How do they build on those slopes?

Many architects and property owners say building under Malibu’s current zoning ordinance is somewhat of a gamble. “It’s like rolling the dice,” said architect Ed Niles, claiming the current procedures are arbitrary and confusing. Even on the flattest of lots, Niles said, “There’s no way that you can place a house where you aren’t violating something.”

Hopes are an upcoming workshop will help smooth the process of building on hillside lots in Malibu. At Monday’s meeting, the Planning Commission voted to hold a public workshop to allow public input on a series of changes proposed by the city’s planning staff to hillside building requirements.

Staff prepared a set of hillside provisions for lots on an average slope of 15 percent. Once a site has been designated a hillside, building would be subject to the proposed design guidelines and a site plan review. The guidelines are designed to help keep site planning, building mass, architecture, materials, color, landscaping, lighting and walls in line with the objectives of the city’s General Plan.

Niles said building laws must be sensitive to visual, ecological and mathematical needs, but added they should be straightforward enough for the potential homeowner to understand. Niles said the workshop could help everyone understand the implications of the staff proposals. He said the formality of a Planning Commission hearing doesn’t allow for much debate.

City Planner Craig Ewing said he hopes the workshop will provide “some solutions that can satisfy the community’s concerns for hillside development and the architects’ concerns for fair regulation.”

Ewing agreed the less formal setting may allow those concerned to “let their hair down a little bit and talk to each other a little more informally.”

Niles is urging commissioners to conduct a study of the area’s diverse terrain. According to Niles, the city’s diversities should be identified and logged in topographical maps that deal with issues such as flood plains and ridges.

The workshop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at City Hall.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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