Project approval awash in runoff


Planning commissioners grappled Monday with environmental, esthetic and floor-area-ratio (FAR) issues for a self-storage facility on Mariposa Land Company property on Cross Creek Road.

Alternative proposals were reviewed for the 56,366-square-foot facility, located in a commercial zone opposite the GTE building and adjacent to Malibu Masonry.

Variances were sought for an increase in height over the base 18-foot height limit and an increase in the FAR over the base 15 percent.

Commission Chair Jo Ruggles took issue with several items she said were not fully described in the project Environmental Impact Report (EIR), including technical information on hydrology, how toxic waste would be disposed of and mitigation for runoff into Malibu Creek.

Joseph Power, consultant on the EIR, explained that, by definition, the EIR is not meant to contain a lot of technical data. “CEQA directs that it’s to be 125 pages or less,” he said. “It discourages exhaustive data and is written in nontechnical language so decision makers can understand it.”

“We don’t want anything that produces runoff into the creek,” Ruggles said. “And how does the UCLA study impact this? We want to make sure we’re not doing something really stupid here.”

Steve Hunter, vice president of Land Design Consultants, described in detail how the plan mitigates runoff with a series of check dams and a large area on the north side of the building, at lower grade level, where water will percolate into the soil. The area, first planned as an orchard, was changed to a rustic meadow planted in native grasses, shrubs and trees, which would require no fertilizers or soil amendments and only enough irrigation to comply with the L.A. County Fire Code. “The meadow has more filtering capability than the orchard,” Hunter said.

Norm Haynie, who chairs the Wastewater Advisory Board, said the concept is the same as City Engineer Rick Morgan has recommended for other areas around the creek and lagoon. “They work extremely well in flood areas. As water comes up and sits, it forces percolation into the ground.” As to whether the orchard or meadow would work better, Haynie said, “If you’ll excuse the pun, it may be a wash.”

Commissioner Charleen Kabrin said she was concerned about the visual impacts of the building. “The size and scale is commensurate with a two-story house with a sloping roof. Horizontal and vertical offsets, the landscaping, are taken right from the General Plan specifications,” architect Bruce Jordan said. Then, Kabrin asked whether projected impacts from the possible removal of Rindge Dam had been addressed in the EIR.

Commissioner Ed Lipnick said, “I don’t see how anything available on Rindge Dam could be of any help.”

In the end, commissioners requested more information be provided on impacts and voted to continue the discussion until May 11. “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” said Commissioner Ken Kearsley.