26 Malibu Fire Victims Enter Permitting Purgatory, As One Person Takes Political Complaint to Coastal Commission

Written by on June 14, 2022

Editor’s note: minor correction, see below.

Anguished Malibu fire victims confronted the City of Malibu last night … over a major delay thrown up by the Coastal Commission’s staff … a delay in fire rebuilds requested by a local political activist. 

At least 26 fire rebuilds have been frozen … after coastal staff said the city is being too generous in granting rebuild permits for houses to be built 10 percent bigger… at the same time that those homeowners are asking for other expansions.

The coastal staff was responding to a letter from Malibu resident Jo Drummond … who was complaining to Coastal about a house owned by the daughter of Malibu city council member Karen Farrer. 

Drummond’s complaint resulted in Coastal staff asking that the city stop issuing permits under that provision …. and now… rebuilding permits for 26 people are frozen.

At last nights council meeting … Drummond said she went to Coastal that city council member Karen Farrer was allowed to apply to build a bigger homes simultaneously with asking for an automatic permit to rebuild.

Drummond said Farrer was cutting line and building an illegal house,.


“I’d like Karen Farrer to explain answer what she was thinking in trying to get around away with going against the code that she helped put in place, for her own personal benefit?

“Why did you jump ahead of actual fire victims who were just trying to complete one to one builds? Your extra square footage was more than quadruple what the law allowed… 10%.”

That allegation were denied … strongly and vehemently … by Karen Farrer.


“A no-interest loan to my daughter and her husband… so that they could live there with their two kids… and maybe more in the future?

“That’s not a spec development.

“So we’ve been falsely accused of getting special treatment from the city on permits and approvals. 

“Our submissions were processed by our architect… we paid all fees… 

“We got in line with the other applicants…  “No favors were sought… None were provided. 

“There is no such evidence of any such favors being sought or provided.”

Farrer said the house in question was built by her family … for her daughter’s family … her grandbabies … it is a modest three bedroom 2700 square foot house oil Busch Drive in Malibu Park.   

They added 10 percent to it … and also requesting a modest 700 foot addition …about the size of one bedroom.

That house is smaller than most of the houses being built in Malibu Park.

Farrer said no line was cut. 

Farrer said that anyone who thinks that there was evidence of wrongdoing should contact city building officials … like Richard Mollica or Yolanda Bundy.  Those two have already said publicly that no line was cut by Karen Farrer.


“What we did was utilize an option offered by the city and implemented according to Yolanda Bundy by 30% of the rebuilt by the original owners or people who bought those properties after the fire.

“This social media phenomenon amounts to nothing short than can character assassination of me and defamation of my entire family.”

But in her speech … Drummond accused Farrer of being a contingent of spec builders … investors and speculators  … taking advantage of the fire … and coming in to buy burned out properties at distressed bargain prices.

And seeking fee waivers designed to benefit families that got burned out.

Drummond said her complaint to coastal was not aimed at the families who got stuck as a result … she says it was to stop Reva Feldman from making a profit on fire rebuilds in Malibu.

Yes … former city manager Reva Feldman … whom she accuses for making money off of the fee waivers. 

Jo Drummond last night:


“Fire victims have nothing to do with encouraging this error and blatant disregard of the actual fire rebuild codes and should not be penalized in any way.

“We know this has been spearheaded by the former Planning Director and the City Manager and developers who are looking for a loophole to take advantage of (a) sad and a dire situation’s to say the least.”

Jo Drummond.

But … Reva Feldman is not involved in any real estate project in Malibu. 

She tells KBUU Radio this morning that the allegations made by Jo Drummond are false. 

Left in the middle of Drummond’s campaign against Karen Farrer are 26 building applicants … who are already in the middle of rebuilding their homes only to find the city freezing the paperwork.

Last night … they said they are running out of insurance money while political games are being played at City Hall and the Coastal Commission. 

One of them …  Mike Martin … is trying to rebuild his burned down house in Malibu Park.


“The mistake here … the notion that’s been portrayed incorrectly …. is the Option 4 that the option for people it’s just a bunch of faceless developers I’ve heard hedge funds I’ve heard private equity funds. It’s just not true. “

“So many of us are part of families that have been part of this community for decades if not longer.

“My kids are in the school systems here. I worked my whole life to pay for this opportunity to raise my family here. 

“And so we’re not all bad developers. We’re just people trying to follow the rules.”

Other families with children in the Malibu schools described being extremely frustrated with a sudden order from City Hall and the Coastal Commission … an order that freezes them and prevents them from reconstructing their homes after they burned down in the fire.

Coastal staff has told the city they agree with Drummond … simultaneous permits is against the Coastal Plan. 

Upshot … city staff is meeting with Coastal staff to try to iron this out .

At least 26 houses are frozen in planning confusion maybe more.

Many of them are owned by Malibu families … others possibly owned by builders of spec houses … all of them thought they had been playing by the rules.

And councilman Bruce Silverstein last night defended his commissioner … Drummond … for having taken her campaign against Karen Farrer to the state Coastal Commission.


“Don’t shoot the messenger. 

“All she did was bring to the coastal commissions attention what she believed to be an unlawful scheme. And I don’t mean that in a fraudulent sense … a scheme that was not appropriate under the coastal act or under the local Coastal program.

“And now the coastal commission is enforcing its rules.”

Silverstein and Drummond are political allies … 

Silverstein appointed Drummond to the public works commission… and she has been rumored to be getting ready for a City Council election to replace either Karen Farrer or Mikke Pearson.


In another city council action involving Jo Drummond … last night the city council voted 5 to nothing against her demand that the city pay her 24 thousands in legal fees.

Drummond says she spent the money to hire a high priced West L-A lawyer… Ken Erlich … to research a zoning appeal.

She won the appeal at the city council … but in her claim says she wants to be reimbursed legal fees to enforce a city ordinance that the city planning department got wrong. 

Drummond’s claim for her lawyer’s bills was turned down on a unanimous vote. 

Correction: this story originally said the house “is being” built.  The house was completed. The article is corrected. 

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