Child-care centers get Planners’ go-ahead


In a victory for local day-care center operators and the parents and children who use the facilities, the Planning Commission Monday unanimously ruled that parking requirements for businesses do not apply to residential day-care centers.

The issue arose in two separate cases that threatened the operation of one center on Point Dume and another in Malibu Park.

The zoning code requires businesses that have six or more parking spaces to meet certain requirements, such as a vehicle turn-around area.

Both the center on Point Dume, Wonder Years Day Care, operated by Kim Ledoux, and Malibu Park’s Garden of Childhood, run by Theresa Hutcherson, do not meet those parking requirements.

Planning Director Craig Ewing, with some misgivings, strictly applied the zoning code and turned down the applications to operate the 12-child facilities.

“I’m a literalist when it comes to the zoning code,” he said.

At the outset of the discussion before a packed meeting chamber, Ewing explained he does not have the power to waive the parking requirements for the day-care centers but the commission did.

Sensing the commission might rule otherwise, parents poured into the meeting with infants and toddlers in tow to plead with the commission to reverse Ewing’s denial of the applications. They spoke of the shortage of day-care centers in the city and of their respect and admiration for Ledoux and Hutcherson.

Ledoux, whose case was heard first, presented the commission with a petition containing 1,000 signatures in support of her center. She said Malibu did not have any available commercial locations for child care. And, she said, “Residences that would meet the parking requirements are either not available or are far too expensive for a day-care operation. This is not a high-profit operation. It’s a labor of love.”

The one person who spoke in opposition to Ledoux’s center, Dick Sittig, lives directly adjacent to the center on Zumirez Drive. He complained of the noise and traffic near his home.

“Of course the parents love it,” he said. “It’s convenient, and it has zero effect on [them].”

But the commission, with no hesitation, warmly embraced the request of those assembled and ruled that the parking requirements do not apply to residential day-care facilities.

Commissioner Ken Kearsley said he was pleased Malibu is once again teeming with kids. He recalled that, in the 1980s, Malibu had so few children, the elementary school on Point Dume had to be closed.

“My wife and I used to go to a restaurant in Thousand Oaks … just to hear the sound of children,” he said.

Vice Chair Andrew Stern said only a technicality prevented the application’s approval, and he was willing to waive it.

“We’ll be rewarded when these kids grow up to be good kids,” he said.

With the ruling on the Point Dume center, the outcome for the center in Malibu Park was almost preordained. But because the facility there is located on a blind curve on Cuthbert Drive, some residents voiced concerns about the safety of pulling in and out of the driveway. Still, the commission declined to impose any conditions on Hutcherson’s center, and, as with Ledoux’s, unanimously approved her operating permit.