The battle for the Civic Center

Round two of the 15-round battle over the fate of the Malibu Civic Center is currently before the City Council in a series of public hearings.

In this round the council has to decide if it wants to send the proposed plan out for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

If the plan is set out for an EIR, a consulting company will be hired to evaluate the proposal, assess the environmental damages, if any, suggest some mitigation alternatives, and hold public hearings and take public comment. It ultimately comes back with a very fat report, which then becomes the basis for a series of further public hearings by the Planning Commision and then the City Council.

Whereas round one was a private negotiation between the Malibu Bay Company and the City of Malibu, represented by the Ad Hoc Committee of Tom Hasse and Joan House, this current round is the beginning of the public process where the opposition gets to give their input publicly.

In the two hearings held to date, the 20 or so opponents of the proposed plan have been coming to the podium to rail against the plan and to demand that the City Council short-circuit the entire process and not even bother to send it out for an EIR. Their message to the council is basic and simple–vote it down and end it now. And, just in case the council isn’t listening, they intend to back up that message with a campaign for a ballot initiative. Signatures are now being collected at several of the Malibu markets to require that all commercial projects of more than 25,000 square feet and requiring a variance, which is most projects, should first go to a vote of the people of Malibu.

Who are these people and what is their message?

Many of those who appeared to speak against the plan are the operational political cores of the Malibu Zero-growth movement. Although a few are new faces, many have been around from before the beginnings of Malibu cityhood (see the roster of the players), actively involved in the past and generally successful in the arena of Malibu cityhood politics. They were the proponents of many of the alphabet soup organizations of Malibu politics. Organizations like MGM, Stop, Road Worriers . Over the years, particularly lately, there have been defections or expulsions, depending on your point of view, of some of the less zealous zero-growthers. In fact, four of their former members and allies, Joan House, Ken Kearsley and two of their best political brains Tom Hasse and Sharon Barovsky, now sit on the City Council. The relationship between these former friends and the current zero-growthers is, at best, strained.

As a political force their first really major defeat was in the last City Council election when the patron saints of the zero-growth movement, Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn, were overwhelmingly rejected at the ballot box by a margin of almost 2 to 1 in every single precinct in Malibu. The zero-growth battle against the proposed Civic Center plan and their championing of the initiative is the beginning of their battle for political resurrection. Their appearance in force at these hearings is, despite what they profess, not really a serious attempt to block the council sending the proposed plan out for an EIR, which it most certainly will do unless there are some major defections. What it does provide is an organizational and fund-raising tool to help raise money for the initiative drive and to try and rebuild a core group for the upcoming November council election, They most probably will run a candidate for the completion of Harry Barovsky’s seat, now held by Sharon Barovsky by council appointment.

The major arguments they’ve put forward in opposition to the proposed development plan are these:

  • The Civic Center area should be down zoned
  • The city or some agency should take the Civic Center land by eminent domain
  • The development will create significant wastewater problems
  • Variances and density bonuses are being granted and we’re not getting enough back in return
  • Instead, we should have a city bond issue to buy the Civic Center
  • There has been no independent appraisal of the land value
  • There should be an EIR for the entire Civic Center and not just the Malibu Bay Company land, which is roughly half of the Civic Center.

There are, of course, many more arguments against the project and many rebuttals to those arguments. As this paper hits the streets, the last of the three public meetings is being held. The issue then returns to the council on July 12 for a vote whether to send the plan out for an EIR. If they vote to send it out for an EIR, there will be a public notice to alert everyone, including all the interested public agencies, to give an opportunity to indicate what they would like to see included in the EIR. All the steps and procedures are dictated by the California Environmental Quality Act. (CEQA)

Malibu Bay Company deal

Malibu gets:

  • 20-year agreement with amenities, which include a 18.87 acre Pt. Dume parcel gifted to the city
  • $5 million gift to toward building community center/ ballfields
  • 25.54 acres given to wetlands/ open space

Three parcels in the Civic Center

One parcel in Trancas

  • 10 year delay in building out on the 19.61 acre Chili Cook-off site and adjacent one-acre site
  • Overall reduced commercial square footage from the IZO and general plan

Malibu Bay Company gets:

  • 122,261 square feet of new commercial space

89,000 in Civic Center

33,261 in Trancas

  • 20 new single-family homes in the Trancas and Trancas Beach area
  • In 10 years, the right to build another 155,046 square feet in the Civic Center to include four theaters with a total maximum of 500 seats.
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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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