City May Cut Off Fire Rebuilding Subsidy After Dec. 31, As Costs Balloon To $9 Million

Written by on May 6, 2021

The city’s budget …. at 39 million dollars … is in a comfortable but uncomfortable position.

City finance director Lisa Soghor says the city property tax revenues are up.

Sales tax revenues are also up …

And it looks like the end of the pandemic in most of the United States … plus the ban on foreign travel … is pushing tourism into the domestic market … like California beaches.

The overnight tax on hotels and vacation rentals has just been increased by Malibu voters.

And the city has a healthy savings account in its reserve fund.

All that sounds good … very good … right???

Yes … but Malibu has a budget problem.

Although sales tax and tourist taxes are rebounding from the pandemic … the budget remains 6 and a half million dollars out of balance.

Assistant city manager Lisa Soghor says things are looking up at this moment … but we cannot count on that top last forever.

NEWSCART 73451 SOGHOR prone to all sorts of disasters.

“Yes I see that our revenues are getting better … thye are not as bad as we had predicted from the pandemic … b ut one never knows.

“And we are very conscious of maintaining our general fund reserves because we do not know what kind of disasters are awaiting down the pike.

“We are a city that is prone to all sorts of disasters.”

Last year ,,, settlement money from Southern California Edison was used to balance the budget.

This year … unexpectedly strong sales and property taxes are being used to offset the 6 and a half million.

But next year is no sure thing … another fire otr other emergency could be a major budget problem.

Two city councilmembers yesterday said the time might have come to end the free building inspections and plan checks being given away to Woolsey Fuire victims.

That program is costing about 2 million dolalrs a year.

City council member Steve Uhring … at yesterday’s budget hearing …. says the city budghet is takign a hit.


“Waiving these fees … the permit fees … okay??

“I have yet to have anybody explain to me … or demonstrate to me … or prove to me …that that is actually bring people in to help get their houses built.

“My take .. the people I have talked to … I was goign to buiild my house.

“I got the money .

“I am going to build it.

“If you are going to give me a break … a kiss … I’ll take the kiss … but that’s not the reason I came back into the city and paid the money for my architect.

“And that’s a lot of money … alright???

“That’s nine million dollars that we’ve kissed away …. that you would love to have sitting here today.”

Another city council member … Mikke Pierson … says perhaps the fee waiver should end soon…


“Let’s discuss at city council … if Steve agrees … ending it December 31st if they haven’t applied.

“Because what I am seeing now is that all the people I know that were stuck … that i was really worried about them … are getting unstuck right now.

“So that’s just a thought there. “

Right now … the fee waiver program has been extended through the middle of 2022.

It was demanded by fire victims after the Woolsey disaster … and it is pretty much unique to the wealthy city of Malibu.

L A County and surrounding cities do not waive fees to check plans or inspect buildings.

But critics say it is a giveaway to insurance companies … which should be covering the inspection and plan checks to replace houses.

The Woolsey Fire took out 478 homes inside Malibu city limits.

177 homes have had plans for rebuilding approved … or are in the pipeline..

The city has done over 7 thousand building inspections

And all of those inspections … and plan checks … have been paid for by the taxpayers of Malibu.

For a little perspective … that amount of money could have paid to double the size of the sheriff’s patrols in Malibu.

The problem …. 301 parcels do not have building permits yet.

And the city council Administration and Finance committee is recommending …. that waiving the fees should end after the end of this year.


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