Commission looks at little houses on the hillside

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The Malibu Planning Commission is taking a close look at how the area’s hillsides should look. In a workshop this weekend, the commission will hear input from staff, designers and architects before revamping the city’s zoning code.

“We hope to have the commission establish direction for future zoning changes, especially with regard to hillside development,” said Planning Director Craig Ewing. The commission will be looking at issues of structure size, slope density, landscaping, basements, parking, height and color restrictions and buildable area.

At Monday’s meeting, Ewing asked commissioners to clarify their goals for the city, in order to make greater progress at the workshop. “Tell us what you want to regulate and we’ll give you the tools to regulate it,” Ewing said. “If you want to regulate design, say so and we’ll show the ways to do it. If you want to regulate grading, we can show you the ways to do that.”

One problem with pinpointing trouble spots in the city ordinance is that most of the development was built under Los Angeles County standards, which allow for more height, greater bulk and more extensive grading. The city is just 7 years old, and its interim zoning ordinance is only 5. “We don’t have a lot of new development in this community built under the IZO,” said Ewing. Because of that, Ewing said there may not be “enough progress to tell us whether or not our rules work.”

Also at that meeting, the commission postponed discussion of a proposed 4,978-square-foot storage facility to be built near Pacific Coast Highway and Kanan Dume Rd. The land is zoned for commercial use and the proposed structure meets current zoning code, but, because of the nature of the business, a Conditional Use Permit must be obtained.

The plans called for access to the facility from Kanan Dume Road, but neighbors objected and staff asked them to rethink their plans. “They’ve asked us to enter and exit off of Pacific Coast Highway,” said Don Schmitz, a consultant for the project. “We do want to take the path of least resistance,” Schmitz told commissioners. “We’ve been working with the city for several years on this.” Schmitz said the plans were redesigned and once again submitted to the city Tuesday morning.

Ewing said he expects the project to ultimately gain approval. “The commission has looked at it twice now,” said Ewing. “I’ve not heard them say that this doesn’t belong here.”

In other business, the commission approved plans for HRL Laboratories (Hughes) to build a 3,456-square-foot greenhouse at its Malibu Canyon Road location. HRL plans call for the greenhouse to be used for research on plant growth.