If we’ve learned anything from last week’s California Coastal Commission (CCC) meeting, it’s that for a successful outcome, a developer needs to be patient, flexible and willing to concede some design elements — and that sweetening the deal with an extra $2 million never hurts.
That seemed to be the order of business for the five-house project set to be built on the former Crummer property, officially called “Malibu Coast Estates” — a 24-acre parcel of land located adjacent to Bluffs Park in central Malibu — which came before the CCC on Aug. 12, and passed muster with an 8-3 vote by commissioners.
The gated subdivision has been in the works since 2013, last coming before the CCC in February of this year, when it was sent back with demands to make the proposed mansions smaller and set farther back from the bluffs.
This time, developers presented a project with all single-story residences. While previously the homes ranged in height from 24-28 feet, they will now be 15-18 feet tall. The gate house and front gate were also modified to be on a smaller scale.
Not all commissioners were happy with the new plans though.
“If we give up this bluff, if we give it up from the public use, it’s gone. It’ll never come back,” Commissioner Mary Shallenberger said.
“It’s zoned as visitor-serving, and as much as I love that MRCA proposal, it is not enough,” Shallenberger added.
The MRCA (Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority) plan Shallenberger was referring to is a new campground to be built in Puerco Canyon, that, according to a recent L.A. County Supervisors decision, will benefit area foster children and disadvantaged kids. As part of the project, developer Robert Gold pledged $2 million to the state, which would go toward the new campground.
What may have made the difference, though, was a deal commissioners couldn’t refuse — a doubling of the dollar amount pledged to the State of California to mitigate a disagreement between whether or not the property should be used in a “visitor-serving” capacity.
This “in-lieu mitigation” springs from a conflict between land use and zoning maps designating the property for residential use, while a previous agreement showed the City of Malibu declared that if the land was not to be used for ball fields, it should become commercial, community-serving land.
Back in February, Gold agreed to pay $2 million to the state and an additional $1 million to the City of Malibu in lieu of using the land in a visitor-serving capacity. Last Wednesday, Gold pledged an additional $2 million to the state, which will go toward the Puerco Canyon campground.
Representatives from the MRCA and Happy Trails, a camp for foster children, came to speak to Commissioners in support of the project.
“For a week, we show these boys and girls that there is a helping hand out there,” Happy Trails counselor Eric Torres said. “I believe that Puerco Canyon in Malibu provides a great selection of flora and ocean views.”
Another commissioner, Martha McClure, saw the proposal in a very different light.
“I’m not accepting it as bittersweet and a compromise,” McClure said. “I’m accepting it as a project that protects the viewshed, that protects the corridor for animals to be able to traverse the canyons, and I see it as a win for the children and families of California.”
As part of the monetary agreement, commissioners were not permitted to request any more changes, though commissioner Wendy Mitchell pushed for further regulations on landscaping.
View appeal denied
Longtime Malibu resident and real estate agent Carol Bird saw a denial of her appeal of a construction permit for her neighbor, Tom Keane, to build a house on his residential-zoned property that would block 100 percent of ocean views from her property, as well as a sliver of ocean visible from Broad Beach Road.
According to the staff report for the meeting, staff recommended commissioners find “the appellant’s contentions ... raise no substantial issue with regard to the approved project’s consistency with the policies and provisions in the City of Malibu’s certified LCP [local coastal program].”
The commissioners voted 8-3 to support staff’s recommendation and deny Bird’s appeal, but not without bitter words by some.
“I just want to point out that this is a pattern,” Commissioner Mark Vargas said. “This is a game in Malibu, and it happens little by little and it’s not accidental. It is definitely a purposeful process by which to block any types of views and to create the sense of the public not being welcome to approach those beaches.”
There were also allegations that photographs of the water view at street level were inaccurate, and were perhaps taken from a higher point, so as to showcase a larger view than is realistic.
“In our opinion, the view shown in that snapshot ... is not an accurate depiction of the views you would see,” Commissioner Charles Lester said.
Other Malibu business
The CCC voted unanimously to approve the City of Malibu’s local coastal program amendment for the Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility, which was previously agreed to during the June Coastal Commission meeting.
The governing body also voted unanimously to grant a time extension for developers to construct an off-site beach access easement between Las Flores Canyon Road and Big Rock Canyon Road. The access, which was initially approved as part of an agreement with developers at the June 2014 Coastal Commission meeting, will provide the only public beach access in the three-mile stretch between the access at Big Rock and the “East Carbon Beach” access point.
The applicants, Carbonview Limited, LLC, have ties to Oracle billionaire and Malibu homeowner Larry Ellison. As part of the 2014 agreement, they have pledged $400,000 to the MRCA to carry out the construction of the accessway. According to commission staff, the “very unique” project is consistent with the Malibu LCP.