Malibu Playhouse ‘Memorialized,’ Will Continue Operating as Theater

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After lengthy discussions regarding the proposed use of the Malibu Playhouse as a recording studio, commissioners voted, 5-0, to approve a resolution to memorialize the community theater—granting it a permit to operate for the time being—with specific conditions. The property owner, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, requested the approval to use the theater as a personal recording studio for his own music, not to be utilized commercially—a request that Martin retracted by the end of the meeting. 

By memorializing the Malibu Playhouse, the resolution allows for the continued operation of the Playhouse as an existing community stage theater. Previous conditional use permits only guaranteed continued theater operations for one- and three-year durations at a time.

Approved changes include extended weekend closing hours from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. 

Conditions to the approved resolution restrict the use of specific theater spaces from being used for non-theater activities, for example, recording equipment and the office space.

This is a return to the theater’s closing hours established by a 1998 conditional use permit, which were also until 10 p.m. A 2001 conditional use permit moved the 10 p.m. closing time to 8 p.m.—according to the current applicant’s consultant, Don Schmitz, this change was done on the volition of the previous property owners.

Opening hours will remain unchanged, with the theater continuing to open at 8 a.m. 

Commissioner John Mazza expressed concern that there was no mention of a recording studio in the staff report.

The recording studio would add a new use to the existing facility, though there would be no new construction or change in the theater’s floor plan, according to city staff.

According to Schmitz, there were no physical changes proposed for the theater as a result of the recording studio. The playhouse already has mixing boards, amplifiers, speakers and instruments, Schmitz said. The applicant would follow the same constraints and restrictions already imposed on the theater regarding hours of operation and noise.

“We’re not proposing any physical improvements or modifications whatsoever,” Schmitz said. “[The applicant is] just saying when it’s not being used by the playhouse, by the [Young Actors Project], by others, he’d like to go in there and record his own personal music.”

Planning Commission Chair Jeff Jennings said he did not want to get into a discussion for a jurisdictional issue. Assistant City Attorney Trevor Rusin suggested continuing the proposal to the Jan. 21 planning commission meeting to include language regarding a recording studio in the staff report and resolution. Rusin said this would also allow anyone from the public to speak on the topic should they be concerned about the use of the theater as a personal recording studio.

Malibu Playhouse and Young Actors Project Executive Director Shoshana Kuttner has worked at the theater for 15 years. She said there had never been a noise complaint during her entire time at the theater, parking has never been an issue and the theater is completely accessible for those in wheelchairs. Kuttner spoke on the importance of the theater to community members, especially the youth.

“The interest in me having a permit to continue operating is really high,” Kuttner said.

Malibu resident Graeme Clifford, who has directed plays at the Playhouse, spoke in favor of approving the resolution. He said the theater does not have professional recording studio capabilities, but that he was not here to speak against that idea.

“We need to keep every arts avenue open that we have available, and this theater is the only one that offers space for plays, screenings, stand-up—everything,” Clifford said.

After contacting the applicant, Schmitz clarified that Martin will not use the theater as a personal recording studio unless it is directly related to the theater. 

Commissioner Steve Uhring clarified that the only recording that would be taking place would be in relation to theater productions, practices and the like.

“This whole foofaraw is a distinction without a difference. Any space these days is a recording studio,” Commissioner Kraig Hill said.

Lily’s dining area approved to expand

On Monday, Jan. 6, the Malibu Planning Commission voted to approve the expansion of local Mexian restaurant Lily’s Malibu, located in Point Dume Plaza.

The proposed changes include an expansion of the Lily’s Malibu service area by 199 square feet for a total area of 443 square feet, and extended hours of operation from 7:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m. daily to 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily. 

Planning commissioners approved an additional 20 seats for the expanded service area, which would take over the vacant R Quick Stop building. By demolishing R Quick Stop and taking the existing parking spaces designated for that structure, Lily’s would add a total of four new parking spaces. 

Lily’s conditional use permit application originally asked for 26 additional seats to be added to the expanded service area.

“I just want a little more space,” Lily’s Malibu owner Lily Castro said at the meeting.

Mazza raised concerns regarding the lack of a standard for determining service area.

“I don’t want to penalize Lily because I realize the type of graphic she utilized, but I do think the city needs a standardized service area calculation,” Mazza said.

Mazza suggested postponing the project for a year in order to first establish a standardized seating area calculation. He also suggested decreasing additional seats from 26 to 20.

“We can limit it to 20 seats, but we can’t postpone the decision about what’s going to be approved for this project,” Rusin said.

If Lily’s wanted to apply for more than 20 seats, the restaurant could do so after a new service area standard has been applied, Rusin said.

The Lily’s expansion would not require the hiring of additional kitchen staff, Lily said. All other restaurant operations would remain the same.

Commissioners voted, 5-0, to approve the proposal.