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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trancas Market Center Sign Plans Precipitate Neighborhood Outcry

• Malibu West Homeowners Say Area Aesthetics Are Threatened

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Monday, June 3, to consider an application for a master sign plan for the Trancas Country Market shopping center.
The Malibu West Board of Directors has written a letter to the planning commission that asserts the proposed sign plan for the 237 home subdivision “will be aesthetically negatively impacted by the tenant lit signage proposed by the Trancas Country Market.”
Planners originally told the applicant that three signs had to be removed.
However, the applicant convinced the staff to allow the signs. All of the rest of the current signage is expected to be removed.
The existing nonconforming, 167 square foot roof sign that currently advertises the HOWS Trancas Market,  the existing nonconforming, 208 square foot, 16-foot tall monument tenant identification sign and 36 square foot tenant sign that currently advertises Starbucks.
The planning staff first maintained those three signs are not allowed by the city.
“The Malibu Municipal Code requires that within 30 days after the discontinuance of a business in any commercial zone or before a new business occupies the premises, which ever comes first all nonconforming signs and support structures shall be removed from all conforming signs,” the staff report states
It was during a review of the master sign program that staff had initially advised the applicant that the roof sign had to be removed.
However in response to that request, the applicant submitted a “lawyer letter” providing details on why the roof sign should be allowed to remain.
The staff report notes that after further review it was determined that the signs could remain based on the fact that the shopping center had in the past been known as the Trancas Market and since the roof sign included the words Trancas Market.
The proposed master sign program for the Trancas Country Market consists of the removal of all existing signs except the existing nonconforming roof sign, monument tenant sign and Starbucks sign.
However, Malibu West’s concerns have to do primarily with illuminated signs
Two new internally illuminated anchor tenant signs for Erewhon and Wells Fargo are planned, though, the design of the Erewhon sign has not been finalized. Wells Fargo’s are included in the plans. The two new internally illuminated anchor tenant signs require planning commission approval, because the signs differ in color, material and lighting method from the other proposed tenant signs.
A third tenant sign for Wells Fargo, which would consist of a non-illuminated secondary blade sign on the northeast corner of the building. The third tenant sign, according to the staff report, requires planning commission approval because only one secondary sign is allowed.
Thirty-two primary tenant signs that are proposed to be backlit with channel letters will be either suspended from a bar or sited above a bar.
Six of the primary signs will vary depending on the linear footage of the store footage. Every primary sign has to comply with the maximum sign area of one square feet of sign area per linear foot of store frontage.
“It will light up that corner like Las Vegas,” said Patt Healy, a lo

cal activist.
The Malibu West homeowners agree and state in the protest letter the commission either approve the signage plan originally sought by the previous owner, or deny the current application without prejudice and invite the applicant to return to the planning commission with signage and a signage lighting plan that adheres more closely with the previous tenant signage project description.
The original proposal that was never formally approved by the city consisted of hand-lettered wooden plaques and that what was lit would be downcast, copper stem-mounted fixtures.
“The applicant is now proposing for your approval a signage program radically different from the project description. The intensity of the current proposal will forever change the character of the surrounding area and our neighborhood. And not for the better,” the Malibu West letter states. “It is important to note that the applicant owns the commercially zoned property west of Trancas Canyon Road and whatever is approved now will set the stage for what is to follow and the surrounding area could be doubly impacted.”
The HOA letter concludes that it is better to approve a master sign program that is in keeping with the overall center design and west Malibu community character rather “than one that has the ability to change for the worse the character of the area forever.”
If that does not happen, then the commission should condition for aesthetic purposes all the signage not to be back lit or interior lit, according to the HOA.
Activists have called on the city to not consider the shopping center’s plans in a piecemeal fashion.
In previous notices announcing a hearing before the commissioners, a request for amending the lighting plan was also noticed, but no application for amending the lighting plan is included for the June hearing.
A staff report indicates the proposed lighting plan for the center is under a separate review and permit. Originally the applicant was proposing the addition of numerous light standards in the parking lots, but has since eliminated that request and the lighting plan currently under review would utilize bollards only to illuminate the parking lots, according to planners.
“The only exception to that would be four light standards in the main parking lot adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway. The current proposal would be consistent with the original planning commission approval for the center,” the  report states.
The planning department notes if the applicant is able to provide evidence that the proposed lighting plan for the center is consistent with the previously approved lighting plan, staff could approve the plan under substantial conformance and would not need to return to the commission.
Zuma Beach Properties LLC, an entity controlled by Walmart heiress Paige Laurie Dubbert and husband Bo, owner of the west Malibu center, which is still under construction, has attempted to return to the city chambers several times for amendments and changes to previously approved plans.
Current construction at the site makes fairly visible now to residents and visitors what the shopping center will look like while the framing and sheathing are in progress.
The Malibu West letter describes the current construction as a “rustic structure design [which] is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. The one story residential scale buildings fit the character of our neighborhood and many of our residents look forward to walking to the center to do our day to day shopping.”
Recently, the Trancas Starbucks sought changes to its summer hours. Commissioners tied approval of the change of closing hours to completion of a right hand turn lane at the shopping center.
It appeared the commissioners were either swayed by activists or wanted to send their own message about how they wanted to view the progress of the rest of the construction as it proceeds at the west Malibu location.
That may explain why the Dubberts have brought back a well-known Los Angeles attorney Claire Bronowski, who has years of experience in planning, and assisted in the early days of ownership when the Dubberts first acquired the commercial property, to act as the applicant and steer the application through the approval process.

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