The Malibu Bay Co. president says he will donate the 10-acre property, located at Malibu Colony, to the state after his and his wife's death.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

In a rare Malibu moment, most of the community leaders and activists are in agreement with something done by Malibu Bay Co. President Jerry Perenchio. It was announced late last week that the reclusive billionaire and part-time Malibu resident has agreed to donate his controversial, 10-acre Malibu Colony golf course property as open space to the state after his and his wife's death in exchange for receiving California Coastal Commission approval for the property.

The deal was reached after months of negotiation between the Coastal Commission staff and Perenchio's representatives. Also, input was received from the local environmental organization, Wetlands Action Network.

Perenchio has also agreed to improve the property's drainage and landscaping. Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board staff must give written confirmation that the maintenance practices at the property are consistent with water quality rules for Perenchio to fully meet his end of the bargain. The Coastal Commission is expected to vote on the agreement at its meeting next month.

"We are extremely grateful to Mr. and Ms. Perenchio for this absolutely incredible gift to the Malibu Lagoon ecosystem, to the people of California and to the Malibu community," said Robert Roy van de Hoek of the Wetlands Action Network in a press release.

Although the property, which consists of three golf greens and is not referred to as a golf course by Perenchio and his representatives, was known to exist by many community members since it was built more than 20 years ago, it was the Wetlands Action Network that brought its existence to the attention of the state.

In 1982, Perenchio received a Coastal Commission permit for an eight-foot rock wall, a jogging track, three ponds, irrigation and lighting systems, a dish radio receiver and three gazebos behind one of his Malibu Colony homes. However, he built the three-green, 10-acre private golf course instead. Several local environmental organizations, including the Wetlands Action Network, spoke out against the existence of the golf facility, alleging dangerous pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other pollutants had been released from the property over the years. They said this harmed the quality of water in Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. The Wetlands Action Network had filed a lawsuit over the matter, but has agreed to drop it after the deal was made between Perenchio and Coastal Commission staff.

Perenchio was forced to go before the Coastal Commission last summer to seek an after-the-fact permit. The commission chose to continue the item while Perenchio's representatives negotiated with Coastal Commission staff. It was then supposed to go before the commission in November, but that never occurred.

During this time, the Malibu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation circulated a petition for which it gathered 2,000 signatures from people demanding the Coastal Commission reject Perenchio's request for a permit. Alan Reed, the chapter's chairman, said the organization would reserve comment on the agreement until it had analyzed the details of how Perenchio planned to manage the property and assure water quality improvements. But Reed said the situation looked promising. He added that he believed the chapter's petition helped move things toward a positive outcome.

"We see this as a big win, because with the public opinion we generated, we helped to get Mr. Perenchio to make some drastic changes," Reed said.

Malibu Community Action Network, which was at odds with Perenchio during the Malibu Bay Co. election last fall, has praised the man for the deal.

President Steve Uhring said he was pleased Perenchio and the Coastal Commission were able to come up with a solution that worked for both parties. But he declined to say whether this said anything about how Perenchio might deal with his 12 Malibu Bay Co. properties, which were part of the development agreement with the city that was rejected in November by voters.

"It's really difficult to look that far forward over the horizon," Uhring said. "This shows there are rational things that can be worked out that will be good for everybody."

At Monday's City Council meeting, the councilmembers also spoke in favor of the agreement.

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