City, Malibu Bay Company find little common ground on common ground

While Councilman Walt Keller argued with the Malibu Bay Company over which side is dragging its feet, community groups and landowners pledged, during a Land Use Subcommittee meeting last week, to work together on development of community centers, parks and recreational fields.

The Bay Company has offered to make available portions of its land parcels located in the Civic Center, Point Dume or Trancas area for use by the city in exchange for greater flexibility in developing its adjacent parcels. For the last eight months, however, the city council has shown little interest in reaching an agreement, according to David Reznick, a Bay Company official. “Obviously, we need further input from the city,” he said, in order to create a “thoughtful, sensitive plan.”

Keller blamed the Bay Company for the slow pace of negotiations. “You didn’t give us a concrete offer. We have to know what you’ll give us and what it will cost,” he explained, saying otherwise the city will not take any action.

At one point during the meeting, architect and local resident Ed Niles asked whether landowners have no choice but to give up land in order to be permitted to develop under the General Plan. “I guess it depends,” answered Keller.

The “most pressing” issue is where to build a senior center, according to Keller. Pepperdine officials were on hand to make a pitch for their proposed retirement community. Their “ideal location” would be behind City Hall and would include a commons building covering 18,000 – 20,000 square feet, according to John Elliot, senior real estate manager for the university.

The commons building would be open to all Malibu seniors, not just the 200 or so residents of the retirement community and their guests, if the city contributes about $300,000 available through the Community Development Block Grant Fund, said Michael O’Neil, vice chancellor for the university. However, he said, “If the city wants to build separately, then fine.”

The city has a tacit agreement that the block grant funds will be available through next summer, according to City Manager Harry Peacock. “However, after that we have no assurance that we can get a further extension,” he said, in which case the city would begin losing about $60,000 of the funds per year.

The city is considering building a center not just for seniors but for everyone in Malibu. “It’s a way to bring the community together and to realize we’re all one group wanting the same thing,” said Jo Fogg, a member of the Malibu Senior Citizens Club. Her proposal includes a daycare facility, a billiard room and an area for live music. “We would like to see this happen in our lifetime,” she said in disgust.

Aside from a community center, recreational parks should be built for the youngsters of Malibu, according to Stan Berk, president of Malibu Little League. “Malibu is not up to snuff in terms of what a normal Little League or soccer site is,” he said. Park users are so desperate for land, they are willing to take anything they can get. “We’re essentially being civic prostitutes,” he joked.

There are school district properties available that may be converted to recreational use, mentioned Peacock. Twenty acres are located across from Hughes market, another 20 acres sit next to the high school and six more acres are found in the Big Rock area, according to Peacock. He pointed out that some of the land is not flat, making recreational use difficult.

Before moving ahead with any plans for future parks, Keller said he preferred to wait until the Recreation & Parks Master Plan is completed in March, but those in attendance wanted to move ahead now. “I don’t think you have to wait until March,” said Joan Knapp. With everybody working together, she said, “we could come up with something specific very quickly.”

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

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