City to hold public input sessions to revise zoning code

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The City of Malibu’s Planning Department Director says the meetings are important to gather public input on how to streamline the city’s inefficient zoning code.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The City of Malibu Planning Department will host a series of meetings Tuesday to gather public input on how to revise the city’s 18-year-old zoning code. Planning department officials say the revisions are necessary to contemporize an outdated code that is full of inconsistencies.

The meetings are part of a two-phase plan by the city to streamline a development review process that is currently plagued by inefficiency. The city has hired the consulting firm Lisa Wise Consulting to oversee the process of reforming the code, which begins Tuesday with stakeholder meetings with residents, architects, developers, and the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“My number one complaint I hear from most people is how difficult it is to understand the zoning code, whether that is at a staff level or an applicant level,” Planning Department Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said. “What we are trying to do is come up with a code that actually works, and that is clear and understandable for anybody that uses it, so that we don’t have the situation where people come in and they’re uncertain as to what they can do with their property because the code is so old.”

The zoning code was written shortly after the city incorporated in 1991 by taking zoning language from nearby cities and Los Angeles County. Parker-Bozylinski called the result a “hodgepodge of different codes and regulations,” making for a confusing and outdated zoning code.

“We needed a zoning code when we incorporated, and we threw one together fairly quickly,” Parker-Bozylinski said. “Its name was the interim zoning code and we had the interim zoning code for years. And eventually the word ‘interim’ got dropped off of it, and it became our regular zoning code.”

For proof of the zoning code’s age, Parker-Bozylinski pointed to the city’s restrictions on signage.

“The [sign] code that we’re working with now is what Agoura Hills was using in the early nineties,” Parker-Bozylinski said. “And the reason I know that is I was a senior planner there in the early nineties, and I wrote portions of it.

Parker-Bozylinski said the process underway now is meant to streamline the code and tailor-fit it to Malibus needs for the future.

While separate stakeholder input meetings will be held for architects and developers, lawyers and permit expediters, residents and the business community, Parker-Bozylinski said the only people involved in the decision-making process would be planning department staff and Lisa Wise, the zoning code consultant hired by the city.

“It’s going to be her company and staff, and then we will get input,” Parker-Bozylinski said. “That’s what this stakeholder process is all about, getting input.”

As always, any policy changes in Malibu that could impact development have residents on the alert. Pat Healy, spokesperson for the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth, said she believed staff when they say no major changes to the code will result.

“I’m going to keep an open mind, and well see where it ends up at the end of the day,” Healy said. “The proof is in the pudding, as my mother used to say.”

Parker-Bozylinski said that the process involved tweaking the zoning code, not making major changes such as increasing the floor-area ratio (FAR) of commercial buildings to allow more square footage for retail space.

“We’re not changing the zoning of any property,” Parker-Bozylinski said. “We’re not proposing any density increases or any FAR changes.”