Planning says clarification needed on MBC

Agreement would reclassify Civic Center area, amending the city’s General Plan and municipal code. May 7 is the deadline for recommendations to City Council.

By Jonathan Friedman/Special to The Malibu Times

Decision time is fast approaching for the Planning Commission on the Malibu Bay Company (MBC) Development Agreement, and many questions have yet to be answered.

The commission held its final public hearing Monday prior to the May 7 meeting, when it must make a recommendation to the City Council. But some of the commissioners are not confident what the quality of that recommendation will be.

“I’m not sure where we’re going to end up two weeks from now,” Commissioner John Sibert said. “But I’m doubtful we’ll have enough information to make a really sound decision.”

The MBC Development Agreement process has been a troubling one for the commission. It has been plagued with staff reports that come late and often lack detailed information, which some people blame on the unrealistic timeline set by the City Council. But Commissioner Deirdre Roney said she does not blame the planning staff for the problems, as they, too, have been harmed by the hectic timeline.

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“I’m curious why staff is being forced to provide us with these kinds of reports and why we are being forced to consider these over packed agendas in too small of a time frame,” Roney said. “What is so important to the City Council that it has decided to forgo meaningful recommendations from the commission?”

Roney spent about 15 minutes going through the staff report on the public hearing’s topic, which dealt with the seven Civic Center properties. She pointed out parts that she didn’t understand or felt needed clarification, and those she said demanded further discussion among the commission and city staff. Roney said the task at hand for the commission had entered the world of the surreal.

“Tonight, we’re asked to make determinations and recommendations on a project that through no fault, as far as I can tell, of the staff or the applicant, that might be illegal, is internally inconsistent, is factually confused … doesn’t have the necessary administrative steps taken that are supposed to occur before we’re even allowed to make recommendations on the project,” she said.

As part of the agreement, the General Plan would be amended to classify the Civic Center Area as a Town Center Land Use District, while the Municipal Code would be modified to create a Town Center Overlay District. Also, an additional two General Plan amendments and a zoning map amendment would be necessary to put the development agreement in compliance with the General Plan and the Municipal Code.

Four of the seven sites would be developed, while the remaining three would be left as open space. The Chili Cook-Off site, located on the south side of Civic Center Way between Webb Way and Cross Creek Road, would contain most of the development. Included would be an interior and exterior marketplace, a hardware and lumber store, a gourmet specialty retail market, restaurants, movie theaters, and office space. Also, eight office buildings are planned for the Ioki site on the northeast corner of Stuart Ranch Road and Civic Center Way, and an underground parking lot is proposed for the Island site on the southwest corner of Civic Center Way and Webb Way.

The proposal for the St. John’s site, located at the southeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Webb Way, sparked a great deal of discussion at the hearing. Under the proposal, the Malibu Urgent Care Facility, which is currently located at the site, would be torn down and replaced with a new building. The facility’s co-director, Dr. David Frankel, urged the commission to support the agreement for that reason.

“I believe the Malibu Bay Company will build a new state of the art facility in a more timely basis,” he said.

But Commission Vice Chair David Fox and Adler said they were not sure why Frankel thought they were getting anything more than just a building. Frankel said he had been led to believe that the MBC was going to do more than just that. He said his evidence was that the company had taken the time to form the Friends of Malibu Urgent Care, the nonprofit group which helps to fund the facility. David Reznick, MBC’s spokesperson, is a member of the group.

Also a member of the nonprofit group is Ozzie Silna, a vocal opponent of the MBC Development Agreement. He said a new facility is needed, but added that he didn’t believe the MBC needed to be included in the process.

“Why are we hooking the MBC in this deal, when all they are doing is taking down the old building and putting up a new one?” he asked.

Usually, at the end of the public hearings, the commissioners say some final words, giving their opinions on the various issues. But this time little was said, as the commissioners deferred their words to the next meeting.

“I, too, am saving most of my gas for May 7, which I am quickly running out of,” Fox said.

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

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