A project six years in the making—one that had gone through five commission hearings, three city council hearings and generated hundreds of pages of research—met its end at the Monday, March 22, Malibu City Council meeting.
Council voted, 4-0, to reject a proposal by the Mani Brothers, a West Hollywood-based real estate team, to build a pool where the Malibu Beach Inn’s current parking lot is and create a larger, valeted parking lot across the busy road on the landside of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The decision was driven by concern for public safety: the tight maneuver the valets would have had to make while crossing from the main hotel to the parking lot across PCH was deemed too dangerous. One council member, Steve Uhring, sat out the hearing since he had previously voted on the issue as a planning commissioner.
The Mani Brothers acquired the Malibu Beach Inn in 2015; since then, they have been interested in expanding the hotel’s parking to a PCH-adjacent parcel known as the Hertz Lot, which lies diagonally across the highway from their hotel. The proposed parking lot would have had 27 valeted parking spaces, as opposed to the 13 spaces the Malibu Beach Inn has now on the beach side of PCH, adjacent to the hotel. If the parking lot project had been approved, the Manis would have built a swimming pool where the current lot sits.
The proposal that came before council on Monday was a tweaked version from the one that had previously been rejected by the Malibu Planning Commission; the tweaks included reducing the size of the proposed pool and the number of parking spaces that would have been in the Hertz Lot. Malibu city staff recommended approval of the revised plan.
Representatives from the Mani Brothers argued that the Malibu Beach Inn needed the pool and the extra parking, noting the gradual loss of the beachfront for guests to enjoy due to sand erosion. They stated that the average length of stay at the Malibu Beach Inn had been 2.3 days when the Manis purchased it in 2015; by 2019, they said, that number had dropped to 1.7.
“The Malibu Beach Inn is facing an existential threat,” Marshall Camp, a Mani Brothers representative, told council. “Every day, more of its beach disappears and ... a beachfront hotel without a beach and without a pool cannot survive.
“The Mani Brothers are deeply committed to this community; they are deeply invested in this community,” he continued. “And Malibu Beach Inn is a big part of this community, and not just because it generates more than a million dollars a year in TOT [hotel tax] revenue, but because it is an important and iconic part of the city.” He also mentioned two other PCH businesses, high-end sushi restaurant Nobu and luxury clubhouse Soho House, both of which currently violate Malibu parking regulations along PCH, and contrasted them with the Malibu Beach Inn, which he framed as going about their parking situation in the proper way.
The Mani Brothers’ representatives said that the proposed offsite valet lot would have minimal impact on PCH traffic and that it would mainly be for long-term guests, meaning there would be little back-and-forth between the valet lot and the hotel, citing multiple studies and computer models as evidence.
Malibu residents who spoke during the hearing strongly disagreed.
Resident and local architect Lester Tobias characterized the Manis’ position as “entitled,” saying that just because the project’s process had taken so long and that consultants had said that the brothers needed to put in a pool to maintain their business does not mean they deserved to have it, especially since that pool would be only for the hotel’s guests and not the public. He also mentioned four recent PCH accidents that slowed traffic. Though they were not near the Malibu Beach Inn, they did back up cars all the way to the inn’s location.
John Mazza, a Malibu planning commissioner, echoed him.
“What you’re going to do is create a permanent red light at that stop,” Mazza predicted. He also alleged that the projects’ traffic studies were not correctly done. Another resident, Hamish Patterson, cautioned the council against setting a precedent that would allow other PCH businesses to have parking lots across the highway from their locations.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Grisanti said he would have voted to approve the project had the brothers agreed to not access the lot during certain hours, but in the end, council’s decision came down to safety.
“The longer you live here, the more you know there’s one constant, and that’s the danger of Pacific Coast Highway,” Council Member Karen Farrer said. “I don’t see a way around that. I understand all the arguments that have been made, I respect the applicant and their professional counsel, but I can’t see a way to vote yes on this in good conscience.”