Embattled Local Coastal Plan clears City Council

A court ruling Monday morning cleared the way for the Malibu City Council to finally adopt a new Local Coastal Plan (LCP) that same night. The action came after several weeks of active opposition and ad hoc meetings to iron out differences between the current LCP draft and one written last year, called the 2000 administration draft, that had been five years in the making.

The 2000 plan was rejected without comment last year by the state Coastal Commission, which was then forced by new legislation (AB988) to write its own LCP for Malibu. Fearing the commission’s plan would open up the city to more “low-cost visitor and recreational services” as called for in AB988, the City Council began a race to write a revised city LCP, hoping to pre-empt or at least influence the commission’s plan.

But the Malibu Township Council threatened to delay the new city LCP by filing for an injunction to prevent the City Council from submitting the plan to the Coastal Commission. The injunction was denied in court Monday morning.

Councilmembers and city staff challenged a last-minute argument against the new LCP by attorney Corin Kahn, representing unnamed “residents of Ramirez Canyon.”

Kahn reiterated past charges that the new LCP gutted the old LCP of measures to prevent growth in the city and limit commercialization. “The city has gone on record as changing those policies that are in the general plan related to the preservation of the rural character of the city,” he told the council.

Kahn repeated an allegation that city planners in a meeting last year with the Coastal Commission had killed the 2000 LCP by urging the commission to ignore it.

“Utterly untrue,” said Councilmember Ken Kearsley, who read verbatim from the minutes of that meeting on June 16, 2000. “Gary Timm (of the Coastal Commission) stated the draft as submitted was unacceptable,” Kearsley quoted. “He indicated that the draft would require significant enough changes that Coastal did not have the resources available to review on a word-by-word basis.”

Former interim city manager now city attorney, Christi Hogin, who supervised the drafting of the new LCP, maintained that it attempts to conform more closely with the Coastal Commission’s requirements for active recreational and visitor-serving facilities along the coast. But she also said it incorporates the city’s general plan for protecting the rural environment. “All of the rural residential policies of the city are still intact,” she said. There aren’t any changes to the city’s land use plan.”

In an emotional plea against the new LCP, Patt Healy of the Malibu Committee for Slow Growth, warned that “Malibu as we know it will self-destruct into an urban nightmare” if the plan is implemented.

“Come on, that’s ridiculous, that’s hyperbole at its worst,” Councilmember Tom Hasse responded. Hasse also said that an advantage to having an LCP approved by the Coastal Commission is that it will cut through state regulations for improvements and development in Malibu. As it is now, he said, almost all construction–“not just adding hotels, but also adding a backyard patio”–needs to get a permit from Coastal, which can take months. A commission-approved LCP will set guidelines for the city to follow that would not require a separate state permit.

The next step is to submit the LCP to the Coastal Commission, which has not yet indicated how much weight it will give to the city’s LCP. The City Council will push for the city’s version to be included in a final draft.

The Coastal Commission LCP draft is expected in mid-August. The city will have about three months to react to that draft and recommend changes. Then the commission will conduct public hearings in November and December, with a final draft due in January 2002.

Drug and alcohol rehab

A debate flared up over the proliferation of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in Malibu at the Monday night council meeting. Neighbors in Big Rock complained that a cluster of expensive residential rehab facilities is causing traffic dangers and confrontations with local residents. They asked the council to seek a moratorium on new rehab centers in Malibu and consider restricting the density of such centers in any one neighborhood.

Victoria Smart, director of communications for Promises, the corporation that operates three facilities in Big Rock and another in Pacific Palisades, said the area was ideal for the type of “high-end” clients they serve. Each center has four or five clients who each have private rooms. According to Smart, psychiatrists have said that “clients that are used to a certain atmosphere and certain amenities in their life would be stressed out if they have to go to a facility where there’s, like, five beds in one room … “

The council agreed to look into the matter and take it up again at the next scheduled meeting on August 13.

Big Rock assessment mistakes

In another issue involving Big Rock residents, the council delayed action on reassessing certain properties whose assessments were botched by the county in the early 1990s.

In three cases the county said homeowners had been under-assessed by amounts ranging from $16,000 to $36,000 over several years, and they were being billed for those amounts. In a fourth case, a property was over-assessed by more than $54,000 and the owner is due a refund in that amount.

The city engineering staff recommended that the homeowners be given five years to pay the adjusted assessments. But homeowners Deborah and William Barlow said they had only recently learned that they were being assessed $36,000 instead of the $7,000 they had been told they would have to pay when they bought their property on Rockcroft Drive in 1999, and they requested more time to evaluate the assessment.

House approved after years

Paul Kempin first applied to build a 3,955 square foot, 28-foot-high house on 2.16 acres above Pacific Coast Highway in October 1995. But plan after plan–which included reducing the size of the house, changing setbacks, digging down to reduce height, and included a required fire department turnaround in front of the house–was all rejected by the city over the years.

Finally, the council approved a plan for Kempin’s house, against the recommendations of the City Planning Commission and over the objections of other neighbors. By that time the house had been reduced to 2,900 square feet and 18 feet in height. But in approving the house, the council required one last cut: 300 square feet that would have been the living room

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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