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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Developer’s Camp Plans Premature

• Ad Angers and Dismays West Malibu Residents

BY BILL KOENEKER

An advertisement in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday about how Donald Sterling plans on using Vital Zuman, formerly the Fig Tree Ranch, as a farm and horse camp for summer campers, including a helicopter pad, left some West Malibu residents wringing their hands over the week-end.
At this week’s Malibu City Council meeting, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich held up the ad and said, “People are asking me did we approve this?”
City Manager Jim Thorsen said, “At this time, Mr. Sterling has not submitted any application. He would have to obtain a coastal permit and go through the public hearing process.
“At this time, nothing is planned [via the city approval process],” he said.
Mayor John Sibert said for the installation of a helicopter pad, Sterling would need more than city approval.
“He would have to get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration and the sheriff’s department.” the mayor said. “And the pictures are not of his property.”
After Sterling bought the property last year, there was continued speculation about what the real estate mogul and investor planned to do with the purchase of the nearly nine-acre property.
That caused the part-time Malibu resident to issue a statement through the real estate agent that handled the transaction.
“[Sterling] purchased the property to support Vital Zuman project,” said Realtor Sandra Peltola, who said she represented both the buyer and the seller, Alan Cunningham.
“[Sterling] said he has no plans to develop the property. There are no plans to change it,” added Peltola, who said that Sterling paid $2.5 million for the property.
Cunningham will remain to head up the operations, which mostly consist of volunteers, according to Peltola, who said Sterling liked that concept.
Peltola said the house will be remodeled and Cunningham will live off site.
She added that she did not know if Sterling, who owns a home in the Malibu Colony, would use the residential portion of the property once it is completed. She said it would probably take several years for the remodel to be finished.
The real estate agent said Sterling approached her since she had the listing, and took a tour of the property.
When Peltola was asked what motivated Sterling to purchase the land, which has been touted as a half-century-old organic farm, she said,“He is a philanthropic person. He does grants all around Los Angeles County.”
Sterling subsequently acquired a vacant 11-acre property contiguous to the farm.
Another property next to that land has come on the market.
The historic property is home to the Malibu Stage Company theatre and a nursery and was formerly a Lutheran Church.
The 6.5 acres consist of the former church building now a 99-seat theater, office building with a kitchen is offered for sale at $4.95 million.
Malibu city officials had their eyes on the fig ranch property since it was known that Cunningham would have to give up the property.
Conley Ulich had suggested the city could purchase the property and maintain it as an historic farm.
At one time, a municipal blue ribbon task force looked at the property and adjacent acreage, since acquired by Sterling called the DeWind property and was asked to make recommendations for what the city could do with the land if it purchased it.
There was no majority on the council interested in acquiring the land, which was then purchased by Sterling.

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