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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Planning Panel Approves Modest Trancas Coffee House Expansion Plans

•  Seating Issues Are Discussed as Part of the Permit Approval Process and Staff to Review More

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission this week approved a request by a Starbucks coffee official for a Conditional Use Permit to allow for a 441 square foot expansion and operation of the existing coffee shop located in the Trancas shopping center.
The commission was poised to approve the request when a planning panelist noticed on the plans there was no schematic for where all of the outdoor seating is located.
According to the planning department, the applicant wants to remodel and expand the coffee shop tenant space by removing the wall that separates it from an adjoining 441 square foot storefront that is currently occupied by a surf shop.
Once the project is completed the total area dedicated to Starbucks will be 1545 square feet, a planner explained to panelists.
The new 441-square-foot addition will be primarily used to add additional storage space and a restroom, commissioners were told.
The expansion would not result in additional seating or square footage to the existing building. The existing hours of operation would remain the same.
Some commissioners wanted to know what the seating for the coffee shop is and were told 25 seats.
Then another commissioner asked if the outdoor seats were counted and complications ensued. If the outdoor seating is considered additional seating, then the question arises whether  it should require additional parking and a permit.
“I don’t have a problem with approving the CUP, but is everything there to take care of the improvements?” asked Commissioner Mikke Pierson.
Planner Richard Mollica said seating is linked to wastewater requirements. Parking is derived from the permit granted to the shopping center.
“I’m not sure the service area has not increased,” said Chair John Mazza.
Malibu West resident and activist Cindy Vandor urged the commission to stop the piecemeal permitting of the shopping center and address what she said were the larger problems of safety.
“They have to fix how dangerous this is. We don’t need more coffee, we need more safety. Say no until they make the place more safe,” she said.
Mazza said he wanted the staff to come up with a precise number for the service area.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski said they could provide an exact number.
“There looks to me to be Starbucks seating outside,” said Pierson. “I think the shopping center could be a wonderful community asset, but I just don’t think this write-out is accurate.”
Mollica said, “This project does not propose outdoor seating. If the applicant wants to put seating there, they will have to show us. This is an expansion of the interior. There is no outdoor seating unless shown. They have to put that in the application. If there is dedicated seating, it would take away from the open space [requirements].”
Parker asked Mollica if that was approved as part of the shopping center application.
Mollica answered, “We did not approve dedicated seating for Starbucks.”
Another commissioner noted the plan before the commissioners clearly did not show the outdoor seating.
The Starbucks representative Elizabeth Valerio told commissioners that ambitious store managers may have put out tables and chairs. “We have no problem taking away any seating,” she said. “The lease is for 25 seats.”
“Does that preclude the landlord? I want to know what is happening,” said Commissioner David Brotman. “Starbucks is a hub for the community. It is a conundrum. We do not have the whole picture.”
“What is the legal ramifications of denying Starbucks?” asked Commissioner Roohi Stack
“As David pointed out, we don’t have the information. I am going to make a motion to bring this back,” said Mazza.
“The question is the seating outside—that is a fait accompli. Here we are with this thing before us if the CUP does allow seating, are we not going to approve this?” asked Brotman. “How does that affect what we do to Starbucks?”
“I just don’t want to approve something that is not reflected in reality,” said Pierson.
Some of the commissioners agreed that when they are considering requests from individual tenants it is equally important to know what the larger issues are given the shopping center approvals. “Give us the context,” said Brotman.
The commission is scheduled to hear a request by contractor Scott Rosier to amend a coastal permit for nightlights at the Trancas Country Market at a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The request also seeks changes to the landscape plan, the native trees plan and the master sign program.
The matter was originally scheduled for an Oct. 1 hearing, but was postponed after the applicant wanted to meet with neighbors, who were beginning to raise concerns about what the developer wanted to do.
The staff recommendation for a scheduled meeting last month was to continue the public hearing to a date uncertain by pulling it off the calendar.
The original request for the shopping center, which is currently under construction, included changes to the previously approved lighting plan to allow the addition of 43 pole mounted lights that vary in height from 12 to 20 feet located throughout the parking lot and pedestrian areas, as well as other site lighting and building mounted lighting, according to a public notice issued by the city’s planning department.
However, the current agenda notice does not stipulate how many poles are sought, but indicates an amendment “for proposed changes to the conditions of approval including changes to the previously approved lighting plan, which includes the addition of pole mounted lights that vary in height from 12 to 16 feet located throughout the parking lot and pedestrian areas, as well as other site lighting and building mounted lighting.”
In addition, the developers are seeking changes to the landscape plan, changes to the native tree plan, changes to screening requirements for on site wastewater treatment pods and approval of a master sign program.          
The shopping center is still currently being remodeled and this is the second set of changes or amendments to the coastal permit that have been requested.
Night lighting has become an issue, especially in Malibu Park, because of lights approved for the high school sports  field and a new proposed parking lot.
The planning commission turned down night lighting for the planned 150-car high school parking lot.
Even more controversial is the field lighting recently installed at the football field at the high school at nearby Malibu Park.
The MHS field lighting was not heard by the planning commission, but was approved by the city council, instead.
Critics of the night lighting plans point out that the requested lighting, when considered cumulatively, would result in significant negative impacts to the night sky that cannot be fully mitigated.

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