Legacy Park report ready this week

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The draft environmental impact report will detail Malibu’s plan for a park and storm water treatment program. The possible sale of a Pepperdine-owned site throws a wrench into the wastewater treatment plan.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

After several months of delays, the draft environmental imp-act report for the Legacy Park project will be ready for public review by the end of the week, City Manager Jim Thorsen said in an interview on Monday.

The DEIR is a document with an in-depth analysis on Malibu’s two-fold plan to create a park on the 20-acre city-owned property located off Pacific Coast Highway between Webb Way and Civic Center Way, and to continue with its efforts to curb storm water runoff into the Malibu watershed.

The document was supposed to be ready for public review late last year, but its release has been delayed several times so the DEIR for the complex project could be developed and reviewed by the city consultant and staff.

The 45-day public review period will officially begin on May 29.

Thorsen said the project and environmental document should be approved before the end of the summer, with construction beginning prior to the end of the year.

The plan for Legacy Park includes the creation of a two-foot deep pond on the property that would capture excess storm water runoff when the nearby Civic Center treatment facility is filled to capacity. The treated storm water would be dispersed into the watershed, and as water is released from the facility, the excess liquid in the pond would go into the facility. During the dry season, the pond would remain empty.

The original project proposal included a combined wastewater and storm water treatment program. Although partial analysis of a wastewater treatment system is expected to be included in the DEIR, the document will mostly deal with the storm water element. The wastewater portion still needs further analysis. Thorsen said a proposal for that project should be ready next year.

“I don’t think everybody realized how big of a project this is,” Thorsen said in December when it was first revealed to the public the water treatment program had become two separate projects.

Wrench thrown into wastewater program

The basic plan for the wastewater treatment program had been the placement of a treatment facility on a two-acre portion of a 9.2-acre property known as the Wave Property located behind the Malibu Courthouse. This facility would collect wastewater from various nearby properties and disperse it on land after treatment. But the city might need to come up with a new plan because the owners of the Wave Property three weeks ago put the site on the market with a $24 million asking price.

The land is owned by the Malibu Residential Housing Group, which is composed of Pepperdine University as a general partner and First American Title Co. and local Malibu resident Paul Shoop as limited partners. Dennis Torres, Pepperdine’s real estate director, said the city has been unable to come up with an official, legally sound agreement to finalize the deal between the two parties.

“We can’t sit here forever,” Torres said on Monday. “If the city wants to do it, then fine, we’ll do it. But if they can’t do it, then we have to move on.”

Torres said in 2005 that Malibu Residential would donate a portion of its land as long as it could be assured it would still be able to build the same amount of square footage on the remaining part of the commercially zoned site as it would be if it still had ownership of the whole property (city zoning laws limit development to 15 percent of a property’s size). Torres said the city has been unable to come up with a solution on how that could be legally done.

“The city has put plenty of time into the effort, but [Assistant City Attorney] Christi [Hogin] is so scattered with her workload that she has never had the opportunity to set aside everything and work this out,” Torres said.

Hogin said Torres’ description of the situation was wrong. She said the city submitted a proposed agreement to Malibu Residential for the two acres to be donated. But Shoop rejected the document. She said a proposed development agreement was then submitted to Malibu Residential, and Shoop rejected that as well.

“We are obviously interested in the property,” Hogin said. “And we’ll gladly take a copy of the draft [development] agreement to Dennis ourselves if he cannot wrangle one from his lawyers.”

When asked about this, Shoop said it was not accurate he rejected any proposals.

“Both sides are certainly willing to make a deal that makes sense, and I think there’s still a good faith negotiation going on,” Shoop said. He added, “We are having problems finding the right structure for the deal.”

Shoop said it should not be a problem for the city if the property were sold because a future owner would want to make a similar deal with Malibu. City Manager Thorsen made a similar comment, saying the requirement for the building of a wastewater treatment facility on the property could be included in a development deal with the new owner. He said there are also other properties in the Civic Center area where the facility could be built. He declined to name them. The Wave Property had been named the best location for the facility in a study conducted by a consultant three years ago.

The Wave Property was up for sale two years ago, and attracted several interested parties, Torres said. No sale ever occurred due to disputes about details of the transaction, Torres said. Those interested in the property were told about the proposed deal with the city, and “that has not seemed to be a problem,” Torres said.

Meanwhile, City Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said she has faith the city will be able to use the land for a wastewater treatment facility.

“The last time I spoke to Pepperdine, I had a meeting with Dennis Torres,” she said. “And he assured me that they were going to stick by their end of the bargain. And I’m going to take them at their word until I find out their word isn’t any good.”

During the public review period of the DEIR, comments and questions can be submitted to city staff. The comments and answers to questions will be added to the document. The project and the DEIR will then go before the Environmental Review Board and the Planning Commission for review and recommendations, and eventually before the City Council for a vote.

Those wanting copies can order them at the Malibu Business & Shipping Center in Malibu Colony Plaza. CD versions can be obtained by contacting Robert Sanchez at 310.456.2489 ext. 296 or rsanchez@ci.malibu.ca.us