Malibu West homeowners seek inclusion in park settlement talks

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The HOA, which had joined the Malibu Township Council’s lawsuit against the city, seeks to have league play permanently banned, but this has nothing to do with the lawsuit.

By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor

After piggybacking onto the Malibu Township Council’s ongoing lawsuit against the City of Malibu over Trancas Canyon Park, the Malibu West Homeowners Association at Monday night’s council meeting announced its desire to be included in settlement talks.

Seeking an injunction to the construction of the park, the Malibu West HOA last month voted to contribute $32,500 toward MTC’s lawsuit, which challenges the city’s approval of the project. A preliminary injunction hearing is set for Dec. 14 during which the state Superior Court will determine whether the city will adjourn from further park construction until the trial date, scheduled for Feb. 2.

Frank Angel, attorney for MTC, on Tuesday said the upcoming court hearings could be cancelled if legal settlements are reached. However, an aspect of the settlement advocated by the homeowners association-a permanent prohibition of league play at the park-has little to do with the focus of MTC’s lawsuit.

The city-approved, $3.7 million development plan for Trancas Canyon Park includes a multiuse (practice-only) sports field, a basketball half-court, picnic area, tot-lot, dog park, a restroom/maintenance building, storage building, shade structures, onsite wastewater treatment system, parking area and a storm water detention basin.

Of greater concern to the homeowners association is a guarantee that league play will never be allowed at the park. MTC representatives say they would drop their lawsuit against the city if league play were totally off the table as a possibility.

“The lawsuit itself raises the issue of whether or not the dog park impedes into an ESHA [environmentally sensitive habitat area]. We think it doesn’t,” City Attorney Christi Hogin said to Malibu West residents at the meeting. “If the court were persuaded, the result would be to eliminate the dog park or change part of the environmental review. No part of this litigation would affect league play. That’s not in your hands.”

League play is already banned at the park, which is under preliminary construction at its location on the east side of Trancas Canyon Road near Pacific Coast Highway. The coastal development permit approved by the city council earlier this year contains a condition limiting sports at the facility to practices. But to the MTC and the local residents in support of the suit, that condition is not good enough. They fear a future council could eliminate it.

“We’re trying to come up with language that league play will be prohibited and give some level of comfort for the homeowners in the area that another city council can’t just reverse it unilaterally,” MTC President Steve Uhring said in an interview earlier this month.

Hogin earlier this month offered to request the city council further cement the prohibition against league play at the park to ease local concern. But during Monday’s meeting, she said the implementation of an interminable ban might not be realistic.

“Some of the [Malibu West] residents want more security, they want to know that for all of eternity league play will never be a possibility on the site,” Hogin said. “That’s a tougher thing to do because it’s public property. The use of the property should ultimately serve the elect of the people. We would be giving a property right to Malibu West.”

Rather than banning league play altogether, Hogin said the city has offered to eliminate any possibility of administrative approval of any changes in the operation of the park. This would mean that any party seeking to allow league play would first be required to submit an environmental impact report of any possible repercussions and then appear in a public hearing before the Planning Commission, whose decision would be subject to appeal by the city council. The party could also challenge the council’s decision in court.

Mark Goss, a member of the Malibu West HOA’s board of directors, suggested that city officials and members from the MTC and the Malibu West HOA hold a small meeting in the near future to draft a settlement and “put this lawsuit behind us.”

City council members welcomed the idea, but no official date was set.

“We’d love to see this resolved and enjoy the park in peace,” Councilmember Andy Stern said.