Civic Center Way Improvement Plan Approved

A mock-up of the initial plan for Civic Center Way’s improvements, including a bike lane, pedestrian walkway and turn lanes.

A project initiated in 2016 that will bring roadway and pedestrian improvements to the .7 mile stretch of Civic Center Way between Malibu Canyon Road and Webb Way is one step closer to breaking ground, following a public hearing during the Monday, Dec. 2, Malibu Planning Commission Meeting.

The five commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to pass the motion granting the project’s permit after imposing specific requirements for the project.

The project aims to increase safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians along the stretch of Civic Center Way between Webb Way and Malibu Canyon Road. Proposed changes include improving the curvature of the roadway and installing pedestrian walkways, a new bike lane and landscaping that includes native trees and ground covers coordinated with stormwater infiltration devices.

Some of the commission’s requirements included eliminating wires on the roadside fencing to make it wildlife permeable, adding dark-sky compliant illumination of pedestrian walkways and potentially taking three feet from the city-owned triangle parcel at the intersection of Civic Center Way and Webb Way to create a bike lane for increased safety at the intersection.

“I’m most concerned about the corner,” Commissioner John Mazza said in advocating for the widened bike lane. “[Bike riders] can fend for themselves along the straightaway, but on the corner, they’re splattered.”

Funding for the project comes from LA County Measure R funds, a transportation bond passed in 2008.

Sustainability concerns were at the forefront of the debate Monday. Resident Patt Healy, representing the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth, voiced her opposition to the project. A wetland on one of the parcels located above and adjacent to Civic Center Way, known as the Smith parcel, contains an environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA) that, according to Healy, would be affected by the proposed project.

“The ESHA buffer variance would allow continued encroachment into the buffer of the wetland ESHA by the paved roadway … but would not extend the paving closer to the wetland. Here again, the ESHA buffer extends across the entire width of the existing Civic Center Way roadway, and there is no way to make improvements to the roadway without doing work within the ESHA buffer,” according to the project proposal.

Planning commissioners clarified that construction would not encroach into actual ESHA, but would be encroaching into the 100-foot designated ESHA buffer zone. The planning commission report said encroachment into the ESHA buffer is required to accommodate the proposed vertical curve corrections and to avoid encroachment into the residential development to the north.

Healy expressed additional concern that the project does not aesthetically fit in with Malibu’s rural character and mission statement.

Malibu’s rural character was also a concern for planning commissioners. When discussing materials for the proposed retaining walls, Commissioner Kraig Hill emphasized the importance of nontoxic, natural materials being used. 

Planning Director Bonnie Blue said wood can no longer be used due to the material being a fire hazard. Public Works Director Rob DuBoux said that textured rocks and ivy can be used on the walls to create a more rural aesthetic.

Hill said concrete should be avoided because it is the third-highest contributor to global CO2 emissions. Since the Malibu City Council recently voted to declare a climate emergency, he said, concrete should not be an option.

Commission Chair Jeff Jennings agreed that the city should not use materials they would not approve the public to use.

DuBoux said an alternative material would be favored for the retaining walls, and that they would look into potentially using textured industrial materials that would avoid wood and concrete while also abiding by Malibu’s rural mission statement. 

With the unanimous approval of the permit, the project was cleared to move forward, barring any appeals that would send it before the California Coastal Commission.