After nearly three years of studies, surveys and workshops, the City Council voted to set aside the Civic Center Specific Plan and look into other options. At a special meeting June 30, the council directed the Land Use Subcommittee, comprised of council members Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn, to come up with a vision statement that identifies what needs to be done and a time line in which to do it.
“It bypasses the whole democratic process,” said architect Ed Niles, who worked on the Civic Center Specific Plan Committee for 18 months. “One of the cornerstones of Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn has been to involve the community. This obviously circumvents that.” Niles added, “This subcommittee has no professional background and has no right telling us as a community what we have to do here. I don’t think it represents democratic government at any level.”
The Specific Plan project was launched in September 1995 when the original contract with consultants was signed. Since then, workshops, study groups and meetings have produced a draft plan that was reviewed by the Planning Commission and forwarded to the council. The council also received an alternative proposal submitted by the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth. In March, planning staff asked the council which plan it wanted to pursue. No decision was reached. “I think there are a number of constraints in there that were not adequately addressed,” said Van Horn. She listed geology, flood plain and wetlands issues as needing more study.
The Specific Plan “has become the traditional political football,” said Niles. “We have politicians who are problem makers not problem solvers. You can’t stall this thing. It’s going to end up in the courts and some judge is going to tell us what to do. Ultimately this community’s going to lose in a big way.”
Keller and Van Horn say the public is being included in the process. “Our first purpose is to identify developable property that the public might want to be used for public purposes,” said Keller, who listed possible purposes as wetlands, parks, playing fields, nature preserves or open spaces.
“We’re considering property anywhere in or adjacent to the city,” said Keller. “These are obviously sizable properties.” To acquire the property, the city must purchase it at fair market value or it must be willingly donated.
“Most of it, I think, we’ll have to purchase,” said Keller. “Eventually you have to come up with a legal fair price, but right now we’re just trying to get a rough idea of what we’re talking about.” Once an estimate is obtained, Keller said, the city will need to research other funding sources and trusts. “We have to get as much government money as we can and then go after foundations.”
Keller said the council may also consider introducing a bond referendum, which would require a two-thirds vote, and may conduct a survey, similar to one conducted last winter in which voters rejected the idea of a bond to fund public works projects. “Maybe we didn’t ask the right questions,” said Keller, who noted that in the future survey the city would be “asking questions specific enough to determine if we can get a two-third vote.” Keller said voters are not likely to see such a proposal on the November ballot. “We’re not going to rush into it.”
An Environmental Impact Report cannot be made without an actual plan. But the council did direct Ewing to oversee an Environmental Constraints Analysis. Consultants will study wetlands issues, flooding and drainage, hazardous materials, earthquakes, and cultural and biological resources. “I think we have to see what are the constraints and what are the parameters of it,” said Van Horn. “It provides a baseline of data for future projects,” said Ewing.
As for the Specific Plan, “At this point [council has] given us no further direction,” said Planning Director Craig Ewing. But no one is willing to officially sound the death knell. “I can’t say that at this point,” said Van Horn. “They may find a use for it as they work on their vision statement and their plan. They may pick it up and use it, but I’m not seeing three votes to do that right now.”