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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cemetery Is on Wish List of Possible Civic Center Land Uses

• Ad Hoc Panel on Possible Ways to Retire Land for Open Space Meets Next on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

BY BILL KOENEKER

At a meeting of the Civic Center Property Owners Negotiation Ad Hoc Committee town hall meeting last week, a suggestion was made about using land in the Civic Center for a cemetery.
That seemed to resonate with quite a few individuals who immediately recognized the wish to stay in Malibu forever.
The ad hoc committee is comprised of Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmember Joan House, who both host the forum for the public in an informal setting to contribute ideas on how the city can retire vacant land.
The ad hoc committee is empowered as well to negotiate with Civic Center property owners to determine if they would be willing to sell their vacant land to the city.
Two town hall sessions have been held so far. The panel was formed just months ago. Ad hoc committee member Rosenthal said, at the outset of the meetings, “Preserving vacant land zoned for commercial use is one way to ensure that Malibu retains its rural landscape. We look forward to productive meeting[s] filled with great ideas.”
During last week’s meeting Dennis Torres, who is the senior real estate officer at Pepperdine University, suggested a cemetery.
Torres was asked after the meeting if he was putting out feelers for the property Pepperdine owns in the Civic Center.
The university owns nine acres behind the Los Angeles County-owned government complex and an additional 7.3 acres, which historically was operated as a nursery, adjacent to the Malibu Racquet Club.
Torres said one of the parcels co-owned by partners is currently the subject of litigation.
The other acreage is also co-owned with partners, who are currently expecting to maximize profits.
Torres said many of the other ideas he heard bandied about include putting bond measures on the ballot for the voters to tax themselves to acquire the multi-million dollar properties. “That is probably not going to happen,” he said.
Another panel member proposed that billionaires who own homes in Malibu could come forward to buy the land for the citizens of Malibu.
Torres said he had made the cemetery suggestion 20 years ago at a planning meeting and was laughed at. He said he proposed the cemetery idea again because it would not cost the citizens or the city money and the property owner could still make a profit.
Torres said when he looked into it, he found it has already been done and there are even cemeteries where they do not allow embalmed bodies because they want so-called environmental cemeteries.
There are no headstones in this type of cemetery. The cemetery could be a park. The graves could be located by GPS, according to Torres, who said many folks at last week’s meeting laughed, but then thought about it and seemed to agree. This all would not have to be at the Civic Center, it could be spread around all of Malibu, he said.
There was some brief discussion about what a Malibu cemetery might look like with some conversations afterwards talking about more of an open space than a facility with buildings, mausoleums and other such development.
A dissimilar example might be the city of Ventura turning a cemetery into a public park. All headstones and crypts were removed to make for a large grassy hillside suitable as a park for the public
Controversy, nevertheless, has followed the park, especially when the city council allowed dogs on leashes in the park.
City officials renewed their promise to allow dogs in the park just this past July.

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