City gets wetlands package in exchange for warehouse variance


Saying they wanted to take action on long-standing problems of Malibu Creek pollution and flooding of the Civic Center-area land, the City Council Monday agreed, by a 3-2 vote, to grant a variance that would permit building a warehouse with a greater interior square footage than that granted by the Planning Commission, in exchange for a “public amenity package” in the Civic Center area.

In other action in a relatively short (3-1/2 hour) meeting, the council unanimously agreed to place on the April 2000 ballot a measure to impose a 10 percent parking tax (which County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky would support). The council also approved a term limits initiative (limiting councilmembers to two terms) initially introduced by Councilman Tom Hasse and later refined by Mayor Pro Tem Harry Barovsky.

Councilmembers also unanimously delegated Hasse to write the arguments in favor of three measures on the April ballot: term limits and the city parking tax (Ballot Measures A, B). For Ballot Measure C, where voters are asked to advise how the revenue should be used, Hasse will write the argument in favor of using parking tax revenue to fund beach patrol, emergency preparedness, and parks and recreation.

To applause by about 30 Latigo Canyon residents, the council also voted unanimously to work with Yaroslavsky to reverse county planning department approval of a 93-acre, 400-person Latigo Canyon resort known as the “Yurts.”

Finally, the council voted to approve a tract map amendment that changes a 28-unit condominium development into six single-family lots on Portshead Road.

Wetlands project

After a presentation by City Engineer Rick Morgan on a “constructed wetlands” project in the Civic Center, and opposition by surfing activist Bob Purvey, the council approved 3-2 (Mayor Carolyn Van Horn and Councilman Walt Keller against) Barovsky’s motion to allow the Mariposa Land Company to have a 20 percent interior square feet density rather than a 15 percent density already approved, for a self-storage warehouse on Cross Creek Road.

In consideration for the higher variance, the company will also offer a 15-foot easement to construct a pipeline and pump station from Malibu Creek to Civic Center Drive and will pay the city $100,000 toward construction of the wetlands project.

According to Morgan, the project will: remove contamination from dry weather flows from up the watershed, enhance existing seasonal wetlands and increase detention of flood waters in the Civic Center area. “I’ve waded over boot-height water in the 1995 floods,” Morgan said.

“This is a very feasible project, it could be just a first step,” Morgan added, saying funding could come from an unused $1 million Proposition A grant.

In their comments, Councilmembers Barovsky, Hasse and Joan House, who were involved in negotiations with the Adamson family-owned land company, said it was time for action rather than words.

The approval would also send a message to other developers that the city was willing to work with them, councilmembers said.

“This is something the city has always talked about,” said Hasse, who thanked Barovsky and Grant Adamson for continuing negotiations after the initial Planning Commission refusal of the greater Floor Area Ratio. “I’m always committed to getting things done. We have the opportunity to do something with constructed wetlands, with access to Malibu Creek and Lagoon. I’m very excited about the project.

“If we don’t take the first step, other people will see we didn’t take action, Hasse said.

House, also thanking Barovsky for his efforts, said, “I too, feel frustrated just getting a start. We have to be innovative. We have water enhancing treatment and increased water detention in the basin. The possibilities are endless. We never know unless we start.

“The act by the Adamson family sets a standard for future developers,” she said.

“Words will not clean up the creek,” said Barovsky.

Van Horn and Keller were against the deal for different reasons.

Van Horn wanted to wait until the Wastewater Advisory and Public Works committees report to the council on wetlands restoration projects in Pacifica and Arcadia. The committees will tell the council how much land is required to treat how much water. “I’m very glad to hear that everyone really likes wetlands and constructed wetlands,” she said. “What concerns me is that we have limited information.”

Keller thought of the project as “smoke and mirrors,” adding, “We could always get easements by condemnation.”

According to Parks and Recreation official Paul Adams in an interview after the meeting, the 1992 “linear park” bond Morgan referred to specified wetlands in the Civic Center area.