Several community activists say they do not want a wastewater facility on the Chili Cook-Off site. The mayor says she will support any location that will lead to cleaning the city’s polluted watershed.
By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor
A hearing last Thursday hosted by Questa Engineering kicked off the process toward finding property to house a wastewater/stormwater treatment facility in Malibu.
The Santa Barbara firm, hired by the city to conduct a study, listened to comments from community activists and politicians. Several people said they do not want a wastewater facility on the Chili Cook-Off site, the 20-acre property owned by the Malibu Bay Co. and offered for sale to the city, which stretches along Pacific Coast Highway from Webb Way to Cross Creek Road. Others, including Mayor Sharon Barovsky and Councilmember Ken Kearsley, said they would support the construction of a wastewater facility wherever it was determined would be the best location for cleaning the city’s polluted watershed.
The city is looking to acquire Proposition 50 clean water grant money to pay for construction of a wastewater facility and to purchase the land to place it on. The city also has obtained $25 million from the passage of Measure S last month, which is available for land acquisition. However, Santa Monica College also has a say in how that money is used, which must be for the construction of an educational facility and possibly ball fields.
Currently, there are three property owners who have offered to sell their Civic Center lands to the city-Malibu Bay, Yamaguchi Family Trust and Pepperdine University. Roy E. Crummer has also put his property located next to Malibu Bluffs Park on the market, a site desired by the city for the construction of ball fields. Yamaguchi’s two properties totaling 17 acres are located near City Hall and the Malibu Knolls residential area, while Pepperdine’s 9.2-acre property is located behind the old City Hall on Civic Center Way. Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy President Steve Uhring said the Yamaguchi and Pepperdine sites or a Malibu Bay property to the west of the Malibu Colony Plaza (which has not been offered for sale) would be good locations for a wastewater facility.
“We’re [MCLC] not opposed to a wastewater treatment plant,” Uhring said. “We just think someplace outside of the Chili Cook-Off area would be a good place for that.”
Bill Carson, who is usually not on the same side politically as Uhring and his MCLC associate Ozzie Silna, echoed Uhring’s concern.
“It is absolutely wrong to use such a beautiful site as the Chili Cook-Off site as a sewer system,” Carson said. “Imagine coming into Malibu and the key thing in Malibu is a sewer plant.”
Silna said the Chili Cook-Off site would be a bad location for a wastewater facility because it would destroy the chance for transforming the property into a wetland and a central park. Barovsky said she had spoken with Uhring and Silna in private conversations prior to the meeting and said she told them that she did not care where a wastewater facility were built, as long as it meant the city’s polluted watershed could be cleaned. But she warned of a possible consequence to using clean water money for buying a property other than the Chili Cook-Off site.
“We will not have the money to buy Chili, and that land will go back into play again in terms of development,” Barovsky said.
Uhring said in an interview Tuesday that he and Silna have been speaking to private Malibu residents about donating money toward a municipal purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. He said he and Silna have so far only taken a casual approach to discussing this with the residents, but starting in January they would “formalize the process.” Uhring declined to discuss what that meant.
Malibu Bay has offered to sell the Chili Cook-Off site for $25 million, with the city having until the end of 2005 to come up with the money. However, the city is restricted to what it can do with the property once it obtains it. Nothing can be built on it except for a wastewater treatment facility, not even something as simple as a jogging track. A letter was sent to the city in the summer laying out these regulations. Also, Malibu Bay attorney Dick Volpert and City Attorney Christi Hogin are meeting behind the scenes to discuss additional terms to a final deal. Hogin said at a recent City Council meeting that a new feature demanded by Malibu Bay is that the city would not be able to sell off the three properties-Malibu Lumber, Malibu Animal Hospital and Coldwell Banker-located on the land.
Questa is taking the comments obtained from the hearing and conducting a preliminary study. It will make another presentation and seek further comment from the community in late January. After further analysis, Questa will report to the City Council in February. It will then release a final report to the city in April.