Still no story on what’s in store for self-storage

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The Planning Commission appears likely to approve a large self-storage facility proposed for Cross Creek Road, but one major sticking point — the actual size of the planned project — remains to be resolved.

Meeting in special session last week, the commissioners unanimously certified the project’s environmental impact report. The commissioners also spoke highly of the design of the facility, planned for just north of Civic Center Way, and its usefulness for the community.

“It’s well-designed, it fits well in the area and it’s a good, low-impact use,” said Commissioner Ed Lipnick, whose comments were largely echoed by the other commissioners.

But each also expressed an unwillingness to grant the variance required for the 56,366-square-foot project without some additional public benefit being provided in return by the developer, Mariposa Land Company.

Under the labyrinthine variance laws, a finding must be made that a variance would not conflict with the General Plan, which permits as dense of a development as that proposed for the self-storage facility but only if a developer provides benefits to the public in return. Public benefits include gifts of land to the city.

Mariposa, owned by members of the Adamson family, has based its variance request for the currently proposed density, in part, on previous gifts and sales of land the Adamson family has made over the years, including land at Bluffs Parks and 900 acres in Malibu Canyon.

But during their discussion of the project, the commissioners said they do not believe gifts made in the past justified the increase over the maximum density permitted without a variance.

“Whatever were the reasons for selling and giving in the past, that was then, and this is now,” said Vice Chair Andrew Stern.

Lipnick said the community recognized the gifts and grants in the past. “But the last time this happened was in 1986, five years before [the city’s] incorporation,” he said.

Trying to coax a final decision from the commission after three meetings on the project, Malibu Planning Director Craig Ewing said that without any additional public benefits from Mariposa, the commission could either approve the proposed facility without the variance or deny it in its entirety.

Chair Jo Ruggles responded she did not want to reject the project outright. “It’s been around too long.”

With that, Mariposa Vice President Grant Adamson volunteered that he and the other owners of the company would discuss whether to offer a new public benefit in return for the higher development density. Adamson agreed to present the results of those discussions at a specially scheduled meeting set for May 25.