Malibu City Council members approved the latest Trancas Canyon Park design plan, which includes $153,500 in modifications for the $3.7 million park, in a 4-1 vote at Tuesday night council meeting. The council accepted the new design, despite support from some meeting attendees of a new alternative park plan drafted by an area resident.
Residents since March have battled over the originally approved development plan for Trancas Canyon Park, a seven-acre public park on a 13.5-acre site located at 6050 Trancas Canyon Road, approximately a half mile north of the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway. Supporters feel the park will provide a needed recreational area in western Malibu, while oppositionists believe it will detrimentally impact the environment and jeopardize the safety of the surrounding Malibu West neighborhood.
The original plan, which has been modified a few times since March after being appealed by residents who also protested the grading of a natural ridgeline, includes a proposed multiuse (practice-only) sports field, picnic area, tot-lot, dog park, a restroom/maintenance building, storage building, shade structures, onsite wastewater treatment system, parking area and a storm water detention basin.
The newly-approved plan, which incorporates $153,500 in modifications suggested by residents last month at a city-hosted workshop, decreases the overall size of the park to 6.68 acres to reduce the grading of the ridgeline; preserves the knoll, the hill area adjacent to the ridgeline; eliminates a planned basketball half-court; and reduces the size of the picnic, parking, dog park and play areas.
Several park oppositionists at the Tuesday meeting publicly expressed their support for a design plan recently drafted by Malibu resident Ron Goldman, who was hired at a cost of $2,500 by Malibu West residents to create an alternative to the city’s. Goldman at the meeting said his plan further reduces the size and environmental impact of the park, and would save the city $1 million in construction costs.
Though most council members did not oppose Goldman’s plan, they decided to stick with the city plan that, they said, has been analyzed by staff, engineers and the public, rather than spend more time garnering public feedback, and more money hiring consultants to formally examine the new proposals.
“I think the Goldman plan looks pretty good but I got it at 5:15 p.m.,” Councilmember John Sibert said during the meeting. “It came in at the last minute and it hasn’t had as much work done on it.”
Sibert added: “This is not a Malibu West park. This is a Malibu park for everybody in the community. That’s something we’ve lost sight of here.”
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who cast the only dissenting vote on the new plan, said she was not in favor of spending $3.7 million on a park that wasn’t a dire need or priority for the city, particularly given the current economy.
Due to the results of the May 19 Special Election, $700,000 could be slashed from the city’s budget if the state decides to acquire 8 percent of municipal property taxes to ameliorate its $24 billion-plus budget deficit.
Earlier during Tuesday night’s meeting, Conley Ulich made a motion to continue examining Goldman’s plan through community workshops and to direct city staff to see if his proposed plan would actually knock $1 million off the park’s construction cost.
“If we have the opportunity to save one million dollars in this economy and if we blow it, I don’t know what this city’s future is going to hold,” Conley Ulich said during the meeting. “But I am going to respectively request that everyone out there that is going to be using the park think how much you are paying for it. It’s almost criminal what we are going to do here.”
Regarding the fight over the park’s design plans, which has included a lawsuit filed by the Malibu Township Council against the city, Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said, “[Park proponents] are the ones who gave everything. They are the ones who did all the compromising.”
The Malibu Township Council, which filed a lawsuit challenging the environmental impact report of the park project, has said it would back down from the suit if the ridge and knoll areas on the park lot were preserved.
It is unknown if MTC’s lawsuit will be retracted with the new city plan, which reduces the size and grading of the park. and preserves the aforementioned areas.
Staff said the new plan was compliant with the current environmental impact report and the coastal development permit of the earlier plan for the project, and that no additional environmental analysis needed to be done.
Park supporter Justine Petretti urged the council to accept the city plan even though it included some major reductions to the park, and said she did not have an opinion on Goldman’s proposed plan because she did not receive it until the day before the meeting.
When asked by Councilmember Jefferson Wagner whether she would consider soliciting input from park proponents on Goldman’s plan, Petretti said, “This has gone and on and on. You have received tons of e-mails in support and tons of emails against it [the park]. It’s not time to hold more workshops. It’s not time to have more meetings. It’s time to make a decision.”