LCP amendments near finish line

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Council will vote whether to approve the city-drafted LCP mid-April. Zoning text amendments approved to streamline planning process.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

The City Council is one step closer to passing a new Local Coastal Program document. At its meeting on Monday, the council reviewed the draft it has been working on for more than a year. It made some modifications to the document after hearing public testimony, including from the environmental organization, Heal the Bay. Also at the meeting, the council approved an amendment to the city’s zoning code that is supposed to streamline the planning process.

At its next meeting, scheduled for April 12, the council will be presented with an updated LCP document from its consultant and city staff that includes the changes it requested on Monday. At that time, the council is expected to approve the document. There are series of possibilities of what could happen next.

The city will present the California Coastal Commission with the document sometime later in the year as amendments to the commission-created LCP, possibly ending the stand-off, in which no coastal development permits have been issued in Malibu for more than a year. However, there is also the possibility the city’s LCP could go before the voters as a replacement for the commission-drafted LCP. Whether that can occur is before the state’s appellate court.

City Attorney Christi Hogin has recommended the amendment approach, and the councilmembers say they favor it. But none support ending the litigation, since it would mean the city would have to accept the LCP drafted for it by the Coastal Commission. Council opponents, including those who are candidates in the April election, have said the city should end the lawsuits. Rather, they said, the city should approach the commission with amendments. No politician has recently said they support that the city accept the state-drafted LCP with no modifications.

Planning streamlined

The zoning text amendment, which has been three years in the making, includes numerous changes to how the planning process is conducted in Malibu. It addresses such issues as what types of planning should require certain types of scrutiny before permits are granted, viewshed privileges and several other topics. A portion of the amendment that sparked some controversy when it was first proposed, although nobody spoke in opposition to it at the meeting, was eliminating appeals on planning projects that only need a planning manager’s approval and require no variances. The councilmembers said the idea behind it was that it takes politics out of an issue that should only be about whether a project abides by the city’s zoning laws. They said if somebody believed the planning manager had made a mistake, a complaint could be made to other city staff members. Those who opposed the proposal said it harmed the opportunity to correct human error.

Other items included in the amendment were setting a limit on the lifetime of a permit before building must begin to seven years; requiring a person appealing a project to set the guidelines of the appeal within 10 days after making it; and that sea walls and bulkhead projects be classified so that they can be appealed. Also stringline determination, whether a beachfront home is aligned with homes next to it, can be appealed. In addition, a primary viewshed can come from any floor of a home or on a deck or patio that is not more than 10 feet from the home. Primary viewshed is the point from which a person stands in his home and has a view. Only one place in a home can be determined as having the primary view, and it is determined by the homeowner and the planning manager.

Also at the meeting, the council recognized the month of March as “Healthy Parks Month” and March 29 through April 3 as “Safe Communities Week.”