Commission Delays Approval of Bluff-Top Homes

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The view of the land next to Bluffs Park, formerly known as the Crummer property. 

A long-in-the-works project to build five highly visible bluff-top mansions next to Malibu Bluffs Park met with pushback at the Malibu Planning Commission Monday, as community concerns that the homes would obstruct ocean views caused the commission to temporarily deny construction permits. 

Located on a 24-acre site directly south of Malibu Bluffs Park on a site known as the Crummer property, four of the five homes are designed to be two stories, ranging from 24 to 28 feet tall and averaging 11,068 square feet. One of the homes is one story. 

Because it had not seen any floor plans or elevation information on the homes, the commission declined to recommend that the City Council approve construction permits for the project. It did, however, vote 3-1 to recommend the council certify an environmental report (EIR) and establish development standards for the project. 

As a result of the vote, the construction process faces further commission scrutiny as developer Robert Gold will be required to bring detailed site and elevation plans back before any construction permits are issued by the city. 

As the decision transpired, Gold voiced his frustration at having to come back for another public hearing in two or three months for the permits. 

“You’re cutting my legs off,” he told commissioners. Gold said the city’s planning department advised him to seek EIR approval and coastal development permits in conjunction, and he had hoped Monday’s meeting would result in positive approvals of both. 

“But this happens all the time,” Chair Jeff Jennings told Gold. 

Commissioner John Mazza led the effort to get more specifics. He argued it would be a substantial oversight for the commission to recommend City Council approve coastal development permits (CDP) for construction of the five homes without being able to examine the floor plans or elevation levels of each home. Both components are not currently included in the Crummer application, according to Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski. 

“I want to know how tall the houses are going to be,” Mazza said, referring to possible added height from each home’s location on the bluff terrain. 

Emotions ran high throughout two hours of public testimony, with many speakers opposing the housing project for its potential impact on locally coveted ocean views from surrounding areas like Alumni Park at Pepperdine University, the Malibu Country Estates (MCE) neighborhood and the Malibu Knolls neighborhood. 

“We’re in Malibu, it’s the ocean views. Why should we be denying the public ocean views in exchange of five mega-mansions?” said Bob Bruskin, a resident of the Country Estates. Several other MCE residents addressed the commission as well, arguing that the environmental report failed to recognize just how visible the homes will be off of Pacific Coast Highway. 

Supporters of the project ranged from the Malibu Chamber of Commerce to local recreational league representatives, who are eager for a two-acre donation being made to the city once the project is under way. The city is expected to build either a skate park or ball fields with parking spaces on the donated parcel. 

“There’s not many chances for the City of Malibu to gain field space like this project presents,” said John Myers, director of athletics at the Our Lady of Malibu School. 

Local hotel developer Richard Weintraub and his attorney Fred Gaines spoke out against the height of the proposed homes. Both have said the project would not only affect public views, but impact their proposed hotel across the street as well. 

“Clearly, putting big two-story mansions in the viewshed of that hotel will reduce the value of that hotel to the users, to the public, to the users that are going to come [visit the hotel],” Gaines said Monday. 

Weintraub and Gaines’ firm, Green Acres LLC, was behind a recent mailing campaign that criticized Gold’s group, Oaktree Capital, for wanting to “turn the largest profit possible” by building the homes. The one-page brochures were sent out to registered Malibu voters two weeks ago and encouraged residents to attend Monday’s meeting to speak out against the proposed houses. 

Commissioner Mikke Pierson was the lone “no” vote. Pierson said he wanted the project reduced to one-story homes and he felt the EIR did not properly address landslide risks. Commissioner David Brotman was absent from the meeting.