City Officials Issue Malibu’s First Geological Variances
BY BILL KOENEKER
An attorney, who represented two property owners in the Las Flores Mesa area, announced that he has won for his clients the first two geology variances approved by the City of Malibu.
Alan Robert Block, in a prepared statement, contended that a strict application of the city’s geotechnical standards on the two properties would result in a taking of the properties and would deprive the owners of the same rights as other owners of lots in the immediate area that were permitted to rebuild fire destroyed homes, in contravention of the geological safety standards, under the interim 1994 Fire Rebuilt Ordinance that expired years ago.
Block successfully argued before the planning commission that the Malibu Local Coastal Plan permitted geology variances if specific findings could be made, including, the granting of the variance would not be detrimental to the public safety or constitute a special privilege to the owners. Some neighbors raised concerns regarding the additional weight and water the proposed residences would have on the geologic conditions of the surrounding neighborhood.
Block responded that was speculation and he pointed out six other property owners had been permitted to rebuild fire destroyed homes in the immediate area under the interim guidelines with similar geology to the properties in question, and that no application to rebuild has ever been denied.
Block also maintained that none of the fire rebuilt properties have had the extensive geologic review and requirements demanded of the applicants under the requested variances.
Block indicated that City Geologist Chris Dean agreed that although the properties had shown some movement intermittently from 1978 to the present date, and even though there was the possibility of future movement that could adversely affect the properties, that there was no likelihood of catastrophic movement that would be hazardous or life-threatening to the subject sites or any off-site properties.
However, the city did require extensive mitigation measures called the Quality Control Maintenance Manual, which is recorded against the property. The QCMM, is described as the first of its kind in the city.
The manual includes information regarding engineering techniques and drainage improvements to minimize project-related impacts, as well as detailed property maintenance and reporting requirements and sets up provisions to follow if the sites display ground movements, cracks, leaks in utility lines.
The manual also includes consequences for the property owners should the site display ground movement multiple times.
QCMM was required as a condition of approvals to ensure that a mechanism is in place to pass the manual from the current property owners to any and all future property owners, according to Block.
None of the surrounding neighbors filed an appeal with the city council, meaning the variances became final last week.