Coastal Commission approves Sea View Hotel project near Malibu Pier

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These images show what the proposed Sea View Hotel project would look like upon completion. Images Courtesy of Luis Tena

Last Wednesday, Feb. 8, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to approve amendments (with minor modifications) to Malibu’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP) that will pave the way for local developer Norm Haynie to proceed with the Sea View Hotel project near the Malibu Pier. The city had already approved the project pending the commission’s decision.

As Haynie pointed out during the meeting, 65 percent of the new 39-room luxury hotel project will consist of remodeling an existing office building as opposed to new construction, and the remaining 35 percent will involve demolishing an old gas station that was described by at least one public speaker to be an eyesore. New construction will include a restaurant/bar, spa, rooftop deck, and a swimming pool.

Traffic engineering analysis indicated that the planned hotel would generate less traffic than the current office building.

The Coastal Commission voted to change the zoning of two parcels at 22741 Pacific Coast Highway from Community Commercial, which doesn’t allow hotels, to Commercial Visitor Serving-Two, which does allow hotels. The two parcels will be merged into one parcel totaling 1.18 acres, known as the Sea View Hotel site. 

The commission also approved a new Sea View Hotel Overlay District with special development standards just for this project that increase the allowable floor area ratio from 0.15 to 0.52 (ratio of total built floor area to the size of the site). For that variance, the developer will pay the city $800,000 to be spent as City Council sees fit.

A key issue for the Coastal Commission was whether 15 percent of the rooms would be designated as “lower-cost” rooms as required. In lieu of offering “low-cost” rooms, property owners are allowed to pay a “mitigation fee” that goes towards paying for affordable overnight accommodations elsewhere in the local area. The owners agreed to put $800,000 into an escrow account for this purpose.

The property owners and commission staff identified the public project for the $800,000 as Joe Edmiston and his Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s (MRCA) 23.71-acre Lauber-Smith Property. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, about 9 miles northwest of the Sea View Hotel site, it’s within the coastal zone of unincorporated LA County, adjacent to Ramirez Canyon Park, and just outside Malibu city limits off Kanan Road. MRCA plans to develop flameless campground facilities there that include tent pad sites, parking, restrooms, and picnic areas.

In addition, hotel property owners have entered into a contract to donate $250,000 to the nonprofit Los Courage Camps and its work of providing free surf lessons and transportation to beaches in the Malibu area for children in underserved communities in the general LA area. Of the 14 members of the public signed up to comment on the hotel project, four were young people from this surf camp.

Also, Haynie said the LA County Fire Department talked him into spending $600,000 to $800,000 to fix a water check valve close to the intersection of PCH and Topanga, which will provide access to an additional 4 million gallons of water in an emergency.

Haynie also agreed to hire union hotel workers from the Hospitality Workers’ Union Local 11, whose representatives showed up at Malibu’s public hearings on this project. 

Besides Haynie, at least eight other long-time residents and officials from Malibu spoke in favor of the hotel project. Bill Curtis pointed out that the new hotel will bring in over a million dollars per year in revenue from Transient Occupancy Taxes.  Some say this would make up for any shortfall that may occur if the city manages to restrict short-term rentals.

Other speakers, including Jefferson Wagner, Steve Wiseman, Lynn Heacox, Jeff Jennings, Chris Frost, and Paul Grisanti, lauded the project for getting rid of the “visual blight” of the gas station and water system upgrades that will help fight fires.

The only speaker opposing the project was attorney Marshall Camp, representing the Mani Brothers Real Estate Group, owners of the Malibu Beach Inn. He described the project as an example of “throwing deliberate planning out the window … disregarding FAR limits … and engaging in ‘illegal spot zoning.’”

Speaker Wiseman responded that they “just didn’t want competition for the Malibu Beach Inn … and were afraid it would place downward pressure on room rates.”