Civic Center development agreement put before council


News Analysis

At the culmination of a 10-year period of hostilities between the city of Malibu and its largest commercial landowner, the Malibu Bay Company, a hushed audience listened to council members Tom Hasse and Joan House present a proposed long-term development agreement to the council at Tuesday’s council meeting.

They described an 11-month negotiation concluding in a proposed agreement that would limit commercial development on all 12 MBC commercial properties and bring what Hasse and House described as a number of amenities to Malibu. ( See sidebar.)

Two aspects of the proposed deal appeared to draw the most audience reaction and applause. First, MBC is to give the city the entire 18.87-acre vacant parcel on PCH alongside Point Dume, located between Portshead and Heathercliff, a parcel large enough to be used for three ballfields and a 15,000-square-foot community center, plus $5 million to be used to construct a senior/teen community center and sports fields. The city’s preliminary construction budget for the center is estimated at $5 million. The entire gift has been appraised at approximately $26.5 million — $21.5 million in land and $5 million in cash.

Second, it was agreed the major parcel in the Civic Center, the 20.72-acre parcel known as the Chili Cook-off Site, and the one-acre parcel next to it, would not be developed for 10 years.

The deal involves land in three distinct areas of Malibu: seven parcels in the Civic Center area; 18.87 acres in Point Dume that will be gifted; and six parcels in Trancas, one of which will be turned into open space and five of which will be developed.

The proposal is expected to return to the City Council Feb. 28. At that time the council will be asked to vote a timeline for evaluation, public hearing and decision. Assuming the council votes to continue the process, the proposal must undergo an Environmental Impact Report and public hearings before the Malibu Planning Commission and the City Council, a process estimated to take 12 to 18 months. If approved by the council, the project must then be approved by the California Coastal Commission.

There are still a number of areas where the agreement could blow apart. The council could turn it down now or at the end of the process. The current plan represents a give and take with all of Malibu involved; however, there could be specific areas of Malibu that oppose the plan because the residents don’t like the impact in their neighborhood. No one has said it’s a take-it-or-leave-it agreement, but after the long history of this negotiation, it’s considered improbable any major changes would be acceptable to either side.

There is also a hammer. The Malibu Bay Company in September 1998 submitted two commercial project applications, 140,000 new square feet on the Chili Cook-off Site and an additional 60,000 square feet on the vacant Ioki property, next to City Hall. Unless there are environmental constraints, both applications appear allowable under the current General Plan and IZO. They will come before the Planning Commission later this year.

If the city rejects the deal, MBC could ask to develop Point Dume, Trancas and the Trancas Beach lots. It’s also possible there are environmental constraints that could not be mitigated in the Civic Center, such as a flood plain, as some who are proposing a wetland have suggested. If so, that could block development.

Other numerous details, limitations and entitlements are built into the agreement. There will be a full public hearing process and public disclosure before final decision.

Then, of course, there is always the prospect that no matter what deal is agreed upon, some group, either inside or outside of Malibu, will file a lawsuit challenging it, as happened to the Playa Del Rey/Dreamworks project, which could drag out the ultimate decision for years, until the litigation is concluded.