Economic Plan may tilt against growth


They gathered under the name “Malibu Economic Plan Subcommittee,” but some may be more interested in agendas other than economic.

Although economic plans are generally linked to growth and development, members of a public advisory committee spoke out at last Thursday’s meeting at City Hall in favor of a more nostalgic view — a pristine environment and wild, natural beauty.

Marshall R.B. Thompson, a member of the 15-person committee, spoke of the need to preserve “natural state open space.” In addition to parkland, he said, the goal should be to keep the physical state of the land the same as when the Chumash roamed the California coast.

As for a robust economy, Thompson appeared to express the views of the group when he declared: “I do not want to see auto dealers, Macy’s, Fashion Island. I’m opposed to that to my toenails!”

Thompson forecast a world in 15 years in which most retail activity takes place on the Internet. Suggesting that only the beach life is an eternal reality for Malibu, he scored the presence of millions of visitors as an ongoing burden: “Squeeze the hell out of … beachgoers coming to devour our community.”

Sandra Stafford said she wanted Malibu to “stay as it is” and to continue to be “a nice place to live.” But she added, “We don’t want Malibu to go broke.”

Members of the group expressed strong support for a surcharge on parking for the 9 million yearly visitors, even though such an initiative was recently defeated by the voters.

Jannis Swerman, manager of Granita, tempered the anti-outsider sentiment with the observation that half her patrons drive into Malibu.

Mary Lou Blackwood called for a market survey to probe the extent to which Malibuites shop elsewhere. Ozzie Silna said the local community would never support the building of a mammoth shopping center. The question, he said, is whether Malibu invites outsiders to leave their dollars here and in the process degrades the quality of life.

The committee worked on a draft that cited the need to “preserve or enhance the quality of life of area residents” consistent with the city’s General Plan. The plan, adopted in 1995, calls for the “sacrifice of urban and suburban conveniences in order to protect the environment … lifestyle … and the rural characteristics” of the community.

The draft asks the consultant to address who the community serves, the goods and services that are available locally, who buys or uses them, and the goods and services that are not found locally. The draft asks how economically self-sufficient Malibu should be, as well as what additional goods and services are needed to cope with emergencies.

The draft directs the consultant to address a broad range of issues, including roads and mass transit, low-income housing for workers, high performance communications ability, and additional services such as auto repair shops and a farmer’s market.

The city of Malibu is expected to announce this month the hiring of a consultant to prepare an economic plan for the next 15 years. The cost of the project, to be completed within 60 days, is $24,000.