Coastal extends review period for La Paz project

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City officials are not concerned about any delays, saying that it will be at least four years until a wastewater treatment facility could be built at the site.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

The California Coastal Commission at its meeting in Oxnard last Thursday decided to extend its review period for two Malibu developments: the La Paz property on Civic Center Way and the Mariposa Land Co.’s 500-foot long rock revetment along the west bank of Malibu Creek.

Due to staffing shortages, commission staff was granted up to one year to review and recommend action on a Local Coastal Program amendment submitted by the City of Malibu on Dec. 31 to allow for the development of two commercially zoned land parcels and implementation of a centralized wastewater treatment facility on the La Paz property, located at Civic Center Way and Cross Creek Road.

In a telephone interview earlier this month, Councilmember John Sibert and City Manager Jim Thorsen told The Malibu Times that the setback of the La Paz development would not affect the city’s plans to implement the wastewater treatment facility.

Thorsen said the environmental impact review process and the final planning process for the implementation of a centralized wastewater facility treatment would take “several months” more than the Coastal Commission’s one-year permit delay of the La Paz property.

“The wastewater [treatment facility] isn’t going to happen in less than four years,” Sibert said.

Yet, development of the La Paz property could be delayed even further due to a lawsuit filed in December by environmental group Santa Monica Baykeeper, challenging the city’s approval of the property’s environmental impact report.

Don Schmitz, head of Schmitz and Associates, Inc., the development consulting and land-use planning company representing La Paz, said Tuesday in a telephone interview that it probably will not require a full year for coastal staff to review the application.

“I would have preferred if it [the application] was reviewed within the initial time frame [of 60 to 90 days after it was submitted], but I understand the staff constraints,” Schmitz said. “I hope it will be heard by early summer.”

The La Paz property applicant, Schmitz and Associates, is simultaneously proposing two alternative projects.

The first, the La Paz Development Agreement Project, proposes the construction of approximately 112,000 square feet of commercial space for office and retail uses, and a 20,000-square-foot City Hall or municipal building complex.

The second project proposes the construction of approximately 99,177 square feet of space for commercial office and retail uses only.

Included in the application is a Wastewater Management System Master Plan submitted by the applicant in April 2008.

Enviros, Mariposa at odds over revetment

Presented with a triad of different opinions from its staff, environmental groups and the Mariposa Land Co., the Coastal Commission decided to extend review time on its decision over whether to issue a coastal development permit to permanently retain and revegetate the 500-foot-long rock revetment, located along Malibu Creek next to the Cross Creek Plaza, that was built under an emergency permit in 1998.

“Our concern is this revetment wasn’t planned to begin with,” Sarah Sikich, director of coastal resources for Heal the Bay, said Monday in a telephone interview. “An applicant must come forward within 60 days of being issued an emergency permit or it is removed 150 days after. Now it’s 10 years past.”

Under an emergency permit issued by the Coastal Commission in 1998, the Mariposa Land Company, headed by Malibu resident Grant Adamson, built the 500 foot-long rock revetment to prevent further land erosion from the then-flooded creek.

Mariposa Land Co., which owns the thin, flat strip of land between the edge of the creek’s west bank and a low, concrete wall behind Guido’s restaurant, was “concerned that not only would he lose his land, but that he might possibly have some liability to the shopping center [Cross Creek Plaza] for not trying to stop the erosion,” Sherman L. Stacey, attorney for Mariposa Land Company, said Friday in a telephone interview.

The problem, according to environmental groups Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Baykeeper and Malibu Surfing Association, is that the rock revetment was built too steep, allowing water to quickly pull sediments from the creek’s bank, which pollute it and threaten the habitat of two endangered fish species: steelhead trout and tidewater goby.

The solution, proposed by staff and the environmental groups, is to lessen the steepness of the revetment to reduce the rate of sedimentation. However, their means of doing so are different.

The environmental groups recommend the revetment be removed and replaced with native vegetation or with floodwalls, which are vertical barriers placed along stream or river banks to contain flooding.

Staff, however, recommends Mariposa Land Company remove the rock revetment, grade the bank to reduce its slope and then reinstate the revetment.

Stacey called staff’s proposed solution “not feasible,” and said Adamson’s engineers estimated the cost of the procedure to exceed one million dollars.