Planners dilemma


As one of only a few who attended the Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 18, I feel obligated to report that City Planning is in a tough spot. Due to the delay in issuing permits caused by the LCP debacle, and the City’s recent invitation to waiting applicants to apply for “conditional preliminary review,” Planning now has 111 additional projects on its plate, plus as many as 75 more from applicants who’ve not yet responded to the invitation. And now, under the State LCP that planners will be implementing, more of the work is “front loaded,” meaning that planning staff will be taking on some of the evaluations that used to be made during the later building-permit stage.

Meanwhile, the department is over-worked and under-staffed. Three planners have left in the last month or so. Some observers were already saying that staff needed to be increased, to ensure that proposed developments could be properly reviewed. When the Planning Commission looked at a recent proposal for a mega-estate in the wilderness between Big Rock and Las Flores, one commissioner lamented that “the source of ‘expert information’ has been ceded entirely to the applicants.”

If past projects couldn’t be fully scrutinized, how now will all the new applications receive the close attention they deserve? There’s talk of hiring outside consultants; but there are also strict budgetary constraints. The Commission has recognized there are problems and has begun trying to address them through planning workshops.

I believe that the Commission approved the aforementioned Big Rock mega-estate because it was reluctant to deny the applicant — because it didn’t have the information that would have shown the project to be illegal. Our family has appealed that decision to the City Council, which expects to hear public testimony on Monday, Nov. 8. If you’re at all concerned about the future of Malibu, please download a summary of our appeal ( and attend the meeting. If our City’s planning process is not remodeled soon, Malibu’s unique character may be subsumed into the urban sprawl faster than we think.

Kraig Hill