Malibu Planning Commission approves summer tow-yard

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The temporary tow yard will run from May 27 to September 4, 2023. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

City plans to store 31 impounded cars at school’s lower parking lot

Following an extensive deliberation on permits, accountability, and the pressing nature of the matter, the Planning Commission has granted approval for the temporary tow-yard at the Malibu Middle and High School Campus during their meeting on May 15. 

From May 27 to Sept. 4, city officials have devised a plan to utilize the lower parking lot adjacent to Morning View Drive at the middle school for the storage of up to 31 impounded cars per day during weekends and holidays, specifically spanning from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

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A notice of application for a conditional use permit is placed at the temporary tow-yard site at Malibu Middle and High School campus. The application will run from May 27 to September 4, 2023. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

During the Public Safety Commission meeting held on Sept. 7, 2022, the commissioners engaged in a comprehensive discussion concerning various possibilities for establishing an impound yard during the summer months. After careful deliberation and consideration of previous endeavors, the Commission reached a decision to establish an Impound Yard Ad Hoc committee. This committee’s primary objective will be to investigate potential locations for both a permanent impound yard and a temporary impound yard specifically designated for the summer of 2023.

Public Safety Liaison Luis Flores attended the meeting to answer the commission and public speakers’ questions. 

“The actual goal of setting up the temporary impound yard is a public safety commission project that is an annual project, but this was brought forth by the Public Safety Department because this is a project that we’re pushing forward in partnership with the Sheriff’s Department as well as the Public Safety Commission,” Flores said. 

Vice Chair John Mazza raised concerns about the permits, planning coordination, and who would be liable if an accident were to occur on campus, in the school district, or in the city.

“We don’t see any record that the school district has even approved this or even applied,” Mazza said. “If I were the school district, I would be a little nervous saying the school is liable.” 

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Frost spoke during public comment and has been involved with finding a location for a permanent tow-yard for a few years.

“I agreed with the resident who said, ‘We need a permanent solution to this problem,’ this has been going on three-four years now, and the public safety commission has been tasked with finding a place for it and trying to get this together…and because things take so long, sometimes it ends up sounding like it’s last minute when in reality it started in the previous summer,” Frost said. “We cannot go through summer without a tow operation.”

Frost said he hopes they start planning earlier to find a permanent solution. 

“We actually have these problems throughout the year, but summer ramps up the problems exponentially,” Frost said. 

Public Safety Commissioner Josh Spiegel also commented during public comment and hopes the commission will approve it.

“Clearly, the best site is Malibu High School; this is where it has been for years and years; the last couple of years, we had to use other sites—this is the logical place,” Spiegel said. 

Last year, the Malibu City Council made a decision to permit a temporary day-use impound yard on City-owned property situated at the intersection of Heathercliff Road and PCH. The primary objective of this initiative was to address the issue of vehicles being unlawfully parked in front of fire hydrants, obstructing traffic lanes, and blocking driveways, thereby posing risks to public safety, traffic flow, and the overall well-being of the community. Given the necessity to have the impound yard operational during the bustling summer beach season, an urgency ordinance was enacted. The selection of the specific location was the result of an evaluation by the Public Safety Commission, which considered numerous alternative sites and properties, including Malibu City Hall, which could not accommodate large flatbed tow trucks due to its steep driveways.

Commissioner Skylar Peak motioned to approve the proposal, and Commissioner Jeff Jennings seconded the motion. 

Commissioner Kraig Hill and Mazza abstained, stating they felt that the city permits transferred legal liability to the school district.

“I am very much in favor of this project; I am going to abstain because the liability of the is not proportional to the risk,” Mazza said. 

Motion carried 3-0. 

The next planning commission is scheduled for Wednesday, May 31. One of the key items on the agenda will be the Malibu Inn Motel hearing. For further details and access to the agenda, visit malibucity.org/agendacenter.