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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

SMMC Claims There’s More to Million-Dollar Deal’s Public Benefits Program

• Destroying the Ridgeline Seen as Offset by Agency Package

BY BILL KOENEKER

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy officials and a public relations firm hired by the corporate applicants, say there is more to the deal agreed upon last week by the SMMC board to endorse what is being called a “public benefits program” offered by David Evans, better known as The Edge rock guitarist of U2, for his Sweetwater Mesa mega-mansion subdivision, than was originally reported.
The framework of the public benefits program would consist of Evans handing over $750,000 to the SMMC in funding for the acquisition and development of the Coastal Slope Trail between Evan’s property, where he plans to build five mansions eastward to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s Tuna Canyon Park, and another $250,000 of pre-acquisition and trail design services that are earmarked for Schmitz and Associates, which has been spearheading Evan’s permitting process.
There are other benefits, including deed restrictions around the proposed homes, a conservation easement of almost 100 acres of open space and immediate dedication of trail easements for the public on three segments of the Coastal Slope Trail, according to Dash Stolarz, a Conservancy spokesperson.
In return, the Conservancy and MRCA will “take a neutral position on the project but may ask the [California Coastal] commission to consider its 2009 comment letter.”
The CCC staff report had recommended denial of Evan’s plans for five 10,000 to 11,000-square- foot homes, and he and his agents subsequently withdrew the applications.
The SMMC documents also indicate the Conservancy and the MRCA may not oppose another development consisting of a single family residence on each of the three pads located along Carbon Mesa Road. That was done to secure immediate easements along that property, according to Don Schmitz, who is the land use consultant for the five applications. He declined to say who is listed as the property owner of the Carbon Mesa property.
The SMMC is also obligated to “support the public benefits program by resolution and in writing and by speaking in favor of the public benefits program.”
The SMMC documents indicate the deal is contingent on final approval from the Coastal Commission, the County of Los Angeles and City of Malibu.
Fiona Hutton, who has been hired to smooth over public relations, emphasized how important the conservation easement of 100 acres and the immediate trail easements are for the public benefits.
Hutton also provided additional comments from Schmitz, who is spearheading efforts for permits and entitlements. Schmitz and Hutton continue to insist there are five property owners involved and are each proposing their own single-family home on their lot.
“When we received the initial comment letter from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, we believed it was very important to carefully consider and address their concerns,” Schmitz said.
Apparently, the Coastal Commission may still be unconvinced about the ownership issue and plans a special workshop this month.
The workshop will be a moderated public discussion and review of the legal principles and case law associated with single economic parcels: assessing unity of ownership and related topic with respect of the takings law, according to the CCC.
Several experts are scheduled to address the commission.

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