Council seeks to avoid multiple story projects

The City of Malibu has the lowest floor area ratio of nearby cities, requiring builders to ask for variances or build multi-story buildings.

By Carolanne Sudderth/Special to The Malibu Times

Realizing that under the current commercial zoning ordinance, property owners would have to build up or file for variances, the City Council Monday night directed staff to create a text amendment to the ordinance.

Architect Ed Niles advised the council that the amount of land required to fill all requirements on a one-acre parcel would exceed 100 percent of the lot. With a maximum floor area ratio of .15 percent, requirements that 40 percent of a property be landscaped and 20 percent be left as open space, an applicant would be forced to go to multiple stories or file for a variance.

Specifics on the text amendment are pending, but according to city planner Drew Purvis, “If the city wants to go with single-story development, then the landscape-open space requirement must be a function of the required FAR (Floor Area Ratio) and the parking requirements.”

Mayor Joan House joined other members of the council in stating that she preferred single-story structures but, “I often think Motel 6 is what this community likes best.”

Jennings stated that applicants who did want to build a single-story home would be forced to seek a variance.

“I think that forcing an applicant to go for a variance on every project is absolutely punitive,” said Jennings. “We either fish, or we cut bait.”

According to Purvis, Malibu is the only city with a FAR this low. He said that in his search he was unable to find anything lower than .30.

Council approves Cross Creek Road design

Although the Malibu City Council voted to approve a redesign plan for Cross Creek Road, the devil seems to be as always in the details.

Now arrow-straight where it runs from Pacific Coast Highway, a “serpentine design” would re-form it into an elongated “S,” lined with pockets of landscaping and with a total of 38 diagonal parking spaces.

The architectural landscape firm of Withers, Sandgren and Smith presented two options-one showing a straight stretch of road with a median down the middle, the other with the serpentine design described above. The median plan would provide 31 parallel parking spaces. Its narrowed lanes would, in theory, encourage motorists to slow down.

Members of the public protested the lack of input they had been allowed in the project.

Ozzie Silna objected to the concept of “pick one of these two.”

“We’re entitled to decide whether we want it at all,” said Silna. “We like it the way it is.”

According to Silna, both proposals would actually decrease available parking.

“I counted 43 cars there today. There are only 37 spots (sic) here, and I see a lot of problems that weren’t addressed.”

These include the inability of trucks to load and unload, and a lack of turn lanes onto Pacific Coast Highway.

Architect Jan Sandgren assured the group that both proposals represent baseline concepts. “We have a traffic engineer and a civil engineer on our team who will go further with the real nuts and bolts.”

Pat Healey, a Santa Monica resident who owns a home in Malibu, urged the council to retain the street’s rural character and suggested the council “put it up to the community so that the more creative types could come up with something.”

Councilmembers countered the rural character is too far-gone.

“With all due respect, I have to say to Pat Healey I’ve never seen a more urban street,” said Councilmember Sharon Barovsky. “Jaywalking, dodging traffic, people dropping off their cars in front of Tony’s to be taken who-knows-where. It’s junky. It’s ugly. Somebody’s going to get hurt and hurt badly.”

The council unanimously approved the serpentine concept, with the condition that details such as turn lanes could be worked out later. It also voted to include such rural elements as decomposed granite rather than concrete on the sidewalk and to include riparian-type foliage along Malibu Creek in the project.

In other matters, the council offered conceptual approval on a plan that would re-route the Zuma Ridge Trail, correcting a problem that has been there since county days.

The existing trail easement requires grading and drainage improvements for both hiking and equestrian uses. The property owner has agreed to construct the necessary improvements in exchange of the city’s relinquishment of a 20-foot easement. Per the new plan, the trailhead will be moved from Sea Star Drive, a gated private street, to Morning View Drive (a public street).

Diane Everett urged the council to be sure the owner was aware of all problems and pitfalls and that the city get a guarantee of completion before any quitclaim deeds were filed.

“The trail, where it lies now, is in a gully that’s so deep it’s going to require a crane and a bulldozer,” she said.

Everett urged the council to monitor the project “because I can see it never getting done.”

Other community members suggested that a grading bond be filed.

The project will be going before the Coastal Commission in January and is slated for completion in March.

“Why would we execute the quitclaim deed before they got through coastal?” asked Barovsky.

The council agreed, and the realignment was approved-but only in concept. It will be brought back for discussion of particulars.

The council also voted to continue any decision on the Local Coastal Plan, although residents turned out in force and continued to voice hot and heavy objection to the California Coastal Commission’s controversial plan for the Malibu coastal zone. On Friday, the council was presented with a 69-page work-in-progress document, outlining acceptable and unacceptable positions to date on more than 400 policies contained in the LCP.

The council will have its annual holiday party Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at City Hall. The public is invited to attend.

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

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