Latest Trancas Condo Plans Vetoed
• Planning Commissioners Recommend EIR over LCPA
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
A proposal that would include carving out an open space buffer in an area where condominiums would be built along Trancas Canyon Road was rebuffed by the Malibu Planning Commission last week.
The planning panel, with Commissioner Regan Schaar absent, unanimously recommended the city council deny a request for a Local Coastal Program amendment that would designate currently zoned RR-5 land to public open space and multifamily dwellings for a vacant 35-acre parcel that has been the focus of development schemes even before the city was incorporated.
Instead, the commissioners recommended the city council direct the applicant to return with an Environmental Impact Report spelling out a specific project description, including a clean water element, affordable housing, open space and density limitations.
The applicant unsuccessfully sought the commissioners’ thumbs up for a zone change designating 7.61 acres of the property as multifamily and the remaining 27.58 acres as open space.
In a somewhat unusual approach, the panelists said what they would vote for and how they wanted the matter handled before they heard any public comment. Chair Joan House took the lead:
“I do take this property very seriously. We heard about a wastewater treatment plant, heard about affordable housing, heard about open space. The property is large enough to have an Environmental Impact Report. We have a piecemeal proposal. I would not make a recommendation [for the proposed zoning change]. I would have us deny the application, but move forward for a full EIR, spell out clean water and spell out housing affordability,” said House.
Commissioner Jeff Jennings agreed. “This case has had a long history. So many proposals have been put forward. The mistake with me is with this application. I would rather see a full EIR and what the proposal would look like. There is a lot of merit in what is being proposed here. Instead of large lots, the [dwellings] are clustered. I can’t say I will vote for it. We have heard the same arguments over and over again. We seriously need to look at clustering. This application should not be heard tonight,” Jennings added.
Commissioner Ed Gillespie said he believed the project is viable, but agreed it needed an EIR.
Commissioner John Mazza, at the beginning of the meeting, said he did not believe the request should be heard because he thought that it was illegal to zone private land for open space.
“I do not think we can consider this project. The fatal flaw is asking for a recommendation for open space for private land. We are not allowed to do that,” he said.
Assistant City Attorney Greg Kovacevich said the issue might be one for debate, but was not a reason to not have a public hearing.
Later, when Mazza spoke, he insisted the request was more of a development agreement. “If it is such, it has to go to a vote of the people,” he noted, adding that the portion of property that would be dedicated as open space is unbuildable.
“What benefit does the city have in accepting a donation of land that is not buildable?” he asked.
Mazza said he was also concerned about the developer’s approach to offering a sewer system. “I’ll give you a sewer if you give me more density. The sewer system is not a necessity,” Mazza said.
The latest proposal was an effort to try another approach after a failed attempt several years ago between the city and the developer to craft a development agreement to build the condos in exchange for a donation of open space as ball fields.
The offer this time is for open space rather than sports fields and a sewer system that would service Broad Beach properties.
During public testimony, a consulting engineer to the developer explained in more detail the proposed wastewater system that was not actually on the agenda since the applicants were only seeking a zone change.
The basic conceptual plan is to collect sewage along Broad Beach Road from about 80 homes, eliminating the septic systems. A pipeline would send the wastewater to a plant that would treat water to a tertiary level, leaving the effluent available for discharge to irrigate landscaping on the project and other properties.
He said the system, which would also serve 32 condos, would remove 28 million gallons per year from Broad Beach systems and offer 22 million gallons per year of recycled water.
However, many of the west Malibu and Malibu West residents who testified weren’t swayed by such an offer and insisted the developer should only be allowed to build the seven homes that are zoned for the property.
“Everybody is fine with seven houses,” said neighbor Steve Hotchkiss..
Lucille Keller, who spoke on behalf of the Malibu Township Council, said the rezoning to allow multifamily dwellings only served the purpose of lining the developers’ pockets with profits. She said even seven houses would offer the developer a tidy profit.
But as an indicator of how high the stakes are for the developer, some commissioners indicated they got phone calls from former Gov. Gray Davis, who tried to lobby them on behalf of the applicant’s proposal.