Legacy Park causes concern for service clubs

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The Chili Cook-Off will have to find a new home next year. The area is also used for parking for other Civic Center area events.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

If construction begins on the Legacy Park Project early next year as city officials are expecting, it will mean the end of an era in Malibu. The Kiwanis Club’s annual Chili Cook-Off, an event that gave the name to the property before it became known as Legacy Park, will have to find a new home. Also, the usage of the 20-acre mostly vacant property as a parking site for other service club events will come to an end.

Representatives from Kiwanis, the Optimist Club and the Lions Club attended last week’s Environmental Review Board meeting on Legacy Park to voice their fear of what could happen with their events. The ERB only comments on environmental and science issues, so the members did not respond, and told the club members to bring the issue to city staff and the Planning Commission when it votes on the Legacy Park project Sept. 23.

After the meeting, Kiwanis board member Frank Miller said he was concerned there might not be another property where the Chili Cook-Off can take place.

“We hope we can do the next one [in 2009],” Miller said. “Perhaps if the Malibu Bay Co. will allow us, we could do it on their property [the smaller Ioki site located directly west of Legacy Park]. It would be a smaller event. The event as we know it won’t happen again.”

Malibu Bay officials could not be reached for comment. The company owned the Legacy Park property, then known as the Chili Cook-Off site, for the first 24 years of the event. The city purchased the site in 2006, and has allowed the event to continue there the past two years and will again host it this year.

City Manager Jim Thorsen said this week he believes the event could take place next year on Civic Center Way. The street would be closed during the four-day event. Thorsen said the street could accommodate the various rides, stage performances, the cook-off itself and other festivities that are part of the Labor Day weekend tradition.

“I’m not sure of the exact square footage they would need, but that would be something the service clubs could work on,” Thorsen said. “Also, there are other vacant lots in the Civic Center that could be used for parking. And if they [service clubs] need our help talking with the property owners, the city can do that.”

Sal Cirnigliaro, Kiwanis president, said his concern about the event’s future is for the long term.

“We could possibly put the event on the Ioki property if the Bay Co. allows us,” Cirnigliaro said. “But in a couple years down the road, that property could be developed, and then we’re looking for something again.”

Cirnigliaro said the idea of putting the event in Point Dume, specifically the vacant Malibu Bay-owned property on Pacific Coast Highway off Heathercliff Road, has been proposed, but he said this creates possible new problems.

“We would have to talk to the community,” he said. “Hopefully, they would want us and there wouldn’t be an outcry about traffic and other issues.”

Malibu Optimist Club President Anne Payne said moving the Chili Cook-Off to Point Dume is not necessary. She said the service groups are starting to work together to make sure events like the Chili Cook-Off, her club’s pancake breakfast at the Malibu Arts Festival and the Lions Club’s flea market remain in “Malibu’s natural bowl.”

“We have an opportunity to keep our traditions and to allow certain civic events so that the public can convene,” Payne said. “As properties get developed, the city needs to say “we still need space for parking [for community events].”

She also supported Thorsen’s idea of closing Civic Center Way for certain community events. Payne added that the continuation of these events is vital to the future of the service clubs, which put the money they raise from them into the community.

“We do represent a large segment of the public because our members reach kids and adults,” Payne said. “We think the longevity of civic organizations is important. The public obviously supports this. They come to our events.”