Buying, selling, battling in Malibu

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From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

The chili cook-off site is in play again

For weeks now, the negotiations over the Civic Center Chili Cook-Off site have been on the City Council executive session agenda, which means they’re talking to each other but not yet ready to talk to us. But the rumors are flying and information is leaking out. Apparently the city and the Malibu Bay Co. are very close to a deal for the city to buy the land. The city is trying to bring some of the old opposition to any Civic Center development, like Ozzie Silna and former Planning Commissioner Richard Carrigan, into the process so they can achieve some degree of consensus. If a deal can be cut, the city still has to raise the $25 million or so it takes to make the deal fly. That probably means grants, loans and perhaps a bond. Most likely, the grants would come from the enviro bonds for a wastewater treatment plant, which would be the quid pro quo for the money. But the wastewater treatment facility might also turn out to be the sticking point, and apparently that’s what they’re fighting about now. If the city could pull it off and turn the majority of the Chili Cook-Off site into a park, then major kudos should go to Mayor Sharon Barovsky, who with the help of Country Mart property owner Steve Soboroff, combined with Malibu Bay President Jerry Perenchio’s willingness to listen, may have brought this deal back from the dead. However, in order for the city to go looking for the grant money to make the purchase, it needs a letter from Malibu Bay that they are “willing sellers,” and that’s not going to happen unless and until they agree on a deal. Still, it can’t wait too long. Apparently, there is no lack of suitors for Malibu commercially zoned real estate.

Malibu Colony Plaza also on the block

The Malibu Colony Plaza, another Malibu Bay property that houses Ralph’s market and many other businesses, is rumored to be in escrow, although, try as we may, we’ve not yet been able to find out the name of the buyers. We heard that the plaza listing was handled by a brokerage firm call Eastdil, but as usually happens in deals of this size, everyone has to sign a confidentiality agreement. So nobody is talking. However, I’ve been told that there is a paucity of commercial real estate available in the west side of Los Angeles, so any good center is in high demand. The Malibu Colony Plaza, according to my sources, is considered a very good, mature center, commanding top rentals, and is virtually insulated from much competition because our generally antigrowth philosophy keeps other people from building more commercial real estate. It’s one of the great ironies that, if you want to build something, Malibu is a disaster, but if you already own something, a no-growth philosophy is a financial bonanza.

Broad Beach battleground

The California Coastal Commission is once again stoking up its annual public relations crusade to try and convince the legislators and the voters that it’s out there protecting the people’s right to beach access from rich, greedy homeowners who want to keep them away from the ocean. I know that because the first glowingly tame article about beach access and the good work of the Coastal Commission ran in the Los Angels Times last week.

We can probably look forward to another Sara Wan Coastal Commission summer extravaganza to convince us all that she’s out there fighting the good fight for the little man. Unlike last year, when Sara just plunked herself down on the sand and waited for the private Broad Beach patrol and the Sheriff’s Department to make her point, and get her photographs, this year she’ll probably have to do something more spectacular. I’m sort of looking forward to what she’ll do. Will she chain herself to one of the offending signs that say private beach? Will she lie across the property line and force the deputies to drag her away under the watchful eye of the Los Angeles Times’ cameras? Stay tuned to the annual Broad Beach saga to see drama and journalism being made.

P.S. Pardon my cynicism, but Karen and I walk Malibu Road just about every week. There are several well-marked beach accesses on the road and there is very good parking right next to the accessways, and it’s a heck of a lot closer to the city than Broad Beach. You might expect that if there were great demand for beach access, the beaches near these accessways would be crowded. They almost never are. Not even on the hottest, busiest beach weekends. So I suspect this issue is much ado about nothing, or at least about very little.

Close with kudos

I want to close with a couple of kudos. Mike Mathews, the principal of Malibu High School, is leaving after 11 years to become a superintendent in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Mike leaves us having done a spectacular job in a very difficult position. Being principal in Malibu, where you deal with educated, concerned, involved and occasionally somewhat neurotic parents (not you, I’m talking about you know who) has got to rank as one of the world’s more difficult jobs, and Mike really carried it off.

Secondly, Hayden Sohm, California Department of State Parks Superintendent for the Malibu sector, is being promoted upstairs to take over as the parks director of the Tahoe region. His departure leaves a large hole in Malibu and we will all definitely miss him.

Lastly, we are running some letters to the editor attacking the Forge Lodge, which has just survived legal assault. We, of course, will run some of the letters, but it’s the usual suspects. Take them with a large grain of salt.