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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Planning Commission Tackles Several Challenging Issues

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission, with Chair Jeff Jennings recusing himself,  approved plans this week for remodeling a historic motel located in mid-Malibu, the Casa Malibu Inn on the beach.
The planning panel approved a resolution granting a coastal permit, demolition permit and offer to dedicate a lateral beach access and to allow a less than fifty percent interior and exterior remodel of a legal nonconforming motel.
The item was previously scheduled for a public hearing at the beginning of April, but the matter was continued to May 6 to allow time for the applicant to respond to a comment letter submitted by the California Coastal Commission staff.
To address questions about how the remodel complies with the LCP, the applicant met with CCC staff to explain the existing condition of the property and review the details of the project plans and scope of work.
To take care of the lower cost visitor-serving accommodations issue, the applicant has elected to add a voluntary payment “consistent with the provisions found in the Local Implementation Plan and pay $33,801 to be deposited into a fund to be used by the city to subsidize the construction of lower cost overnight facilities in the Malibu Santa Monica Mountains coastal zone.”
Additionally, the applicant has added an offer to dedicate a public lateral access easement along the shoreline to support protection of public access to the shore, according to the staff report.
The applicant has also initiated the application process with the State Lands Commission by submitting a mean high tide line survey and request for determination.
Studio PCH, LLC, the applicant, which is a Malibu-based architectural and design firm, is asking the commission for the entitlements to allow for a redesign.The number of rooms would be reduced from 22 to 16.
Former Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, who said he owned property across the street, praised the project.
“My only hope is the remodeling of the hotel doesn’t take as long as the two restaurants,” he said
Plans include the repair and maintenance of the existing bulkhead and pile foundation, replacement of hardscape, new trellises, water features, landscaping, a minor modification for a 50 percent reduction in the front yard setback and a demolition permit.
Engineer Norm Haynie, who said he too owns property across the street, took the Coastal Commission to task for what he called “extorting money from developers,” by requiring payment into a low cost visitor serving fund.
“If the public believes in low cost visitor-serving housing, the public should pay for it, rather than extorting money from the developers. It sounds like a harsh word,” he said.
The commission was also asked to approve an amendment to Starbucks coffee shop’s Conditional Use Permit to allow the Trancas facility to operate until 11 p.m. nightly instead of operating until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
The planning staff was recommending the commission approve the request.
Starbucks just recently moved back into their former, now expanded, location, from the temporary store in a trailer. The rest of the building is under construction.
Commissioners were told the coffee shop wanted its expanded hours for just the summer time.
However, a majority of the commission took a different tack and attempting to give the shopping center owners a nudge, conditioned approval of the expanded hours provided the right-turn lane for the shopping center is first installed on PCH.
The planning panel deliberated for some time on exactly how they wanted to condition the request.
Malibu West activist Cindy Vandor urged the commission to not allow Starbucks to add hours. “People cannot get in and out. The mass transit is not safe. There is no safe passage. There is no safe emergency access,” she said. “I beg you not to grant another favor to the shopping center owners. This developer is gaming the system.”
Commissioners talked at length about whether Starbucks is a coffee shop or restaurant; whether folks should be encouraged to come to the site while it is still under construction; and how what seemed like a simple request could turn into a complicated matter.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski told commissioners the city was not part of the right hand turn lane discussions, since the matter was part of the conditions of a settlement agreement with a neighbor.
She said she understood that there is not enough room for even a substandard lane. “If Caltrans won’t accept that, it won’t be installed. It may be it could never be installed,” the planning director added.
When it came time for a vote, both Jennings and Pierson voted no with the majority of the commission adamant in maintaining the amendment.
The Planning  Commission also voted to approve a three-hour parking limit along Cross Creek Road between Civic Center Way and Pacific Coast Highway that would be in effect seven days a week during business hours from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The restrictions would be imposed on 29 spaces.
The commission was told there about 852 Civic Center parking spaces. The restrictions are in place for one year and subject to evaluation.
Planning panelists were  told that the Coastal Commission went along with the plan because they viewed it as a creating additional public beach access.

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