Leslie Adamson London, a descendant of one of the pioneer families of Malibu, faced down the members of the City Council last week and declined to offer any new concessions to secure construction of a self-storage warehouse on Cross Creek Road.
The narrow issue before the council is the request of the family-owned Mariposa Land Company for a variance that would permit the building of the warehouse with a greater interior square footage than that granted by the Planning Commission. Mariposa wants to construct the 56,000-square-foot facility with a Spanish Colonial facade in a commercial zone opposite the GTE building and adjacent to Malibu Masonry. The internal density of the structure would permit a second floor of storage space but would not affect the profile of the building. Asked whether the Adamson family would build the warehouse if limited to a 15 percent density (42,275 square feet), London declined to give a commitment but did not rule it out.
She stuck with earlier comments that the family would give Malibu $100,000 for the acquisition of baseball parks or a 5-foot-wide easement across the property. The easement would allow a pipeline to carry water from Malibu Creek to a proposed man-made wetlands area to be created along Civic Center Way.
Councilman Harry Barovsky called for the Adamsons to assist the city with lasting amenities. City Manager Harry Peacock said the city envisions a public walkway and a bicycle path as part of the channel. Mayor Carolyn Van Horn said the city would need 20 to 25 feet. “This is the way to go and everybody benefits,” she said. Councilman Walt Keller said he sees a path tied into an esplanade. “It’s not worth it to go for just the easement,” he said.
Mariposa’s attorney, Fred Gaines, condemned the city’s refusal to permit an FAR (floor-area-ratio) beyond 15 percent. The company seeks a 20 percent ratio. He challenged as illegal a staff proposal that would force the company to disgorge half of the profits from an additional 15 percent FAR. The profits have been pegged at $3 million for a 35-year period. “It’s not fair,” he declared. “It’s not legal.” He warned the city has “decided to make up the rules as they go along.”
Revealing a 3-2 split on the council, Councilmembers Tom Hasse and Joan Hasse voted in favor of granting the requested variance if the family would give a 20- 25-foot easement.
“It’s not just like it’s vacant land,” said London, explaining that there are commercial tenants on the property who would need to be moved.
Alluding to other parcels of Adamson land adjacent to state-owned land that will be part of the Civic Center development, Barovsky called on the family to enter substantive negotiations. He said he could not support the offer of an easement as a sufficient amenity to secure the higher density. Van Horn and Keller voted with Barovsky in rejecting the Adamson appeal.
The split among the councilmembers concerning tactics emerged later in the evening when, by a vote of 3-2, they authorized an ad hoc committee of Hasse and House to negotiate with Civic Center property owners in order to secure public amenities. The secret talks will continue with owners other than the Malibu Bay Company.
In declaring his opposition to talks that are not in the open, Keller accused Hasse of distorting the facts. Van Horn also denounced closed door discussions.
Hasse insisted any development agreement would come back to the City Council. House warned that the spin masters were adept at name calling, the spreading of rumors and viciousness.
In casting the deciding vote in favor of the negotiations, Barovsky said, “I don’t know what the big fear is.” Calling for an “ethic of civility,” he explained that there is no concern that Hasse or House would sell the city down the river.