Organizers of the Malibu Triathlon sprinted across the finish line this week securing an emergency authorization to hold the race this weekend after discovery of an endangered fish had threatened to scuttle the event.
During the Sept. 25 meeting of the Malibu City Council, the council voted to allow the Malibu Triathlon to go forward allowing 5,000 competitors to run, swim and ride Saturday Sept. 30 and Sunday Oct. 1 at Zuma Beach.
The bicycle segment of the run-swim-ride race has used the paved underpass at Zuma Creek to pass under Pacific Coast Highway for decades but that roadway has been inaccessible due to flooding. Zuma Creek typically dries up during the summer, allowing use of the pass for the race, but this year, it continued to flow year round. The pass itself has been closed for about nine months and nearly two feet of water has pooled in the underpass. Federal officials say the lagoon fed by the creek holds tidewater gobies, a threatened species whose habitat cannot be disturbed.
In late August, organizers planned to chop the bike race short and create a loop, eliminating the need to cross PCH at the underpass or anywhere else.
Permits for that shorter route were initially denied by staff and the Planning Commission who said the race organizers did not have enough time to notify residents of the changes. The Planning Commission vote was 2-2 with two commissions voting to allow the race saying the City’s rules actually allowed for a 5-day notification. However, with one Commissioner absent, the deadlocked Commission denied the route, setting up an emergency appeal on Monday where the council agreed to accept a five-day notification.
Councilman Paul Grisanti said the race was the least inconvenient event that occurs in Malibu and should be allowed to continue.
“I’d like to make a motion that we, in view of the sacrifices of the people who have paid to come to this thing and the timing and the fact that we had the addresses and didn’t do the mailing, I think we should make this happen and be done with this,” he said. “This is not a bad thing, one of my oldest daughter’s friends spent time in Children’s Hospital and is now a mother herself, this is not a bad thing.”
Councilman Doug Stewart said he would support the race but that the situation shouldn’t be seen as an example of how to operate going forward.
“I’m going to back the approval not because it was improperly denied but because of the overwhelming greater good. But I want to make sure that everybody understands this is a unique situation, this is not and will not be a precedent that anyone can rely on and say ‘gee, this is what you do for the triathlon.’ This is a one time exception and you definitely have my vote for it,” he said.