Preferential treatment for Malibu celebrities?


Point Dume residents are appealing Planning Commission approval of Barbra Streisand’s 12,000-square-foot mansion they say is completely out of character with its neighborhood.

The project would tear down an existing 3,463-square-foot house and 735-square-foot attached garage on one of three contiguous lots on Zumirez Drive owned by the entertainer, who lives in one of the three bluff-top homes.

The City Council is scheduled to consider and vote on the appeal at its regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 13.

Residents of the Zumirez neighborhood say special waivers were granted by planning staff to allow overbuilding on a small lot and reducing setbacks from an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) on a primary coastal bluff.

This revives a long-standing debate over selective enforcement of development and design standards and whether preferential treatment is given to Malibu celebrities, particularly those who support political campaigns for City Council.

Neighbors appealed Planning Director Craig Ewing’s recommendation to approve the demolition of the existing structures and construction of the new project: a 6,795-square-foot single family residence, with 4,092-square-foot basement, and detached garage, with a 399-square-foot basement. The Planning Commission denied the appeal Oct. 18. Ewing did not return calls Tuesday.

At issue is the manner in which the city’s Property Development and Design Standards were applied, neighbors say. As written, the Neighborhood Standards apply where there are at least 10 developed lots within a 500-foot radius of the subject site located in the same neighborhood.

Opponents say instead of including all the houses within the 500-foot radius, the developer drew a narrow pattern of all bluff-top properties, some with addresses on Cliffside Drive, Gray Fox Road and Wildlife Street, excluding smaller, landside homes on Zumirez that are located within the 500-foot boundary.

Neighbors say all 41 individuals who own properties on Zumirez Drive have common deeded ownership of the neighborhood beach dating back to the 1940s, when this was the first neighborhood formed on Point Dume.

The three lots and two adjoining lots owned by others on the Zumirez cul-de-sac are surrounded by the neighborhood beach property, which includes a road and beach access easement.

The redrawing of the “neighborhood” to include bluff-top homes on other streets translates to higher average densities, allowing the applicant to justify greater height, bulk and square footage.

The average living space per acre is 2,584-square-feet for the properties within a 500-foot radius, according to calculations set out in the appeal. The applicant’s proposal would be more than 400 percent above that average, opponents say.

Neighbors are also concerned about protection of the bluffs and waiver of the 100-foot setback required for the ESHA. The Environmental Review Board made a special condition to reduce the setback to 64 feet, at its closest point to the main structure, which includes the large basement. The ERB considered it was important to include the basement into the total square footage allowed on the site, but the Planning Commission removed this special condition by amendment at its Oct. 18 hearing.

Neighbors say allowing such a large basement in close proximity to a primary bluff is an unacceptable risk. Water runs year round from the base of the bluffs, which “should alert us it is unreasonable to increase the density of allowed development,” wrote Eric Jacobson in his Oct. 25 letter to the City Council. Jacobson’s home is adjacent to the subject property.

The original design for the main structure also exceeded the allowed proportion for second stories, which is a maximum two thirds of the ground floor. Architect Robert Shachtman reportedly has adjusted the plans to accommodate this provision. Shachtman refused to comment on the project Tuesday.