Build Malibu Better: How Big Can I Afford To Build? And What Business Is it of the Planning Commission?

Paul Grisanti

The planning commission’s favorite boogeyman, “Mansionization,” has yet to appear.  

According to the city’s website, as of July 1, 92 applications for rebuilds have been approved by the planning department. 

Forty-seven of those applied for the same size house in the same location.  They left the plus-10 percent option on the table.

Forty-three applied for the previous house in the same location, plus 10 percent additional floor area.

So far, only one owner has received planning department approval to build a larger home, which may also have been moved on the lot. Applying for a home more than 10 percent larger than the previous home can trigger added scrutiny, as can moving the new house from the historic footprint.

There are currently only 12 planning department applications still being processed. By my count, that means only 104 rebuild applications have been submitted. That is less than 23 percent of the homes that burned.

Where are the other 350-plus? Are they still fighting their insurers? Many of them did show up at the planning meeting to protest the proposed changes.

The planning commission is apparently incensed that the fire rebuilds are escaping their scrutiny. They fear that burnedout lots will be sold to “outsiders” who will apply to build homes. If the owners as of Nov. 8, 2018, need to sell to move on with their lives, why reduce what they can get to cover their next home or retirement? If the original owner can’t rebuild for whatever reason, the community needs someone to step up and replace these burned lots with homes and families.

The turnout at the July 1 planning commission meeting on the proposed neighborhood standards, reduction in total development square footage ordinance was incredible. The city council chambers were filled to bursting and the overflow lobby was standing room only as well. By my count, over 80 speakers recounted their reasons why the proposed ordinance was ill conceived, improper and illegitimate. Four speakers expressed somewhat lukewarm enthusiasm for the changes. 

The chair of the planning commission displayed his skill with the speaker’s cards by continually shuffling those who were most opposed further and further back in the line. The first and second speaker slips turned in were both called well after 10:30 p.m., after the majority of the audience had gone home to watch it on TV.   

Perhaps the 150-plus letters and the turnout of hundreds who opposed the changes will convince the city council that this is not the right time to lower the threshold for referral to the planning commission. 

The planning commission was not convinced. They acted as if we have all been begging for further restrictions on our properties. John Mazza gets the award for “Most Tone Deaf” by mansplaining that they had to do this, couldn’t just send it back to the council with a DOA tag on its toe, and that we would all be better off as a result of his brilliance. He even made a stab at adding beachfront homes to the restrictions list.  Around 12:30 a.m., Steve Uhring, Chris Marx and Kraig Hill passed a recommendation for the council that the changes only apply to non-beachfront parcels over an acre.  Jeff Jennings, who had given an accurate and fair history of the limitations in total development square footage, dissented.

John Mazza also voted against the measure—but only because he felt it wasn’t tough enough.

Get your application to rebuild in now. You must be in the “pipeline” at the planning commission to exempt yourself from whatever insanity the city council decides to choose.