Malibu City Council continues to consider options for new MCLE trailer

Main challenges for project are location, permit requirements, and foundation for the trailer

By Emmanuel Luissi

Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu City Council directed staff to bring back a definitive recommendation on how to proceed with the Malibu Community Labor Exchange permanent trailer project within three months.

The topic was discussed during the City Council Meeting on Oct. 10

The discussion was based on a staff report that highlighted the challenges that the council would face if it proceeds with the permanent trailer project. 

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The report also highlighted the current allocated funds for the project, as well as the amount of money that would still be needed to complete the project. 

The council generally agreed that the MCLE should be accommodated with a new permanent trailer, but also decided that they did not have enough information to move forward with the project at this time.

Malibu Mayor Paul Grisanti said he believes the council has a responsibility in helping keep the MCLE operating, and believes the city should provide the MCLE with a more modern, permanent trailer.

“We have just got the wake up call that everybody gets when it’s time to build something and they suddenly realize that it costs money,” Grisanti said. “We’ve skated on this one for the last 29 years, it’s time for us to grow up and do the right thing.”

The current office trailer currently sits in the parking lot of county property at 23519-23555 Civic Center Way, where it has been since the early 1990s. 

However, that location is now within the construction area of the Santa Monica College’s Malibu Satellite Campus and the trailer is expected to be relocated by the time the campus opens in February.

There was a concern among council members that the time constraints of the relocation of the trailer would negatively affect the quality of the new MCLE location, regardless if it is temporary or permanent.

Councilmember Karen Farrer said the MCLE is an asset for the city and must be properly supported in finding a solution for their trailer relocation.

“I don’t want to see us lose this because we’re so rushed,” Farrer said “I believe it is a valuable service and I don’t want us to make a bad decision because we’re pushed for time.”

The City Council adopted Resolution No. 22-06 in January that approved the use of $15,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for MCLE operation and $98,000 of CDBG funds for a permanent trailer location.

Plans for the permanent trailer originally had the permanent trailer being relocated to the northwest corner of county property near the current location. The understanding was that this would have been a simple procurement project with no other requirements and a straight-forward permitting process with SMC performing electrical and other site-related work.

However, challenges have since been identified that would potentially extend project delivery timelines, require more money allocation and possibly stop operation of the MCLE trailer on County property.

The main challenges for the permanent trailer project are requirement of permits, requirement of a foundation for the trailer, the installation of a restroom and plumbing system, and addressing the trailer’s wastewater allocation.

The project would require a Coastal Development Permit with a variance to the city’s floor area ratio rules, as well as a Conditional Use Permit. The city will need a variance to add the trailer’s square footage to the county property.

The city would then need to conduct a geotechnical study to design and construct a foundation for the trailer. This is estimated to cost the city $75,000. 

Next, the city would likely purchase a trailer with a restroom, and a plumbing system would need to be designed and created to connect the trailer with the existing water and sewer lines on the property. This would cost the city an estimated $480,000. This part of the project could also require approval and coordination between SMC and the county.

The last issue would subject the new trailer to changes in wastewater requirements, which would require the council to either transfer wastewater allocations between neighboring properties in the assessment district to allow for the county district to have the allocation to make up for the trailer or have the council reopen the assessment district.

If the city decided to transfer wastewater allocations, a neighboring property would allocate wastewater credits to the county property, but would likely require additional documentation of proof of transfer of allocation as well as a possible fee of use from the property owner. The decision to transfer wastewater allocations would likely require engineering and legal expertise at an estimated price of $10,000. 

If the city decided to instead reopen the assessment district, the county property could be allowed more wastewater allocation, but would likely require an additional assessment payment associated with the County property at an estimated $20,000. Again, with this possible solution, expertise would be required at an estimated $10,000. 

This solution could also create implications for other properties within the assessment district.

The staff report ultimately estimated the total costs of the project at $585,000.

Councilmembers expressed their desire to move forward with the project and discussed possible fundraising efforts but agreed that the staff must come forward with more information and a definitive recommendation before the council makes a decisive decision.

Due to the time constraints from the SMC project, the council discussed possible temporary plans for the future of the MCLE. The possibility of a van or truck to temporarily take the place of the MCLE trailer was discussed, but Deputy City Manager Elizabeth Shavelson dismissed the idea by saying it would not be a practical solution.

Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Lee Silverstein said the council will wait on the staff recommendation and expects the city to move forward in securing a permanent trailer location for the MCLE.

“I’d be in favor of doing something that’s right, that looks good, that’s well constructed, and is professional looking where people could be comfortable and make our city look good,” Silverstein said. “Not something shabby, something done right, even if it does cost a little more than we’re talking about here.”

City staff and representatives of MCLE are now working together to create a definite plan for the permanent MCLE trailer. 

MCLE Board President Kay Gabbard said she is pleased to be working closely with Shavelson and the planning department and praised the city for their support now.

With the 29-year history of the MCLE, Gabbard hopes to continue to operate to the best of their abilities throughout this process and said she looks forward to continuing to support the community in their new permanent location.

“We hope to continue programs in our new facility, things like teaching English as a second language, teaching financial skills, teaching CPR in Spanish, teaching emergency preparedness with help from the Malibu Foundation so we hope to have these programs in just a more permanent place,” Gabbard said.

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