Interim planning director hired on four-month contract.
By Jonathan Friedman/Special to The Malibu Times
The Planning Commission Monday night could not break a stalemate on making a recommendation to the City Council for a development agreement on a proposed restaurant/bar and spa at the vacant Windsail restaurant site. At issue is a requested variance to increase the size of the project proposed by Weintraub Financial.
Commission Vice-Chair David Fox and Commissioner Deirdre Roney are in favor of recommending an increase to the size of the project beyond the maximum allowed by city code, while Commission Chair Richard Carrigan and Commissioner Robert Adler oppose it. Commissioner John Sibert did not attend the meeting.
The city code allows for a structure to cover 15 percent of a parcel, which would mean this project could be 7,220 square feet. But Weintraub asked to be granted permission for an additional 2,335. The city permits this if a public benefit is offered in exchange. Weintraub proposed to open the dining room to nonprofit groups and quasi-government organizations Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Carrigan and Adler said that benefit was of minimal value, because most groups did not meet at that time. Carrigan added that if they did, any restaurant could offer its facilities during those hours. Richard Weintraub of Weintraub Financial disagreed.
“I can’t think of any restaurant where you could do something like this,” he said. “So the two commissioners that voted against it; I didn’t see any basis for why they didn’t see it was a huge benefit.”
Weintraub had originally offered to build a separate community room. But that would have required additional parking spaces, which the lot could not handle. Another proposal was for a monetary offer of $350,000, with the amount based on a mathematical formula. Roney said that was an opportunity for money that could be given to the financially strained Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Weintraub said he would be willing to do that, but he believed the community room had a better long-term benefit for the city. Commissioner Fox said he felt there was a deal to be made, but he was hesitant to support Roney’s idea.
“I’ve got a four-and-a- half-year-old kid, and schools are a big issue for me,” he said. “But philosophically, I’m a little uncomfortable saying ‘I’ll give you this because I need money.’ It doesn’t feel right for me.”
Carrigan and Adler said the amount of money was also inadequate. Carrigan said a short-term money gain was not enough to outweigh the possible problems of a larger structure such as parking issues created with less available space.
Weintraub said he needed the additional square footage to cover the money being spent on development. He said there were many fixed costs, regardless of the size, and the larger structure would allow him to generate the necessary return. Weintraub added that he would most likely be unable to take on the project if not granted the additional square footage. Carrigan said that is not the city’s problem.
“I find it somewhat offensive that the applicant would suggest or attempt to influence the commission to increase the FAR (floor area ratio) because of his inability or his perceived inability to service his debt,” he said.
Last month, when the project went before the commission, the members expressed concern about parking and how noise would affect a nearby condominium.
The commissioners worried that trying to run a valet system, as was proposed, in the tight parking lot could create backup on Pacific Coast Highway. At Monday’s meeting, Weintraub’s traffic consultant suggested if that becomes a problem, more valets could be hired to increase movement. However, he said he did not see that happening. Some of the commissioners were still uneasy about the situation, but said they would trust the consultant’s word.
As for the noise, the commission said the applicant had sufficiently made additions to the design to mitigate the effects on the neighbors. An acoustic study confirmed that. The condominium association’s president, Gene Monkarsh, said he disagreed. He hired an acoustic consultant, Dr. Hooshang Khosrovani, who said Weintraub’s study did not address the effects of voice volume among other things. The commission said he was not convincing, and suggested Monkarsh have a full study be done before the project goes before the City Council, rather than just have a rebuttal to Weintraub’s study.
Also at the meeting, Ed Knight was introduced as the interim-planning director. He previously served as the community development director in Dana Point, a city that has a combined planning and building department. He was hired on a four-month special contract.
City Manager Katie Lichtig said she does not think Knight will apply for a permanent position because he wants to go into the private sector.