West City Hall ranked low by panel

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Open space, low-impact uses favored for potential city land purchase.

By Vicky Shere / Special to the Malibu Times

A Malibu City Council advisory committee will recommend open space as the preferred use for a potential purchase of land by the city, ranking a city hall as No. 14 on the list of 15 recommended uses.

Eight Malibu residents, including Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern, attended last Thursday’s meeting and six speakers addressed the committee.

The 9.8-acre property located on the north side of Pacific Coast Highway off Heathercliff Road, which contains nothing more than a private nursery, is zoned residential. If the city were to buy it, a zoning change would be needed before any municipal facilities could be built there.

At the beginning of the meeting, committee member Jo Ruggles said that most uses proposed so far are prohibited by the General Plan.

“Western Malibu is restricted in its use. All rural residential character shall be maintained and commercial development should be limited west of Portshead Road,” Ruggles said, quoting Malibu’s seminal land use document.

Ruggles was appointed to the committee by Stern, who opposes building on property zoned rural residential.

Kathy Wisnicki and Daniel Stern, appointees of Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich, the leading proponent of municipal facilities on the site, did not attend last month’s or last week’s meeting of the committee.

Malibu Park residents Marshall Thompson [husband of at-large committee member Susan Tellem] and Alan Roderick-Jones cited traffic and lighting concerns in opposing municipal facilities on the land.

“We already have an enormous amount of recreational traffic with Zuma Beach, and Trancas Park is coming soon,” Thompson said. “The Malibu Park Homeowners Association is [also] aware that an agreement on nighttime lighting at the [high school] sports field has been breached. We are opposed to spot zoning. We should stay with the General Plan.”

Ramirez Canyon resident Rick Mullen echoed the zoning sentiment.

“The General Plan should be our defining document,” Mullen said. “Go for what’s in writing.”

Roderick-Jones and Point Dume resident Suzanne Guldimann led the charge for open space. “We should protect the open space. The area has a magnificent view, which should be retained,” Roderick-Jones, a production designer for the film industry said.

“Traffic is at a critical mass,” Guldimann said. She suggested unmanicured open space to take advantage of the view, and also pleaded for no ball fields. “I like the community garden idea to continue the agricultural tradition,” Guldimann said. “Any development must take into account the rural character of the area.”

The least favored use for the property was the senior housing/assisted living idea presented by Malibu West resident Ronald Weiner.

“The city has a disproportionate number of seniors and no plan for their housing,” Weiner said, presenting the committee with his one-sheet proposal for 80 to 90 units of senior housing. “The site lends itself to assisted living, which only needs 5 to 10 percent of ground space.”

Summarizing the tone of public comment, before committee members expressed their views, Lester Tobias, appointed to the committee by Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, said that low impact was the most important criterion for the ranking.

“The people who care enough to come here are saying less is better,” Tobias said.

By consensus, the committee used a spreadsheet of potential uses, impact considerations and comments prepared by committee members John Mazza [appointed by Councilmember John Sibert], Al Giuliani [appointment by Councilmember Sharon Barovsky] and Alan Berliner [appointed by Mayor Pro Tem Stern] to summarize potential uses suggested by the City Council and the public through last week’s meeting.

The finalized list and the committee’s report to the City Council will be presented at the committee’s third and final meeting Sept. 14.

Suggested uses, in order of priority, are:

1 Open space

2. Dog walking park

3. Demonstration/community garden

4. Neighborhood park

5. Playing field

6. Athletic courts

7. Skate park

8. Sheriff’s substation

9. Teen center

10. Senior center

11. Community room

12. Branch library

13. Annex library

14. City Hall

15. Senior housing [assisted living]