Council to vote on La Paz development


Opposition to the

project by several

residents remains strong.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

The City Council on Monday will vote on the La Paz commercial and office building proposal, a Civic Center area project eight years in the making that has faced severe opposition by local residents. Negotiations between one homeowner and the developer are at “a standstill,” one party involved said.

There are two versions of the proposal. One is 99,000 square feet and the other is 132,000 square feet. Both include a collection of retail, restaurant and office buildings ranging in size from 6,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet on the 15-acre property located on Civic Center Way between Papa Jack’s State Park and the Malibu Library.

The larger option would require an amendment to the city’s Local Coastal Program because of its size, among other issues. This option would require final approval from the California Coastal Commission. The smaller project would not need to go before the Coastal Commission, unless it is appealed. The larger project includes a development agreement with the city in which La Paz would donate 2.3 acres of land and $500,000 to Malibu to build a City Hall.

The Planning Commission in January recommended the council reject the larger project and approve the smaller one.

La Paz is a company created for this project by Chicago developers who initially submitted an application in 2000. The ownership has met fierce opposition on several fronts, including from neighbors Eric and Tamara Gustavson. Tamara Gustavson is the daughter of billionaire B. Wayne Hughes, a media-shy and private man who made a rare public appearance at a January hearing to speak in opposition.

The Gustavsons have met with the developers’ representatives several times to discuss various issues, including noise, lighting, security and distance of the project to the home.

“We have done literally everything they’ve asked from us in regards to redesigning components of this project and we have agreed to all limitations on the use,” said planning consultant Don Schmitz, who works for La Paz.

But attorney Alan Block, who represents the Gustavsons, said this week, “Things are pretty much at a standstill” when asked how negotiations are going.

Neighboring Sycamore Farms also opposes the project. Samantha Turner-Phillips, whose family lives and runs a business on the property, wrote in a recent e-mail to The Malibu Times that she has numerous issues.

“Specifically our concerns are with the enormous amount of additional traffic, noise, safety, security risk and total invasion of privacy,” she wrote.

Schmitz said this week, “The Sycamore Farms people aren’t really talking to us,” adding, “There’s nothing really more to talk about. We’ve done all we can aside from redesigning the whole project.”

La Paz has also met opposition from the usual antidevelopment crowd, who bring up various concerns similar to Turner-Phillips. Another opponent had been the Los Angeles County Public Works Department, which had said earlier this year there is not a large enough water supply in the area to deal with a fire. A deal has been reached that could possibly eliminate that as an issue. La Paz has agreed to pay $834,000 toward the construction of a $4.5 million water supply system, which includes an 800,000-gallon tank and several thousand feet of water main improvements. Public Works official Greg Even said last month the remainder of the construction costs would mostly have to come from future developers, with the county contributing about $1 million. He said the county does not have enough money budgeted to pay for the entire project, even to do it temporarily, until other developers start their construction. If other developers don’t chip in, La Paz would be delayed, Even said.

La Paz also has its supporters. Members of the public spoke in favor of the project at the January Planning Commission hearing. Schmitz, a Malibu resident, said people excited about the project often approach him.

“We have such broad public support,” he said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

The council hearing comes a month after the Planning Commission refused to hold a second hearing on the project. Although the commission had already made a recommendation in January, it was being asked to hear it again because a new wastewater proposal system had been proposed in the spring. But a majority of the commissioners said during the meeting that there had not been enough significant changes to the application to require another hearing and voted against holding one.

Deputy City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich warned the commissioners during the meeting that refusing to hold a hearing could create legal problems for the city, although he declined to go into specifics. Schmitz and other La Paz representatives voiced their outrage during the meeting at the commission’s decision.

Schmitz said this week, “I am troubled by the actions of the commission, but I’m not troubled by the appropriateness of this matter to the City Council. [A hearing] would have expressed the will of the Planning Commission, but ultimately the final decision is the council’s.”

La Paz Proposal

Version A:M

A 7.16-acre parcel that includes two one-story, 6,200-square-foot retail buildings, two one-story, 10,200-square-foot retail buildings, two two-story, 17,800-square-foot retail/restaurant/office buildings, a one-story 400-square-foot retail/restaurant building and a 346-space (198 subterranean and 148 surface) parking structure.

A 5.7-acre parcel includes two two-story 15,000-square-foot retail/office buildings, a two-story 7,200-square-foot office building, a two-story 4,800-square foot office building and a 197-space (39 subterranean and 158 surface) parking structure.

A 2.3-acre parcel includes three one-story buildings totaling 20,000 square feet for a City Hall and a 66-space (53 subterranean and 13 surface) parking structure. The developer has also offered $500,000 toward the construction of the City Hall.

Version B:

An 8.3-acre parcel includes two one-story 6,200-square-foot retail buildings, two one-story 10,200-square-foot retail buildings, two two-story 10,300-square-foot restaurant/retail buildings, a one-story 400-square-foot retail/restaurant building and a 292-space (198 subterranean, 94 surface) parking structure.

A 6.9-acre parcel includes two two-story 15,000-square-foot retail/office buildings, a two-story 8,800 square-foot office building, a two-story 5,500-square-foot office building and a 186-space (39 subterranean, 147 surface) parking structure.