Traffic concerns raised over SMC satellite campus


The proposed 27,500 square-foot campus would house about 210 students and 12 faculty members. A 5,700 square-foot sheriff’s sub-station and emergency operations center would also be built.

By Eric Thomas / Special to The Malibu Times

Traffic and parking concerns were top of the list last week at a scoping meeting for a Santa Monica College satellite campus as the project goes through the process of securing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The EIR consultant told Malibu residents their concerns would be addressed in the EIR.

The Santa Monica Community College District is proposing to construct a satellite of its Santa Monica-based community college as well as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s sub-station on Civic Center Drive. The proposed 27,500 square-foot educational facility would be built where an existing 23,882 square-foot decommissioned sheriff’s station is currently located next to the courthouse. The proposed Malibu campus would include the demolition of the existing sheriff’s station and a new two-story construction that includes a 5,700 square-foot community sheriff’s sub-station.

At the scoping meeting Thursday last week at Malibu City Hall, residents voiced concerns that the traffic currently being planned for could quadruple if the college and three other major projects in the Civic Center area were approved. Those additional proposed developments include a 146-room luxury hotel across PCH from Bluffs Park, five single-family two story homes adjacent to Bluffs Park, and a Whole Foods Market and associated development at Cross Creek Road and Civic Center Way.

Santa Monica College’s environmental consultant, Shane Parker of Parker Environmental Consultants, said traffic congestion concerns are being taken into account and that current counts will be evaluated and included in the EIR.

Joyce Parker-Bozylinski, Planning Director for the City of Malibu, added that Santa Monica College’s traffic data will be analyzed in conjunction with the data being collected for the other proposed projects.

“The city Planning Commission will rely on the EIR when they make their decision,” Parker-Bozylinski said. “If they can’t rely on the EIR, then the Planning Commission would ask for a supplemental [EIR report].”

Talks became testy when questions shifted from traffic to parking. Several residents demanded an estimate of parking spaces being planned for the campus.

An SMC official responded that the number of parking spots has yet to be finalized but gave a rough estimate of 180 spaces. The college’s planning documents say 0.85 spaces per every full-time equivalent student are required.

“We are limited by virtue of the EIR to run a program that can only run within the existing parking,” said Don Girard, SMC’s Senior Director of Government Relations and Institutional Communications. “We are in violation of our own EIR if we run a program larger than what it says.”

Current plans are set to accommodate 210 students plus 12 faculty and staff members, Girard said.

Planning Commissioner John Mazza, speaking as a private citizen, asked if the EIR would take into account an evacuation plan for the area should each of the other three major projects also be built.

Parker said those concerns would be included within the EIR and that all emergency and evacuation plans will be coordinated with Los Angeles County’s Sheriff’s and Fire Departments. Additionally, Parker said those plans would be coordinated at a multipurpose community room that is part of the proposed construction that would be converted into an emergency operations center for local emergencies.

While the purpose of the scoping meeting was to solicit residents’ concerns for study in the EIR, and not to discuss the validity of the project itself, many residents asked what the reasoning was behind SMC’s urge to add a Malibu campus.

Girard responded that SMC offered a full range of classes in Malibu in the 1970s and 1980s, but those programs died for various financial reasons.

“After analyzing our deficiencies…We determined a Malibu campus was needed,” Girard said.

When bond Measure S passed in 2004, and included $25 million for construction of the campus, the dream became possible.

“This is when the idea of a Malibu campus became real.” Girard said.

Parker told The Malibu Times Monday that the draft EIR would be completed “within the next couple months” and be made available for public review and comment.