Open area still an open question

Malibu Bay Company officials, presenting their plan to the Business Roundtable, say they have received mostly positive feedback on the architectural models for their proposed Civic Center project, but they are wary that some City Council members may have plans in the works that would lower the property’s current market value.

The models, on display at the office of architect Ed Niles, depict the 170,000 square feet of retail space proposed for the Chili Cook-Off site, and a 60,000-square-foot office complex proposed for the northeast corner of Stuart Ranch Road and Civic Center Way.

Lyn Konheim, of the Malibu Bay Company, told members of the Business Roundtable last week that 80 percent of the proposed retail complex is one-story and more than half the property is left as open space. He described its architectural style as “barn-like,” with corrugated roofs. The entire proposed development, with a turf parking lot, he said, has an “open, woodsy feel.”

Konheim, who is also a member of the roundtable, said the company intends the development to create a town center, with an area for art fairs, and a multiplex theater with seating for 500.

“We’re trying to create a town where you can walk down the street and say ‘hello’ to someone,” he said.

At the same time that the proposed project is under review by the city, the city is also studying the environmental constraints on all the properties in the Civic Center, not limited to those owned by the Malibu Bay Company. Councilwoman Carolyn Van Horn recently sought to procure additional funding to hire the Wetlands Action Network to perform a wetlands delineation study of the entire Civic Center area. The study would determine whether a wetlands area exists there now, or did at one time.

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The network, a coalition of small environmental groups, is best known for fiercely opposing both the Playa Vista development near Marina Del Rey, the likely future home of Dreamworks Studios, and a legal settlement between Playa Vista developers and other environmental groups, which calls for the restoration and preservation of most of the wetlands on the Playa Vista site. The network apparently views the legal settlement as a “sell-out” to developers.

Rather than voting to hire the network to perform the delineation study, the council sent the question of who should conduct the study back to the Land Use Subcommittee for further review. The subcommittee is composed of Van Horn and Councilman Walt Keller.

Konheim said he thought some members of the City Council would like his company’s property to be declared a wetlands area because of the effect it would have on the property’s value.

“They’re trying to say it’s wetlands to devalue the property,” he said.

Some council members have been talking publicly of placing a bond issue on the April 2000 ballot as a way of acquiring the funds to pay for some, or all, of the privately held property in the Civic Center.

At the last City Council meeting, Councilman Tom Hasse said that part of the open property in the Civic Center would be an appropriate location for sorely needed ball fields for the city’s youth athletic leagues. Hasse urged members of the public present at the meeting to support a bond measure for such a purpose if one is placed on the ballot.

Konheim said he doubts that ball fields would ever be located in the Civic Center if it is declared a wetlands area. “They say they’re going to put ball fields there, but if it’s a wetlands, then you can’t put ball fields in,” Konheim said.

Because a Civic Center Specific Plan has never been enacted, the proposed project will be reviewed under the city’s General Plan.

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

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