Council OKs contract to build Trancas Park

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Despite a pending lawsuit against the city’s approval of the park, the Malibu City Council on Monday signed off on a $2.7 million contract with Woodland Hills-based Environmental Construction Inc. to build the seven-acre Trancas Canyon Park. Some additional costs will bring the total price tag of the park to $3.2 million, according to the city. Construction is expected to begin Oct. 1 and conclude in March.

The vote in favor of the contract was 4-1, with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich being the lone opposition. She also did not support the council’s approval of the park in the spring for various reasons, including that she did not like that the park would only be used for sports practices and not games. Conley Ulich reiterated her dislike for the park plan during the meeting.

“The kids don’t have practice leagues,” Conley Ulich said. “AYSO, the Little League; they have games. It’s called a game and they practice to play a game … For kids not to be able to play a game there is wrong.”

The Malibu Township Council filed a lawsuit against the city earlier this year over the approval of the park, citing what it considered a flawed environmental impact report for the project. Nobody representing the Township Council spoke at Monday’s meeting. However, the council did hear comments of opposition from a representative of Heal the Bay and activist Patt Healy, who spoke on behalf of the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth and the Malibu West Homeowners Association Board. They both said the contract violated the Land Use Plan of the City’s Local Coastal Program because it would allow grading to occur during the rainy season, which begins in November. Healy additionally said the park was bad for the city because she considers the amount of grading to be excessive and that it presented additional environmental risks.

“This is not about Malibu West versus the rest of Malibu,” Healy said. “We believe that the majority of Malibuites agree that the Land Use Plan is there to preserve what we collectively are sensitive to and care about, and part of why we make our home here.”

City Manager Jim Thorsen countered the arguments, stating that the Land Use Plan does not prohibit grading during the rainy season, but that it disallows the issuing of a grading permit during that time (which lasts through the end of March). He also said whether grading that begins prior to the rainy season is allowed to continue into the rainy season is at the discretion of the planning manager. But Thorsen said this is likely irrelevant as Environmental Construction Inc. believes it will be done with the grading prior to November.

Conley Ulich questioned the city manager as to whether the city was giving itself special treatment, because she was not familiar with any homeowners getting approval for grading during the rainy season.

“When all these building owners come to me and ask, ‘How come the city could grade in November, December, January, February, March and I can’t,’ [the response should be] it’s because the planning manager said it was OK. Is that your answer?”

Thorsen said Conley Ulich was incorrect in her analysis, and whether grading is allowed during the rainy season “depends on each circumstance.” He said anybody could grade during this period if they obtain the permit in advance and have approval from the planning manager.

Trancas Canyon Park has taken many years to get to the point of construction. There have been several changes to the design, with presentations taking place at numerous meetings and workshops that often became heated. The park will be located on a 13.5-acre site off Trancas Canyon Road, about a half-mile north of Pacific Coast Highway. It will include a multiuse sports field, dog park, and picnic area, tot-lot, parking area and accessory buildings. An onsite wastewater treatment system and a storm water detention basin will be additional features.