Zumirez Drive easement to stay with city, not property owner

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The council also accepted recommendations from the Public Safety Commission on Pacific Coast Highway bicycle safety at its Monday night meeting.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Saying it was keeping with precedent, the City Council voted unanimously on Monday to keep the city in control of a 5,200-square-foot section of land on Zumirez Drive off Pacific Coast Highway.

The area in question sits between Pacific Coast Highway and a new segment of Zumirez Drive created after the road was realigned earlier this year. According to the city, the area is an easement dedicated to the city from the properties on each side of the area. Thomas Antario, who made a settlement with Malibu to allow for the realignment project, owns one of those properties. The other property is owned by Michael Novotny’s Prudential Realty office.

Novotny attended the meeting and said he would prefer his portion of the easement be returned. His wife and fellow Realtor, Kate Novotny, said, after the meeting, that it was so they could make sure the area was properly landscaped. Michael Novotny said there was also a plan to develop the property.

The council members said in the past that the city had not given up easements or public property when asked, and it did not want to break precedent.

“I have heard no reason why we should abandon this easement,” Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said. “I think we should keep it. I think we are in a very happy position here.”

The council said in its resolution that nearby homeowners should submit a landscaping plan, which would be voted on by the council. Michael Novotny said after the meeting that he accepts the council’s decision, although he would have preferred it had been a different one.

PCH safety recommendations made

Also at the meeting, the council accepted recommendations from the Public Safety Commission on Pacific Coast Highway bicycle safety issues. Several bicyclists attended its meeting last Thursday. The recommendations, according to the city, will serve as direction for Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and Public Safety Commission Chair Carol Randall when they serve as representatives for the city on Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s PCH Task Force, which meets later this month.

The recommendations include: imposing a time limit for the temporary closure of an easement shoulder; that the California Department of Transportation establish a policy restricting the permitting of non-vehicular obstructions; that Caltrans improve highway maintenance; public service announcements should be aired regarding rules of the road; the state should add bicycle rules to the Department of Motor Vehicles manuals; law enforcement should implement the law requiring bicyclists to ride as close to the right-hand edge of the highway as possible; and that Caltrans put up warning signs in dangerous riding areas of the highway.

The council approved another recommendation raised by Conley Ulich at Monday’s meeting that bicycle use be promoted in areas where it is safe to ride, which could include the creation of bicycle lanes. Councilmember Jeff Jennings said he was hesitant about doing that because, he said, it, in effect, promoted people riding in areas where it is not safe. But Conley Ulich said that concern could be satisfied by encouraging people to use the new PARKlink Shuttle from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which has a stop on Zuma Beach, and can carry bicycles through the unsafe riding areas.

“It’s my hope that my grandkids will be able to enjoy biking on PCH from Northern Malibu, west of Trancas, all the way to Oxnard,” Conley Ulich said. “Maybe it will be because by that time gas won’t be here and the automobile will be extinct.”

Bicycle safety has been an issue in Malibu for years, but it has reached new heights since Sept. 10 when two bicyclists were killed after being hit by a truck while riding on Pacific Coast Highway.

Money for parks and greenery

Additionally at the meeting, the council unanimously voted for the city to apply for a $925,000 grant for its Las Flores Creek restoration program. According to the city, Malibu needs about $1.7 million to construct park elements and for creek restoration. The city will need to put up $812,000 of its own money for the project. Of that money, $521,000 would come from the city’s reserve for capital improvement projects and another $291,000 would come from the General Fund reserve.

Lastly, the council approved the creation of a fund for the Malibu Green Machine. The nonprofit organization is seeking funds to landscape Malibu. Its current projects are landscaping the medians on Pacific Coast Highway and the implementation of the Palm Court at Zuma Beach. The fund will allow people to donate money to it through the city.