Beachfront project appealed 2 years after approval

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Music industry mogul Lou Adler, who owns a home next to the project, is behind the appeal.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

Although Deputy City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich advised against it, the Planning Commission voted to put on its agenda an appeal of a project approved more than two years ago. During the public comment portion of the meeting, music producer Lou Adler, his representatives and neighbors spoke about a Carbon Beach home already under construction. They said the project was improperly approved, putting it too far seaward than the city code would allow. Adler owns a home next to the project being appealed.

The home being constructed was approved in August 2001 through a plot plan review, which means it did not go before any government body, only the planning director. Former Malibu Planning Director Drew Purvis, who represented Adler as an expediter, said when the project was approved the city’s stringline rule was not properly followed. The older version of the rule, which applies for this project, prevents the building-out of structures seaward past the line of adjacent beachfront homes.

However, if at least 80 percent of the legal lots within a 300-foot radius of the property are developed with a residential structure, the property is classified as an infill lot. This would allow the planning director to appoint a stringline based on another home that is not necessarily adjacent to the property, thereby it could extend the front of the home seaward beyond its immediate neighbors. This was the case for this project, but Purvis said the infill lot categorization was incorrectly applied.

Adler said when the home is completed it will drastically alter the neighborhood, affecting people’s walks along the beach and his view. A large number of neighbors from the area spoke in his defense.

Attorney Alan Block, representing the owner of the future home, Bill Chadwick, said even if the project was improperly approved, which he said it was not, the Planning Commission did not have the jurisdiction to hear the item, because the time period had long since run out. Kovacevich agreed with him, saying that, at some point, administrative determination by the city staff must be accepted.

“This body … is without jurisdiction to hear this matter, period,” Kovacevich said. “There are no more administrative remedies to be had. It’s really that simple.”

Adler’s attorney, Edward Burg, looked to a portion of the city code that allowed the commission, among other bodies, to appeal any planning department decision at the request of an interested party, with no timeline specified. But Kovacevich said the interpretation is incorrect, noting that a person only has 10 days to file appeals. Kovacevich also noted this project has been looked at by all necessary segments of the city staff, including the planning department, the city attorney and the city manager.

The California Coastal Commission also approved the project, although it required the home to be backed up, but not as far as Adler’s representatives say it should have been. Adler had filed a request for the coastal development permit to be revoked. But that motion was rejected in January of this year. Commissioner David Fox said the fact that the project has been reviewed several times should not be a reason not to hear an appeal.

“I tend to lean in favor of allowing too many appeals rather than allowing none,” he said. “I think due process allows that. I’m a fan of finality of judgments. But I’m a bigger fan of due process.”

The commissioners also were concerned about a point raised by Adler’s representatives that the original approval was not properly noticed, not allowing him to appeal the decision within the 10-day frame. Kovacevich said it was true it was not noticed, but the city code does not require this for every project or else it would create an absurd situation in which every single permit had to be noticed in case somebody would want to file an appeal. Planning Commission Chair Robert Adler said to limit the ability of appeal to the 10-day period would create an equally absurd situation of people having to come to City Hall every day and be on top of every project staff is dealing with.

With the home being under construction already, the commission raised the issue of what happens now. Environmental and Community Development Director Vic Peterson said since he had never heard of such a situation occurring in his 24 years on the job, he had no idea. He said he would discuss it with the city attorney. After the meeting, Purvis said he had spoken with Planning Manager Mike Teruya about the project to resolve the situation prior to bringing it before the commission. Teruya, who declined to comment to the commission during the meeting, only shook his head when asked by The Malibu Times if that were true. He did not verbally respond to questions.