Lap Pool Ban at Ryokan Hotel Upheld

Preparations for the Chili Cook-Off were underway the week leading up to the event, held at the corner of Stuart Ranch Road and Civic Center Way.

Malibu’s Planning Commission gave tacit approval Monday to a cease and desist order issued by the city against the Malibu Ryokan hotel, and the construction of a lap pool for customers of the $1,000-per-night inn.

The commissioners took no action after hearing from attorneys representing the hotel and city staff, who said the applicant was not exactly forthcoming when it applied to build the pool next to the hotel, on Pacific Coast Highway near two other new businesses blamed for traffic and parking woes on the highway: Nobu Malibu and the Soho Little Beach House. 

Owners of the hotel made a deal with the adjacent Tidepool Gallery, a former art house, to have hotel customers use the brand-new lap pool on gallery property next to the brand-new hotel, at 22752 PCH. 

Patrick Perry, attorney for the hotel, said the owners had invested in the pool in good faith, and voluntarily placed the pool off limits when the city informed them they did not have proper permits to open the health club and pool, no matter who swam there. 

“We had no reason to think that there was anything other than full approval for what we were proceeding to do, so now a significant amount of investment has been made in the property,” Perry told the planning commissioners Monday. “And then when everything was done, open for business, the health club, including the pool and the deck, was open for business, we received a cease and desist order.”

But Commission Chairman Mikke Pierson said the city’s tentative approval of the concept, on May 16, specifically pointed out that the health club would have to go through a permitting process, including proving the health club had enough parking. 

That did not happen, prompting the cease-and-desist letter.

“What’s caught my attention that’s frustrating is when (fellow commissioner) John Mazza and I sat on the deck with the applicant team to get that first approval, we said, ‘Clearly this is for the hotel,’ and they just said, ‘No, it’s not — just, it’s just for the office village not for any other usage,’” Pierson said. 

“We said, ‘Well, are you sure?’” Pierson continued. The reply was “Nope, just that.” He termed that answer “frustrating.”

Mazza revealed that he had tried to block construction of the hotel’s pool by appealing city council approval of it to the California Coastal Commission (CCC). But after the applicants promised the gallery’s pool was part of a health club and not the hotel, Mazza said he dropped the appeal, allowing the pool to be built. 

The Monday night agenda item was merely a report from city staff on the cease-and-desist order against the hotel, which has left the lap pool tantalizinglyclose to the uber-rich hotel guests but clearly marked “off limits.” 

The hotel owner is now asking the city to change the zoning map and certified Local Coastal Plan to allow hotel guests to use the pool, a change that — if approved by the city — would also have to be approved by the CCC. That process may take up to two years, Perry said.

In other action, the commissioners voted, 5-0, to approve the annual Malibu Kiwanis Club Chili Cook-Off’s permits for vacant land at the Civic Center, over the Labor Day Weekend. Commissioner Steve Uhring, who had opposed past Chili Cook-Offs as a loud intrusion on his nearby house in distant years past, voted in favor of it this year. 

Trancas Country Market received permission to increase the efficiency and capacity of its onsite sewage system. The shopping center has been struggling with a lack of sewage capacity for the two restaurants that it has city permission to open.

Owners said they may ask the city for permission to open an additional restaurant, but in no case will ask for configurations that seat more than the maximum of 220 seats already approved by the city. The coffee shop and restaurant currently open at Trancas have 140 seats, but the existing onsite sewage treatment system has been plagued by frequent repair issues. 

In addition, the Planning Commission tossed back to applicant Chris Cortazzo his request to build a new house at 28885 Cliffside Drive on Point Dume. The application ran into objections over its plans to build on a hillside.

A house at 29458 Bluewater Road was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Mazza opposed because he said city staff had composed a city policy defining basements, which had not gone to commissioners for a vote.

And permits for the Aug. 20 Concert on the Bluffs were enthusiastically approved.

Monday night’s meeting was the third for the planning commissioners this month, and all have stretched past 10 p.m. Commissioners asked the planning director not to schedule any more third meetings in any month, complaining the amount of work was “grueling.”