Archive for January, 2011

Fred Gaines Fought to Close Off Backbone Trail Segment

Monday, January 31st, 2011

It was 2002 when James A. Kay Jr. bought land on Castro Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, eventually staging a fight to close down a one-mile stretch of the popular Backbone Trail.  Needless to say, Mr. Kay does not get flowers on Valentine’s Day from environmentalists and your general outdoor enthusiast.  Mr. Kay eventually won his quest to close down the mile-long stretch of trail with the help of his attorney, Fred Gaines.  Mr. Gaines is now running for Calabasas City Council in the upcoming election.

This article in the LA Times identifies Fred Gaines as Mr. Kay’s attorney:

As does this report from the California Coastal Commission on the cease-and-desist order:


This article from the Malibu Surfside News also identifies Mr. Gaines as the attorney for Mr. Kay:

The LA Times presented an extensive article covering Mr. Kay’s several lawsuits, including those with his Malibu neighbors, at

Calabasas Budget Swimming in the Red

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Some candidates might think that the Calabasas City Council has done a good job of managing the city financially, but an analysis of published budgets indicates exactly the opposite.  The City is spending beyond its means, drawing down its reserves at a rate of ~$4M per year.  The City projects that it will have depleted its reserves by 30% at the end of fiscal 2011, down to $38M from $55M in 2008.

In August 2008, the Acorn reported:

Calabasas CFO Gary Lysik recently unveiled a $55million budget for the fiscal years 2008-2010.

The two-year budget, which was passed unanimously by the Calabasas City Council at its first meeting in the new city hall, carries a hefty $55-million in reserves.

But what wasn’t reported is that the 2-year budget passed by the City Council for fiscal years 2009/10 and 2010/11 began with only $46.75M in reserves, down by $8.25M for the previous $55M.  Further, it projected an additional loss of $8.5M.  The deficit operation doesn’t stop there.  The upcoming budget projects reserves of $38M at the end of the 2011/2012 fiscal year, down 30% from the 2008 figure. At the deficit rate of $4M per year, the City will fully deplete its reserves in 2020.

Click for the 2009/10 and 2010/11 City budgets.

Click for the 2010/11 and 2011/12 City budgets.

Click to view a detailed analysis in spreadsheet form of the City budgets and deficits.

The spreadsheet itself is available for download.

Calabasas Switches Citizen Commission to a Quarterly Meeting Schedule

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Further steps are being taken by the City of Calabasas to reduce citizen participation in City government.  From one of our readers:

For many years Calabasas has incorporated citizen advisory commissions into its city government. These are commissions of knowledgeable citizen volunteers that meet monthly to hear public testimony and advise staff and the City Council on specialized subjects such as parks and recreation, the environment, cable TV service, traffic, library service, public safety, emergency preparedness, and historic preservation. All commission members are volunteers appointed by the City Council. Until now the commissions have met monthly, enabling the Council to have the benefit of their timely advice on issues facing the City.

Citizen commissions also serve as a training ground for citizens interested in becoming more involved in city government and ultimately, perhaps, running for City Council themselves. As a result we have had a pool of experienced citizens ready to step in and fill vacancies in our City Council when they occur.

The citizen commissions are in some ways a vestige of a time when those in charge of governing Calabasas were more open to citizen participation. In recent years staff and the City Council have become increasingly less open to citizen involvement in decision-making, as exemplified by the Council’s one minute time limits on public testimony at recent City Council meetings.

Sometimes the commissions have been bypassed altogether. The water park at De Anza Park did not originally go before the Park and Recreation Commission. It was heard directly by the City Council. Only after an overwhelming public outcry did the Council relent and send it to Parks and Recreation.

Now the City Council has decided to switch the citizen commissions from monthly to quarterly meetings, supposedly as an economy measure, but many see it as part of a plan to further reduce citizen participation in city government.

Only the Planning Commission and the City Council will continue to meet bi-monthly; all other commissions will be limited to quarterly meetings, with timely citizen participation reduced accordingly.

Calabasas City Council Endorses Developer-Friendly Candidate

Thursday, January 20th, 2011


From the LVHF Newsletter:

The Council’s endorsement of developers’ attorney Fred Gaines is a matter of special concern. It is common knowledge that Gaines makes his livelihood by representing developers before the County, the Coastal Commission and ultimately the Court of Appeal. Further, most of the development proposals that Gaines has been hired to defend were already in violation of the zoning plans of their community and are among the most controversial developments proposed in recent years. These include such projects as Fantasy Island in Triunfo Canyon; Malibu Valley Farms, across the street from King Gillette Ranch; and James Kay’s illegal development on Castro Peak. With Gaines’ help, Kay, a Las Vegas radio-tower tycoon, fought the National Park Service and the Coastal Commission in an effort to build his hobby ranch and to block public access to a popular hiking and equestrian trail. The Los Angeles Times reported Kay’s threat to pave nearly a mile of the Backbone Trail, which runs through state and federal parkland: ―’I intend to pave it like the Ventura Freeway expansion project,’ he said.

Read more at LVHF_JANUARY_2011_NEWSLETTER.pdf

Calabasas Building Code Workshop Builds Confusion

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Calabasas residents’ battle over recent 2010 California Building Standards Code could be an object lesson for Topanga.

The City of Calabasas hosted an informational workshop on the 2010 California Building Standards Code to collect feedback and provide resources for residents on Tuesday, January 4, that focused on the amendments made to the Scope and Administration section of the adopted code.


A Fox in the Hen House?

Friday, January 14th, 2011


From the LVHF News Watch:

Calabasas City Council candidate, Fred Gaines, often portrays himself as a steward of
the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fred Gaines has a long history
of representing developers and controversial projects that have had devastating
environmental impacts.
Case in point is Mr. Gaines’ current efforts to transform 58
acres of beautiful open space and a golf course into a dense housing tract. Located in
Tujunga, adjacent to the 210 freeway, the project is within the National Park Service’s
potential ―Rim of the Valley Corridor. Gaines is representing the developer, Snowball
West Investments, LLP.

The proposed project is a massive 229-unit housing development with parallel rows of
four- and five-bedroom homes. Gaines contends they [his clients] have a right to
build 229 houses on the site and–pending something unforeseen–they plan to do
exactly that. (Visit for more comprehensive information and details.)

Gaines and his client are overwhelmingly and fervently opposed by powerful
environmental groups, the surrounding community and local politicians.

Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian said in a recent statement: ―I fully support
the efforts of Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment (VOICE) and the
more than two dozen organizations that fight to preserve the Verdugo Hills Golf Course,
an important and popular oasis of open space and recreational activity in our
community. From the 5,000 active and involved VOICE members, to the hundreds of
others in the community groups from Sunland-Tujunga to Studio City, I am proud to
stand with such forceful advocates for open-land preservation and believers in
positive environmental policy. Their efforts to save the golf course reflect a
community-wide desire to maintain an open and very beautiful area for people to enjoy
in an increasingly developed urban region. I will continue the fight ….to preserve this
much needed green space in our community.

Read more at LVHF_NEWS_WATCH_01-14-11.pdf