Build Malibu Better: What Is a ‘Maximum Day’ and What Does It Mean for Residential Development?

Paul Grisanti

I’d like to start by recognizing Public Safety Commissioner Andy Cohen who coordinated, set up and ran the Malibu Safety and Preparedness Expo at The Trancas Country Market Center this past Saturday. He did a terrific job corralling lots of interesting resources for building a more resilient community along with many interesting panels to see and hear.

Last week, I spent some time in conversation with a homeowner who was trying to unravel the fire flow requirements for his neighborhood. I explained the new standard of 1,250 gallons a minute for one hour is now in effect everywhere in Los Angeles County. This standard assumes a home of no more than about 3,500 square feet. A larger home will require more flow. Twelve-hundred fifty gallons times 60 minutes equals 75,000 gallons. Now, here is where it gets complicated: District 29 Water has a factor called “Maximum Day” which must be added to the 75,000 gallon figure above. “Maximum Day” is the maximum historical daily water use in the area served by the water tank. This number will vary in each neighborhood. The standard attempts to predict how much water would remain in the tank after a summer day of water use if the 30-inch water main that supplies Malibu shuts down. 

I called District 29 Engineer Dave Rydman who consulted the records and came up with 50,000 gallons for the neighborhood we were discussing. Suddenly, the homeowner and I were aware that the existing 100,000 gallon water tank was actually 25,000 gallons too small to allow the construction of a 3,500-square-foot home in that neighborhood. I fear that further investigation will confirm that the water tanks that were deemed “undersized” in the March 2016 EIR for the District 29 Master Plan will still need enlarging, just not as much. None of those tanks are within the Woolsey Fire Area except the Encinal tank. District 29 is already full speed ahead on the Encinal solution. 

The controversy over the ordinance that is being drafted by planning after some very specific instructions from four out of five of the City Council members (Karen Farrer was the lone holdout) continues to grow. Property owners are receiving their parcel specific mailers from a group called TDSF. Each mailer contains an aerial photo of their property and a calculation of the impact of the ordinance on the property. Many have been shocked that their existing home is significantly larger than four out of five council members think is appropriate. Worse are those who have held a vacant or underdeveloped property for years only to find that this ordinance will prevent any economic development of their property at the former value. The above is Realtor-speak for “The value of an underdeveloped or vacant property will plummet.”

I have learned that the planning department is hoping to complete the drafting and release the proposed ordinance possibly this Thursday—Friday the 21st for certain. The ordinance will be heard at the Planning Commission at their July 1 meeting. Please attend this meeting and let them know how you feel about this. I’m sure the City Council will be watching.