Council says, ‘Floor is less’

In a move that may impact future commercial development in the Civic Center, the City Council last week approved an amendment to the General Plan reducing the minimum development density permitted in the Civic Center and other similar commercial zones.

Prior to last week’s action, the General Plan permitted a floor-area ratio — the size of a development relative to its lot size — of at least 20 percent and a maximum of 25 percent in the Civic Center. Now, commercial developments are permitted a FAR of 15 percent with bonus densities up to 25 percent granted in return for public benefits provided by the developer.

Council members said the unanimous action was taken to eliminate a conflict between the General Plan and the zoning ordinance, which permits a maximum FAR of 15 percent.

But at least one developer, the Malibu Bay Company, saw a calculated effort behind the council’s action. Lyn Konheim, speaking for the Bay Company, suggested that the city was attempting to lower the value of the company’s land holdings in the Civic Center in anticipation of possible city purchases of at least some of its land.

Konheim also said that the Bay Company had relied on the 20 percent FAR when it submitted its development proposal for the Chili Cook-Off site. Grant Adamson, who has proposed a self-storage facility in the Civic Center area, relied upon the original language in the General Plan as well. The Planning Commission is currently reviewing Adamson’s proposal, with a 20 percent FAR, and it has scheduled a special meeting on the project for May 11.

Members of the council, with some amplification by City Attorney Christi Hogin, sought last week to reassure Konheim that the council had no devious intent behind its action.

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Councilwoman Joan House, responding to a comment by Konheim that the council’s action may impact the ad hoc committee’s negotiations with the Bay Company, said the city was not trying to devalue the company’s property.

“I, for one, plan the ad hoc committee to continue on course,” she said.

Councilman Tom Hasse, with a little help from Hogin, explained to Konheim that any development agreement between the city and the Bay Company would not be impacted by the change in the General Plan because the plan’s FAR would not be binding on a development agreement.

“The talks go on unaffected by this,” he said. ” …Any development agreement that would come out of the talks between the ad hoc committee and the company … if so desired, could exceed the [zoning code’s] threshold of 15 percent for public benefits exchanged.”

Even Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn Van Horn, not usually one to reach out to the Bay Company, sought to appease a very disappointed-looking Konheim.

“There is no hidden agenda, this is just a cleaning up,” she said.

As part of the action, the council also initiated an amendment to the zoning ordinance clarifying that bonus densities are permitted over a FAR of 15 percent if a developer provides public benefits in return.

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