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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Planning Panel to Consider Controversial House Demolition Plan

• Commission Postponed Vote on Project That Has Angered Many and Raises Issue of Precedence

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing to consider a controversial request to demolish a Bart Prince-designed home and replace it with a new 5,710 square foot, single-family home on Tuesday, March 6.
The planning panel previously postponed a vote on the contested request to tear down the Point Dume residence designed by the well-known architect, built in 2004, and replace it.
The existing Prince-designed home consists of a series of six two-story diamond-shaped segments that cascade toward the canyon and a terraced garden.
Preservationists have cried foul and believe the city should reconsider. However, the planning staff indicates the residence “does not qualify as a ‘historical resource’ under any of the criteria [it cited].”
Don Schmitz, who represents the owners, insisted at the previous planning commission meeting there are no significant impacts to views, nor impacts to the slopes.
“We are proposing a smaller home [than the existing one]. It is not a monolith. It is compliant with the Local Coastal Program and the municipal code. We have minimized all impacts,” he said.
Plans call for a new, two-story home with a 93-square-foot basement, a 483-square-foot detached garage, a 450-square-foot cabana with a 250-square-foot studio above, a 400-square-foot trellised carport, a swimming pool and spa and 29 square feet of covered porches projecting more than six feet.
The request also includes a site plan review to waive the height restrictions for a height to the home in excess of 18 feet. There is 28 feet proposed and what is called a minor modification to reduce the required front yard setback from 65 feet to 32.5 feet.
There was a mix of critics who took different viewpoints.
Realtor and activist Susan Saul said, “This is about the views. The view corridors are protected.”
Local architect Doug Burdge agreed that it was about the views. "It is not about the architecture, it is about the project placement on the site,” he said. “I'm working on eight projects on Point Dume. You have to work with the neighbors at the outset or you probably won't get the project approved.”
Actress Kelly Lynch said it is about architecture. “I'm not here for the views. I'm here to defend the house. Bart Prince has 50 homes on the planet. If this building is lost it is a shame. What stands there now is a masterpiece.”
The appellants Chad Smith and his wife told planning commissioners. “We stand here not just protecting our views. It is upsetting we never have met the applicants,” they said.
Smith went on to say it was upsetting for him that the privacy issue was not understood.
Then it was time for the commissioners to speak. Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings said the city does not have a preservation ordinance.
“That argument won’t hold for me,” he said. It was the same response given by the staff.
“First, the existing residence is not listed in the California Register of Historical Resources and has not been determined to be eligible for listing by the State Historical Resources Commission. Second, the city does not maintain a local register of historical resources. Third, the city has not determined that the existing residence is historically or architecturally significant. Generally properties eligible for listing must be at least 50 years old. The California Register only considers a resource ‘less than fifty years old’…if it can be demonstrated that sufficient time has passed to understand its historical importance. The existing residence was built in 2004, making it approximately seven years old. While it was designed by a respected architect, it does not appear to have sufficient significance to override the 50-year age criterion of the California Register. Accordingly, the existing residence is not an historical resource for the purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act.”
Jennings said it is about the envelope. “If you stay within the envelope you are OK. People have a right to know what they can build,” he said.
Commissioner John Mazza took a different tack. “I’m almost the exact opposite of Jeff. We have to make findings. It has to follow the LCP.”
Commissioner Joan House, who is running for a seat on the city council, said she was concerned about how the homes were being put out further down the slope to gain ocean view and wanted to know if there was a domino effect. Planners could not tell her and she wanted to continue the matter until commissioners could find out from the staff.
“I am disappointed we have no opportunity to look at the overview of the canyon domino theory. Is there an impact on the neighbors? I will not support it because of that. I need to see the impact going up the gully,” House said.
The commission agreed to continue the matter, until the staff could provide some answers.

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