Director bumped upstairs

Increasing difficulties with planning decisions led the acting city manager to make changes in the city’s planning department.

By Sylvie Belmond/Special to The Malibu Times

In a memo to the City Council, acting City Manager Katie Lichtig announced she would appoint Senior Planner Drew Purvis as Planning Director on Feb. 4, replacing current director Barry Hogan. Hogan will be reassigned to work on special projects for the city.

Purvis is the sixth director to be appointed since Malibu became a city 10 years ago.

Hogan, who was appointed as head of the Planning Department two years ago, faced numerous challenges in, what some call, the thankless post of planning director. The Local Coastal Plan battle with the California Coastal Commission and difficulties with a complex interim zoning code took much of his attention during his tenure.

Meanwhile, Hogan’s planning decisions on individual cases were repeatedly overturned by the Planning Commission or the City Council in recent months, which frustrated many city officials.

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One such case was a large project on Pacific Coast Highway that was approved by Hogan and later appealed by a nearby commercial property owner who strongly objected to the massive size of the planned home. The Planning Commission upheld the appeal, and expressed amazement at the size of the project, which flew through planning loopholes.

The home included a 10,217 square foot house to be built on a bluff above Malibu Road, with structural additions that included a basement with a variety of accommodations, including a bowling alley. The basement alone was bigger than most homes in Malibu.

In her memo, Lichtig said, “Drew brings a wealth of knowledge to this position, especially expertise regarding Malibu’s zoning ordinance and our past practices.”

Lichtig said Hogan’s transition to his new post, “will allow Barry to focus his attention on a limited number of special projects.”

Hogan appeared to leave on good terms.

“It’s a job that requires a lot of tact,” he said, expressing confidence the department will be in good hands with Purvis at the helm.

Purvis has worked in the city’s planning department for four years as senior planner. Before he came to Malibu, Purvis earned a degree in urban and regional planning from California Poly Tech University in Pomona, and worked as a planner in Palm Springs for four years.

“The biggest planning challenge for Malibu,” said Purvis, “is to try and balance environmental concerns with property owners’ rights.”

Purvis wants to maintain Malibu’s environmental vision as the city deals with large commercial development proposals that are going through the planning process now.

Secondly, Purvis plans to reorganize the department to increase efficiency and raise its level of effectiveness to the highest standard.

“That means consistent implementation by all staff members of the city’s code,” he said.

At the same time, the zoning code should be updated to clarify inconsistencies, continued Purvis.

But as he takes on the job, Purvis already has a full plate of responsibilities. He will have to hire a new senior planner to replace himself and a new associate planner to replace departing associate planner Meredith Elguira.

Former planning directors for the City of Malibu were: Craig Ewing, who resigned February 2000, stating in an interview with the Times about issues dealing with the city’s undeveloped land, “… I don’t think we can come up with one voice.”; Bob Bernard, Malibu’s first planning director, who resigned after a few arduous years to work for the city of Long Beach; Joyce Parker, who later went to Oxnard and then Agoura; and Vince Bertoni, who filled in as interim director before Ewing took the job.

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

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