City Council supports citizens’ appeal on Malibu Inn Motel project

The Malibu City Council received a large turnout from community members concerned about the motel that was approved by the Planning Commission in 2023. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

Mayor Steve Uhring was disappointed that Planning Director Richard Mollica was absent from the meeting   

The Malibu City Council received a large turnout at Monday night’s meeting. Nearly 40 speakers took the stand to oppose the construction of the Malibu Inn Motel project, a development that was approved by the Planning Commission in June 2023. 

Mayor Steve Uhring said the city received nearly 88 letters before the meeting.  

“I tried to read all of those and most of those were in opposition,” he said. 

Uhring expressed displeasure to not see Planning Director Richard Mollica at the meeting to answer questions.

“I thought this was going to be a complicated issue, a lot of decisions have been made, and I thought that having him here to sort of defend those decisions would’ve been a good move. That didn’t happen,” he said. 

Before the item was addressed, the council presented Public Safety Director Susan Dueñas with a city tile for seven years of service to the City of Malibu. 

“Public safety and fire, when I have conversations with the resident’s those are the two issues that come up the most, and you have done an excellent job at addressing both of those, so I thank you,” Uhring said to Dueñas.

Dueñas thanked her staff for the support and various public safety organizations who volunteer. 

“I’m proud to be a part of the community working to make Malibu safe,” she said.

Knowing that Item 4.a was going to take a while to address, the council moved the Zuma Foundation Inc. Road Race Agreement to the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 28.

Assistant Planning Director Adrian Fernandez presented the report. 

Councilmember Bruce Silverstein presented his findings and asked Fernandez questions about the development, such as the slopes, the bluffs and who helped write the report. 

“I also learned that it’s important to protect the bluffs not only because they can damage property when they collapse but also because they need to be able to deteriorate naturally over time in order to replenish the beaches,” Silverstein said. 

After a brief break, the council moved on to speakers and Uhring said he received nearly 40 speaker slips on this item. 

One parent has children who attend Gan Malibu Preschool, which is located above the proposed development, and said the construction would impact the kids during school hours. 

“To me, this is a hotel,” Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart said. “You’ve gone to great lengths to put ‘motel’ on every document in here, but when you look at the uses of it, a motel is basically 20 rooms, 20 cars, and that’s it. You may have some vending machines, but this is a hotel.”

Councilmember Marianne Riggins was in support of the project. 

“A motel is something that we need in our community; we don’t need any more restaurants, we don’t need another office building, we don’t need unnecessary retail space,” Riggins said. “What we should be doing as a community is coming up with ways to have projects that are designed [to] not only meet the private property owners’ right to develop their property as it is zoned with what is necessary for the community.” 

Environmental Sustainability Director Yolanda Bundy said the project has not been reviewed.

“We haven’t done a grading review, we haven’t done a structural review,” she said. “The graphics that you see and the renderings that you see, were designed by the architect, it has never been through the building and safety, or building code, so the possibility of these structural elements being different are very high.” 

After about two hours of speakers expressing their concerns with the parking, slopes, and traffic, the council approved the appeal and denied the project. 

After the meeting, Malibu Township Council and Public Works Chair Jo Drummond provided a statement about the meeting. 

“Tonight was a victory for the residents of Malibu,” she said. “Malibu Township Council (MTC), concerned citizens, and four of five City Councilmembers all came together to defeat a proposed hotel development that was strongly at odds with our city’s mission, vision, and general plan. 

“The proposal contained multiple unacceptable variances designed to benefit the developer, not our citizens. We are grateful for the many passionate and knowledgeable fellow residents who wrote and came to speak before council. Our city is a better place because of it.”