Council approves Trancas Market development

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The council also rejects an appeal of the project, which asked for mitigation of noise and traffic, as well as a secondary emergency access.

By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor

During a jam-packed meeting filled with anxious residents, the Malibu City Council Monday night unanimously approved a permit for the remodel and expansion of the Trancas Country Market. However, council members also added conditions for the shopping center located at the intersection of Trancas Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway.

The long road of approval for the project has been a contentious one, with supporters and opponents arguing over size limitations, parking, emergency access and environmental concerns, in addition to the noise and traffic mitigation.

To the dismay of the Malibu West Homeowners Association, located adjacent to the shopping center, the council on Monday night also rejected an appeal filed by the association, which argued that the project lacked a second necessary emergency access easement and plans to mitigate construction noise and extra traffic. The Malibu Township Council supported the appeal.

?The Malibu West Homeowners Association is not opposing the project,? Mark Wetton, association member, said at the meeting. ?We want to see that it is developed responsibly. We reside in an overdeveloped box canyon with only one escape route ? and I don?t think it takes a genius to figure out that plants are not a [noise] mitigation.?

But some project supporters, including numerous Malibu West residents who donned brown baseball caps embossed with the words, ?Trancas Country Market,? said the appeal did not reflect the sentiment of the neighborhood majority. Other supporters said the project had been ?delayed to death? by both the appeal and an environmental lawsuit challenging the city planning commission?s approval of the project (which was dismissed by the Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this month).

?This development by today?s standards is very low key,? resident Brian Pietro said at the meeting. ?At some point we have to play fair and not use environmental concerns as a decoy, or a weapon. I think it?ll be terrific to have a market place where we can have a couple of family oriented restaurants. It would add a sense of community.?

Others in favor of the development, which also included some Broad Beach residents, said it would benefit the west end of Malibu by decreasing the distance residents drive to obtain everyday goods, creating jobs, keeping local tenants and boosting sales tax-?a large part of the city?s revenue. They also praised Malibu resident Dan Bercu, the project developer, for gathering community input on the project since 2007.

The requirements the council demanded for the project include mandatory 24-hour security, the storage of a container on the premises that holds various tools to aid in case of a disaster, and the addition of an easement bordering the highway on the west end of the shopping center that would serve as an emergency access way.

In response to the concerns regarding traffic, Bercu introduced public speaker Jim Jordan, a retired Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain known for his tough safety evaluations of Malibu developments. Jordan, with Sgt. Phil Brooks of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff?s Station, created an evacuation plan for the Trancas area and said that the easement proposed by Malibu West HOA for the east end of the shopping center would increase traffic, especially during an evacuation.

Pat Healy, Malibu West HOA member, asked the council to require that the project include a sound wall between the back of the shopping center and the edge of the Malibu West neighborhood to assuage construction noise. Mayor Pro Tem Jefferson Wagner opposed the idea because, among other reasons, he said, such a barrier would affect local wildlife. Instead, Wagner suggested the issue of noise be resolved with the implementation of a temporary use permit that would limit the types of events and the hours they?d be allowed to take place at the shopping center.

Described by both Bercu and Malibu West resident Doug Burdge, principal architect of Burdge & Associates which designed the center, as ?a shopping center created by locals, for locals,? the project will add 25,728 square feet of commercial space to the existing 27,695 square foot shopping center; a new parking lot north of the Chevron gas station; a new public parking lot north of HOW?S supermarket and an on-site alternative wastewater treatment system.

The resolution adopted by the council includes conditional use permits for two new restaurants, La Spiagga, an Italian restaurant run by the same restaurateur who operates Tra di Noi, and Malibu Diner. The project application also includes a proposal to enhance Trancas Creek by replanting native vegetation along its banks.

Bercu had originally planned on adding another 11,000-square-foot structure on the Trancas Riders & Ropers property located east of Trancas Creek, but he voluntarily withdrew that proposed development in response to a fury of public concerns last year.

Some council members suggested that Bercu donate the Riders & Ropers property, which is now for sale for $2.5 million, to the city.

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich expressed disappointment that Bercu did not offer a portion of the property for city use, as did the developers of the La Paz property in the Civic Center area.

?I would have liked to see a plan that included a community benefit like a lumber store, Sheriff?s station or library service station,? Conley Ulich told Bercu.