Land Use Subcommittee looks for senior center location (Reporter’s Notebook)

They all crammed into the city manager’s office because all the other City Hall conference space was being used. They came to monitor and to make their pitch to the council’s Land Use Subcommittee, which consists of Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn. Keller and Van Horn listened, said little and made no commitments.

There was a specific proposal on the table for the Malibu seniors. Malibu Bay Company was offering free land in the Civic Center on which they could build a senior citizen center.

Even though the proposal was on the agenda, as has been the case with every other subcommittee meeting, the larger issues dominated, like the future of the Civic Center land (primarily the Chili Cook-off site) and the land near the Trancas Market and along PCH in Point Dume where the high school has its annual Christmas tree sale.

The city needs a senior citizen center, a teen center and ball fields to provide playing space for its burgeoning population of school-age children, which has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 in fewer than nine years. Those needs are expensive.

Realtor Elsie Muslin told the subcommittee just how expensive. She had been sent by the subcommit##-tee to research potential sites for the senior center in the Point Dume area. She came back with a half-dozen alternatives that might be available and are flat enough and centrally located. The average residential lot of an acre or so was about $500,000, and commercial, CN-zoned land was roughly $875,000 per acre, according to Muslin. That meant that land being offered for the senior center was probably going to be worth in the neighborhood of $1 million and the ball fields, which require numerous acres, many millions more.

Architect Ed Niles, on behalf of Malibu Bay Company, offered land in the Civic Center to the seniors for free or for $1 per year, whichever they prefer. In return, Malibu Bay Company wants to build its Civic Center project to whatever is allowed in the General Plan, phased over time. Malibu Bay Company wasn’t asking for any density bonus but wanted the city to respond to its proposals, which the city has never done definitively before.


Herb Broking, president of the Malibu Senior Citizens Club, said “We’re waiting to see what our options are, and we’re looking for what’s best for the group. We’ve taken no position [on location of the center] yet.” A straw vote of the seniors indicated 17 were for Point Dume and 13 were for the Civic Center. Keller indicated he favors Point Dume, and he also thought it possible that the Civic Center might turn out to be a wetlands or that the city might find the dollars to buy it.

Niles argued that the seniors shouldn’t be isolated and that in the Civic Center they would be around people of all ages, on flat land, and in the hub of shopping and activity in Malibu.

Besides the seniors, there were others from the recently formed group called PARCS,# who had come to hear about ball fields and other recreation space. The needs had suddenly become more acute since both the state parks and the coastal commission are now talking about getting the ball fields out of Bluffs Park.

An obviously frustrated group from the Malibu Bay Company told the subcommittee it had offered to the city seven flat acres in the Trancas area for the ball fields and the city had never responded. At roughly $875,000 per acre as Elsie Muslim had estimated, th#e company had put $6,125,000 worth of land on the table and they had no answer. Other Realtors at the meeting said they thought the estimate of $6.1 million was low because this land is flat, practically the last flat acreage in Malibu, and is contiguous and zoned CN, all of which they thought raised its value considerably.

The meeting broke without any resolution, and the participants were divided about whether anything had been accomplished. But it was certain something had changed. Development questions in Malibu, which had always been portrayed in the past as a moral battle between black-hatted developers and white-hatted environmentalists, had taken on a new visage. Those black-hatted developers were now kids in Little League uniforms, footloose local teens and seniors, some in walkers, all looking for a home, which the city can provide only by working out some sort of a deal with the people who own the land. That may be pushing some on the council in a direction they prefer not to go.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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