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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Controversial Consultant Hired Despite Objections

• Council Moves on Housing Element

BY BILL KOENEKER


West Malibu activists came out in force at this week’s Malibu City Council meeting when they learned that an agenda item about hiring a consulting firm to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for the city’s housing element update could possibly earmark Trancas field for zoning that would include affordable housing.
Some critics also challenged the selection of an environmental consultant who had performed the work at Trancas Canyon Park.
Activist Patt Healy said the objection about affordable housing was the possible densities allowed by state law citing 20 units per acre.
“Seven hundred units could go on those parcels,” she said.
Healy said there would be the potential for a 1000 units on Trancas field. “Look at guesthouses and apartments,” she added. “Don’t do the EIR consultant tonight.”
City Attorney Christi Hogin interrupted to say, “No way we would ever create the potential for 700 to 1000 units. We need to look at everything. The environmental information will let us know what is not feasible.”
Hogin warned that housing department officials from Sacramento could come down and drive around seeing all of the vacant land and quiz city officials about why there was no affordable housing.
Activist Lynn Norton reminded the council how Rincon was used as the EIR consultant for Trancas Park. She talked about how they goofed on an Environmentally Sennsitive Habitat Area designation and the grading on the ridgeline that cost the city money and created such controversy in Malibu West.
Steve Rucker, who said he was representing the Malibu West Homeowners Association, said the intention was to allow the three parcels that make up Trancas Field to remain the most rural parcels.
He said they should be removed from any consideration and that the council should postpone the EIR consultant contract.
Jo Ruggles, a former planning commissioner, said she was very angry about what was happening. “This is a red herring. We have never had a certified housing element. Why is this being done in a vacuum?” she asked. “Nothing is supposed to be subject to upzoning. There should be no change in zoning. We already have an EIR. It could be updated. The city has never completed its open space plan. Guess what? Trancas field is in that plan.”
Malibu Township Council spokesperson Lucille Keller complained there was no proper notification. She asked if the city has checked the allocation for affordable housing assigned to it. “We request you delay the contract and hold a couple of hearings for the residents to address this,” she said.
Planning Manager Joyce Parker said Rincon was chosen because they made the lowest bid. She said there would be eight meetings, four public hearings, a scoping session and said the map would be on the city’s website.
“We are legally obligated to address this issue,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte.
“We could have done a better job of noticing. I see this is a way to discuss this.”
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said the way she looked at it was to start on the EIR. “We need the info to get the public input,” she said.
Mayor John Sibert said he did not want any decisions made by judges in black robes.
In addition to the Trancas parcel proposal, there are three parcels on PCH and four under consideration in the Civic Center area, clustered around city hall, including the so-called “Wave” property and the Allied Nursery.
The preparation and completion of the EIR will cost the city $153,432. Funding for this agreement is included in the adopted budget for fiscal year 2010-11, according to the staff report.

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