood until 1992 if their efforts to speed construction of the proposed $43-million sewer system remain stalled before the California Coastal Commission.
However, last week Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who in the past opposed an early incorporation, said he is prepared to vote to allow cityhood at the earliest possible date.
By law, as a final ministerial act, the supervisors must adopt a resolution confirming the results of the June 5 incorporation election.
Until now, Supervisor Ed Edelman, whose 3rd District now includes Malibu, has been alone in opposing the delay. Hahn's change of position is significant because the top four candidates to replace Supervisor Pete Schabarum in a Jan. 22 special election have said they will also vote for an earlier cityhood date.
Although encouraged by the latest developments, Malibu's future leaders this week expressed concern that, unless the supervisors act quickly to clear the way for cityhood, the new city could lose more than $1 million in tax revenues during its first year.
Keller said that for the new city to receive its share of property tax revenues for the fiscal year that begins in July, certain documents must be prepared and in the hands of state officials by the end of this month. However, officials of the Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees the transition of communities to cities, have informed Malibu's future leaders that the documents cannot be prepared until the supervisors adopt their resolution.
Malibu's elected, but unempowered, City Council, which has continued to meet since the election, Tuesday voted to request that the supervisors adopt the resolution without further delay.
Besides the estimated $1 million in property taxes, Malibu stands to lose about $250,000 in sales tax revenue for the second quarter of next year if it does not become a city by March 30, Caggiano said.
"It looks like (the county) is not only delaying (Malibu's) birth, but if they choose not to cooperate, they're almost making certain that it's born a pauper," he said.
Some cityhood backers are privately skeptical about the chances that the supervisors will cooperate, since adopting the resolution would commit the county officials to an incorporation date of March 28 at a time when final approval of the sewer is stalled.
The county has already been rebuffed once by the Coastal Commission in its efforts to speed construction of the sewer without having to wait for several incremental approvals that could take several more months.
And last week, the commission staff postponed until at least January consideration of the county's sewer proposal, saying it needed more time to analyze the matter. The state panel had been expected to hear the county's request next week.
In addition to its latest legislative effort to speed incorporation, Malibu's unofficial City Council filed a lawsuit in October asking that the state Supreme Court order the county to stop delaying cityhood on the grounds that voters' rights have been violated.
The council has also joined in a lawsuit by the Malibu Township Council, a slow-growth group, to block the sewer, contending that the environmental reasons the county gave for wanting to build it are bogus.