New Civic Center project to be aired

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Two projects will be considered simultaneously for the 15.2-acre La Paz Ranch property located between Papa Jack Skate Park and the public library. Project A consists of a total of 132,058 square feet of commercial development. Project B, a 99,117 square-foot, 0.15 FAR project, is proposed if the city chooses not to approve the Project A development agreement, which would allow a greater FAR ratio.

Planning Commission to consider revised EIR for La Paz Ranch commercial complex Jan. 22. Traffic poses significant problem.

By Vicky Shere / Special to the Malibu Times

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Jan. 22 on a revised environmental impact report for the largest planned commercial project in the Civic Center area.

Two projects will be considered simultaneously for the 15.2 acre La Paz Ranch property located between Papa Jack Skate Park and the public library.

Project A consists of a total of 132,058 square feet of commercial development. It entails a development agreement that includes the donation of a 20,000 square-foot space for a new City Hall, a $500,000 contribution to the city toward construction of the new quarters, pedestrian and bike paths, trails throughout the project and preparation of City Hall architectural plans at no cost to the city.

The development agreement would require a Local Coastal Program amendment and subsequent approval by the California Coastal Commission of both the development agreement and LCP amendment,

In exchange, the developer, Chicago-based Malibu La Paz Ranch, LLC, would be allowed to build a 0.20 floor area ratio design for the 112,058 square-foot retail, restaurant and office complex. (Floor area ratio [FAR] means the ratio of building size to land size.)

Project B, a 99,117 square-foot, 0.15 FAR project, is proposed if the city chooses not to approve the development agreement.

The revised EIR incorporates responses to questions and comments about the original report, said Stefanie Edmondson, of the City’s Planning Department.

A draft EIR was issued in 2006 and the Planning Commission held an opening hearing on the project last November. On both occasions, residents who live near the property expressed serious reservations.

“This is a big project and already there is a significant amount of development around the Civic Center,” Steve Uhring, head of the Malibu Knolls homeowners’ association, said in a telephone interview. “How will you get in and out of traffic?”

Besides the Papa Jack’s Skate Park property to the east, which is being developed as a 35,000 square foot Whole Foods market and 18,000 square feet of shops and eateries, the Civic Center area is across the street from the Malibu Country Mart and the Malibu Lumber site to the south (where there are plans to develop a 30,000 square-foot restaurant/retail plaza) and is around the corner from the Cross Creek Plaza shopping center to the east.

Depending on which configuration is eventually approved, the La Paz project would be as large or larger than the nearby Malibu Colony Plaza on the southwest corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Webb Way.

Even the draft EIR states “significant and unavoidable traffic impacts would remain” at the intersections of Malibu Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway and at Cross Creek Road and Civic Center Way during weekday afternoons, and “no feasible mitigation measures are available” for the portion of Malibu Canyon Road between Hughes Research Lab and Piuma Road.

In addition to objections to the EIR’s traffic estimates, Eric and Tamara Gustavson, who live adjacent to the property, are concerned with height and density, ground and standing water, noise, light, air and view issues.

Alan Block, the Gustavson’s attorney, emailed The Malibu Times that the Gustavsons recently submitted a report to the city on potential liquefaction and slope instability caused by raised ground water levels.

The portion of the land near Civic Center Way (Parcel A) would include seven buildings, five of which are single-story and two that are two stories. Ponds and wetland areas would connect the buildings. The upper section of the property (Parcel B) would include four two-story buildings, with significant landscaping. The City Hall portion (Parcel C), which includes a vehicular access driveway along the site’s west boundary, would consist of three buildings.

The Planning Commission is being asked to vote on both proposals as separate projects. Their recommendations will be passed on to the City Council for consideration. The development agreement would need final approval from the California Coastal Commission, while the smaller version would only need City Council approval.

A staff report and the revised EIR will be available for viewing Friday, Jan. 11, on the city’s Web site,.www.ci.malibu.ca.us, at the public counter of City Hall, located at 23815 Stuart Ranch Rd., and at the Malibu Public Library, 23519 West Civic Center Way. A special meeting of the Planning Commission to consider the project will take place 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 at City Hall.