Santa Monica College Malibu Campus

The proposed Santa Monica College Malibu Campus features a roof with four peaks that will function as a ventilation system.

Bring on the Coastal Commission.

California Coastal Commission (CCC) approval is the only thing that stands in the way of a proposed 25,310-square-foot brand new Santa Monica College (SMC) satellite campus and Los Angeles County Sheriff substation in the Malibu Civic Center.

That’s because Malibu City Council approved a variance in the floor area ratio (FAR) that allows the project to move forward as designed.

Floor area ratio is defined by the city as “the ratio of the building square footage to the square footage of the site.” In Malibu, FAR is limited to 0.15, but the college has earned approval for a ratio of .20, despite complaints by some residents and council members that the project is too large.

The final vote was 3-1 in favor of the variance in FAR, and thus moving the project forward, with Council Member Joan House voting against the permit. Council Member Skylar Peak abstained from voting after voicing complaints about how “super frustrating” it was to see projects that do not conform to building standards.

“[The project is] likely to be appealed to the Coastal Commission, whether it’s approved or not,” Peak lamented at the meeting Monday. “I just think that’s lame. It’s a bad use of public funds and public money.”

Public comment was largely in favor of the project, which needed to provide public benefits in order to be considered for the increased FAR. Those were listed by college representatives as providing classes, including shorter-term “emeritus” classes for seniors; a new 5,640-square-foot sheriff’s department substation; a multipurpose room for community use; an improved emergency communication tower; and an “interpretive center to support Malibu’s Legacy Park.”

Longtime nursery school teacher Kay Gabbard described the college campus, which is designed to hold classes for 210 “full time equivalent” students, as a “stepping stone for many students to a dream,” noting that SMC is rated first in the State of California for transfers to University of California and California State Universities.

Malibu resident Laureen Sills agreed that the project provided a public benefit.

“These amenities are quintessential public, civic-minded amenities. This is our civic center and I can’t think of anything that would be more public serving than these amenities,” Sills said.

The project was also supported by various members of AMPS, Advocates for Malibu Public Schools.

The complaints of those who came to speak against the project were summed up in a statement in a letter by Malibu Township Council President Richard Lawrence, which was read at the meeting by resident Ann Doneen. 

“Why do we set standards when they are so easily put aside?” Lawrence asked in his letter.

During council comment and questions, Peak pressed SMC representatives for an answer to that question.

“At what point in this project do you look at our building codes?” Peak asked. “It seems like it’s being shoved down our throat.”

SMC government relations director Don Gerard replied that the project developed out of a necessity to include a lot of benefits on a small parcel of land.

He described that the SMC satellite project hit a snag finding property in the Civic Center, that sent it to the county for land.

“The project was in limbo for a bit, and then came the opportunity to work with the county, and the conversation with the county is a more complex conversation, because there’s two interests that wanted to be served here,” Gerard said. Those two interests were the sheriff substation and the college campus.

“The use of county property becomes the obvious solution,” Gerard continued. “But there are restraints as to how much county property is available.”

Gerard said that finally, after balancing the needs of the City of Malibu, LA County, the LA County Sheriff’s Department and SMC, a number of public hearings were held. Finally, the project design was chosen.

After further discussion, Peak said he was “coming around” to the idea that the project provided public benefits, but he was still concerned about the variances.

In the end, Peak abstained from the vote, with a prediction that it will not be smooth sailing ahead for the SMC team. Peak said an appeal was sure to come from the CCC.

“I hope that when it comes back from the Coastal Commission, you can figure out a way to make it fit,” Peak said.

(3) comments

Steve Woods

"We should not worry about approvals from the CCC."

Yeah, We should not worry about city ordinance violations or Regional Water Board request , don't worry about Variances that favor Commercial Developers over the electorate , Don't worry about the traffic studies that defy reality ,don't worry that Bluffs Park was purchased by California Tax payers to be kept as un developed open space or that a majority of residents polled in the survey showed we wanted to keep it as natural and passive as possible , Don't worry that the city is still using poison, Don't worry that city officials promised to appeal Measure R ,Don't worry that the city is lobbying for a private museum in the Zuma Beach Parking lot ,Don't worry that Water District 29 failed to properly inform Stakeholders of their $300,000,000 water project and its consequences .Don't worry about the undersized college campus parking spaces or that it will plant non native flammable palm tree torches instead of Sycamore trees ,Don't worry about roads that cannot handle existing traffic flows .Don't worry that the Whole Foods project and its green vertical wall precedent is already being exploited by the college campus that can count a roof twice as green landscaping .
Don't worry that the CCC whose main focus is to preserve what is left of our coast is ousting environmentalists and stacking the Board with mega Developers
Don't worry , nothing here,, move along ,Just let the foxes take care of the hen house
Don't worry that the City is ignoring its own Vision and Mission Statement

Jon Right

We should not worry about approvals from the CCC. This small project updates an existing County development, provides a badly needed Sheriff's station and gives us local educational opportunities. The perennial discontented are not pleased to discover that their anti-development agenda is not sustainable and is not supported by the majority in the community.

The activist's frustration is clearly evident, they can not infiltrate the City Hall staff with their fellow travelers, they can't get elected to positions of influence and their irrational, extreme views have been exposed for all to see. All of this matters in November when we will elect new Council Members. Voters will decide if we follow the dogma of those living in the past or do we evolve.

It was disappointing to see Joan House, one of the more rational City Leaders, get caught up in some perceived slight by one of the players over the minutia. On the other hand, Peak wanted to do the right thing, but was unable to vote against his supporters. We elect Council Members to make the hard decision, not abstain so that they can pander to their base.

Steve Woods

This town does NOT need more planning commissioners and councilman handing out variances on Commercial projects like it is candy . Vertical walled Landscaping , Green Roofs and 38 foot high buildings is the sugar that sets the precedent for all the other developers who are addicted to the sugar that the city is handing out .
Parents who practice Tough Love understand the importance of boundaries and saying NO !
Some one close to the project must have told the Architect to ignore the city ordinances and that it would be okay not to design the project within the confines of the city ordinances which could have easily been done. The architect also knew that two joint committee members were also on the city council and would vote for just about any variance asked
Well the word is out and the precedent has been set ! Great !
Its bad enough that the staff has been infiltrated by friends and previous employees of Developers but to hand them yet another bonus for future projects is reason enough for them to be popping the champagne corks .
Peak and Joan House know that breaking the rules is going to have consequences and the first one could be with the California Coastal Commission .If the plans get sent back for a re-design it could cost tax payers another $500,000

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