Planning Commission issues first coastal permit

The workload for the commission will increase as more than 100 projects that have been waiting to apply for coastal permits will come before the commission.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

Malibu has entered a new era as a coastal permitting city. The Planning Commission granted permits for two municipal projects at Monday’s meeting.

Although some arguments were made during the hearings for the realignment of Zumirez Drive and the construction of a drainage system at Big Rock, there was no serious opposition to either project. But more than 100 residential, commercial and municipal projects await coastal permits, and many of these will be more controversial. This means the commission will be meeting more often and for longer periods of time beginning in January.

With the state Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the city’s case against the California Coastal Commission, the Coastal Commission-drafted Malibu Local Coastal Program is now the law of the land until further notice. Other litigation and the city’s attempt to amend the LCP might change the situation, but that could be many months or even years from now. So, for now, all development projects must receive a coastal permit from the city that meets the requirements of the LCP. The Planning Commission grants the coastal permits. The commission’s decisions can be appealed to the City Council. Some projects can additionally be appealed to the Coastal Commission.

This year, the Planning Commission has had only a handful of meetings. It is supposed to hold sessions twice a month, but many of the meetings have been canceled mainly due to the fact that there have been few items for the commission to hear. But now that the city will be issuing coastal permits, the Planning Commission’s meeting frequency will greatly increase. According to a calendar approved by the commission, beginning in March it could meet as many as three times per month.

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The project that received the most attention Monday was the realignment of Zumirez Drive. The project called for the shifting of the south end of the Point Dume Street 100 feet to the east so that it is aligned with the north end of the street, located on the opposite side of Pacific Coast Highway. A traffic light will also be built at the intersection at the request of the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans did not demand the traffic light until after the project was approved by a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Public Works commissions. Public Safety Commissioner Ryan Embree demanded at the planning meeting that documentation be shown to prove a traffic light is necessary.

“I believe it is a bluff [by Caltrans],” Embree said.

Deputy City Engineer Claudio Sanchez said Caltrans had made it clear to him through a telephone conversation that the traffic light would be necessary. Caltrans has authority in the project since it involves Pacific Coast Highway.

Planning Commissioner Carol Randall, an advocate for traffic safety, said she imagined people who have been struggling to get a traffic light at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Corral Canyon Road would be annoyed how easily one was coming to the Zumirez intersection.

Several members of the public asked the commission to approve a landscaping plan for the area of the old portion of the road after the rest of the road is shifted to the east. But Planning Director Mike Teruya said since that was not something the planning staff had prepared for, it should be brought back to the commission at another meeting.

During the hearing, former Planning Commissioner Charlene Kabrin said Commission Chair John Sibert and Randall should have recused themselves from the hearing. Her reasoning was because Sibert lives on Zumirez Drive and Randall had already heard the item as a member of the Public Safety Commission.

“Not only are you supposed to avoid a conflict of interest, but the perception of a conflict of interest,” Kabrin said.

Sibert said he lived outside the 500-foot radius of the project, so he did not feel he had a conflict. Randall said it was a small community with an even smaller number of volunteers, so it would be difficult to avoid having some overlap with the commissions. Commissioners Pete Anthony and Regan Schaar did recuse themselves from the hearing because of their involvement with the Point Dume Community Association, which was a strong proponent of the project.

In addition to the shifting of the street and the construction of a traffic light, the Zumirez project includes the installation of a right-turn deceleration lane on Pacific Coast Highway for drivers turning onto Zumirez.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved a coastal permit for the Big Rock drainage improvement project. The project is the completion of one started by Caltrans to reduce the risk of flooding on Big Rock Drive. In 2002, Caltrans obtained a permit to construct a large reinforced concrete culvert under Pacific Coast Highway. The municipal project, according to the city, will channel storm water to that drain.

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

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