City moves forward with Legacy Park plans despite criticisms

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The City of Malibu has faced criticisms on several fronts regarding the purchase and planning of Legacy Park. Nevertheless, council members move forward with the design phase.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

At a special meeting last Thursday, the Malibu City Council unanimously directed staff to seek bids and proposals for the $15.6 million construction of Legacy Park. The meeting was held to discuss continued agenda items from the council’s March 23 regular meeting, which included the possible appointment of ex officio member Graeme Clifford to the Public Safety Commission and a partnership with the Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families for an upcoming leadership summit.

The majority of the meeting was dedicated to a presentation that detailed the construction of Legacy Park, which the city anticipates will be funded from sources such as private donations, grants, state loans and city funds. The city currently has $6.1 million in public donations and grants, and is applying for $8.4 million in federal stimulus funding through the State Revolving Fund Loan.

The purchase price, planning and cost of the construction of the 15-acre Legacy Park has generated criticism from several fronts.

The city had purchased the nearly 20-acre property, along Pacific Coast Highway at Webb Way, where Legacy Park will sit, from the Malibu Bay Co., owned by Malibu resident Jerry Perenchio, for $25 million in 2006. The site is where the annual Chili Cook-Off has taken place for many years. The property houses three commercial building lots-one contains the Malibu Lumber Yard mall, slated to open next month, another the former Coldwell Banker building, which is listed for lease by the city, and another is occupied by the Malibu Coast Animal Hospital. Malibu residents and developers Richard Weintraub and Richard Sperber leased the Lumber Yard property for $925,000 per year. The city will receive an additional 30 percent of the mall’s annual profits after they exceed $2.2 million per year.

Some criticized the city for paying too much for the property. Others now say the city is spending too much on the construction. And yet others say the city should have done more to retain some sort of lumberyard/hardware business to serve local area needs.

In a letter to the editor this week, Malibu resident Bob Purvey wrote: “Millions of dollars and almost two decades of studies and reports that state the same mantra-Restore a Functional Wetland in the Center-is being ignored, misrepresented and manipulated by these council members in favor of developing their Beverlybu shopping center. As a result, this city council and their usual suspects are fostering a climate of lawsuits that could bankrupt the city. Furthermore, this situation is having adverse effects on tourism and the health of beaches downstream.”

Council member Sharon Barovsky said last Thursday, “I voted [to move forward with the construction of Legacy Park] right now because everyday we don’t build this park it’s another day of proven pollution in the water.”

Four local environmental groups-Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Baykeeper, Surfrider Foundation and the Malibu Surfing Association- filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s January approval of the Legacy Park project’s environmental impact report because they say it violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

All four environmental groups say Legacy Park, as designed, will not meet water quality standards and does not address Malibu’s water quality issue of disposal and treatment of sewage from commercial developments in the Civic Center area. The current plan includes only a storm water run-off treatment facility.

The council denied the appeal and approved the final EIR.

City officials say plans are in the works for a wastewater treatment facility in the future. The problem, detailed during the park’s initial planning stages in 2007 by head consultant on the project, Steve Clary, is that the 15-acre park is not large enough to treat wastewater through a system that would need to be fully dispersed on land. The council has since been looking for more land to purchase for a wastewater treatment facility.

“I voted on a philosophical approach [of the construction of Legacy Park],” Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said. “The city is serious about storm and wastewater. The city dedicated $300,000 toward a cumulative study on a waste and storm water report that should be finished by the end of this summer. In addition, we had the La Paz hearing many months ago. We gave up our city hall to implement a wastewater treatment facility in La Paz instead of a city hall.”

In face of the criticisms, the city is moving forward with plans to build the park.

Last week, the city decided on design issues, such as medians and parking. The council voted 3-2 against medians on Civic Center and bounced around ideas such as implementing three-hour parking meters or hiring Sheriff’s deputies to monitor parked vehicles by marking their tires to prohibit beachgoers from using Legacy Park lots for parking.

The council directed staff to evaluate the parking and discuss their findings in a future meeting.