Pepperdine willing to donate land to city

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A development deal may be needed for the donation, which would allow rezoning for the 9.2-acre property located behind the old City Hall.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

Pepperdine officials said the university and its partners in the Malibu Residential Housing Group were interested in donating two acres of the 9.2-acre Wave property, located behind the old City Hall on Civic Center Way, to the city as part of a development agreement.

Dennis Torres, the university’s real estate director, said with an agreement, Malibu Residential (of which Pepperdine is a general partner, First American Title Co. and attorney Paul Shoop are limited partners) would like to get a variance to increase the amount of square footage it is allowed to construct on the property, which is currently zoned for office buildings.

The Wave property has become a city target for acquisition since Questa Engineering Corp. reported last month that it was the best Civic Center area property for a wastewater/storm water treatment facility, which the city wants to build to curb pollution of Malibu’s watershed. The two acres offered by Malibu Residential would be more than enough land to fit the facility based on the Questa report.

“I’m very pleased with the way things are going,” Mayor Sharon Barovsky said. “If we can get a donation of land, that would go a long way in helping clean up the pollution in [the Malibu watershed].”

Former Planning Commissioner Richard Carrigan, who has been an ally of Barovsky’s recently in the quest for Malibu land acquisition, said he was pleased Malibu Residential was offering to donate the land, but was cautious about a development agreement. Carrigan has been an opponent of previous development agreements. As a planning commissioner in 2003, he opposed an agreement with Weintraub Financial, which was eventually approved by the City Council, that allowed the company to build a larger restaurant than allowed by city zoning laws in exchange for a monetary donation to the city and Weintraub’s promise to allow the restaurant to be used as a community room during certain hours. Carrigan also led the campaign against the Malibu Bay Co. Development Agreement later that year. That agreement, which was rejected by voters, would have allowed Malibu Bay to develop beyond the city code on several properties, while deed-restricting others and possibly selling the Chili Cook-Off site to the city.

“Certainly two free acres and a place to put our wastewater treatment facility is a great thing,” Carrigan said. “It’s what’s on the other side of the equation that is at issue. If it’s a good deal for Malibu and Pepperdine, that’s fine. But if it’s like the Malibu Bay Co. agreement where they [Pepperdine] get everything and the kitchen sink, that would be another issue.”

According to the city’s General Plan, a maximum of 15 percent of a property can be developed. But if a donation is made to the city, based on calculations, as much as 20 percent of a property with the Wave site’s zoning can be developed.

Torres’ comments that Malibu Residential was interested in forming a development agreement came after a letter was sent to Councilmember Ken Kearsley on April 1 from Malibu Residential attorney Thomas Gehring stating that the group was interested in either selling or donating two acres of the Wave property to the city. No discussion has taken place between the city and Malibu Residential on concrete details for a development agreement.

Prior to Gehring’s letter, the city had received no official statement from Malibu Residential on whether it was interested in donating or selling the Wave property to the city. However, Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy member Ozzie Silna had received a letter from Torres last fall stating that Malibu Residential “would entertain offers to sell” the entire Wave property “in the $11 million range.” Silna has been one of the leaders in the attempt acquire vacant property for the city. He could not be reached for comment about the latest news. MCLC President Steve Uhring had only brief words.

“It’s an interesting offer from Pepperdine,” Uhring said. “Let’s see what the city does with it.”

Meanwhile, Barovsky, Kearsley, City Manager Katie Lichtig and Malibu’s grants coordinator Barbara Cameron spent this week in Sacramento at a clean water conference, where several major environmental groups and politicians were in attendance. City officials met with various people and groups who might be able to help Malibu with acquiring the money to purchase vacant property and a wastewater facility. Malibu has also sent out at least two grant applications.

The city is still looking to acquire the Chili Cook-Off site, a 20-acre property that stretches along Pacific Coast Highway from Webb Way to Cross Creek Road, both for its connection to a wastewater/storm water treatment plan and to take the property out of the commercial market. Owner Malibu Bay has offered to sell the property for $25 million if the city can come up with the money by Dec. 31. Also, the Yamaguchi Family Trust’s package of two properties totaling 17 acres near City Hall and the Malibu Knolls has been offered to Malibu for $20 million. But the city could become disinterested in that property, which insiders say has an inflated price tag, if it were able to acquire the Wave site.

There is also a public desire for a municipal purchase of land for sports fields and possibly a dog park. At Monday’s City Council meeting, the council will consider whether to create a formal public agency that will be in charge of raising funds for those purposes. A 10-member committee appointed by the council would head the agency. Also, prior to the council meeting, Barovsky will lead a public discussion on creating a dog park. The 22-acre Crummer property, which is located adjacent to Bluffs Park and on the market for $26 million, has been eyed as a site for sports fields.