Land banking is the latest item the City has added to its plate, and on first bite it appears tasty. But let the buyer beware, in this case Malibu residents, for if we really needed to be reminded, real estate here is a blood sport,And to be sure with any property transaction, public as well as private, the devil is in the details. Blank checks as indicated by the city proposal should just not be issued any government entity, no matter how servile.

That the ad hoc committee just appointed by the council to oversee the effort conjoins an irresolute Skylar Peak and realtor friendly, lame duck Laura Rosenthal, could present conflicts.

Indeed, there are aspects of Malibu’s land banking program that could well turn the most definitely well-intentioned effort into a land bungling program, and so I caution in my commentary for public radio 97.5 KBU, select websites and the LOCAL.

But first, some background, that at first glance makes land banking appear like a good idea:

Given the land use controversies that have roiled residents in recent years, resulting in costly contested propositions, snatching private property from the jaws of ever-avaricious developers for public use seems smart,

Logically less land for commercial use would undoubtedly mean less rapacious development of high end stores catering to flush tourists and the increasing horde of deep pocketed part time residents, resulting presumably in less traffic. That is the mantra of Malibu’s majority.

And the same goes for multi unit residential developments, such as had been proposed over the years for sprawling Trancas Field in West Malibu. It is a case in point.

The law suits over that proposal only ended last year with the city’s purchasing the field for $11 million plus in what could be considered a harbinger of a municipal land banking program. The purchase went without a hitch,

But the subsequent land use planning sessions by the city to determine what the 35-acre site be used for also could be a harbinger, albeit a disquieting one.

Proposed for consideration were the construction of centers for seniors, cultural and nature venues, a community garden, playing fields, and a ubiquitous skate board park. Also cited was the alternative of letting the fields remain as is.

There was no workshop, other than asking an unvetted audience to arbitrarily pin green and red dots on a series of the proposed uses pictured on display boards, reminding some of a kindergarden project. Confusion ensued.

No particulars were offered, such as cost benefits analyses for any of the wish list, design specifications, such as will the playing fields require stands, lighting and toilets; and for any use, parking, parking, parking.

Talk about a pig in the poke. Talk about giving out your credit card number and security code to a robo caller.

If doing nothing is proposed, or for that matter, too much, as it has for Bluffs Park, there is the concern the ensuing muddle would be a honey pot for the bureaucracy, and the planning could drag on for years, for City Hall’s favorite consultants.

And as for doing nothing, the $11 million purchase paid for by all of Malibu then would be gift of sorts to the 30 or so properties overlooking the field.

No doubt it would add to their property values, just as the very private access to the public beaches does for select Point Dune properties blessed by arbitrarily deeded beach keys.

Interestingly, this raises the question of whether the land-banking program could be tweaked and tapped to buy beach access on the Point for all Malibu residents; in effect provide a free alternative to the pricey beach key conceit and questionable real estate construct.

Now that could be an imaginative, if not, to say the least ,controversial, application of land banking. Yes, the devil is in the details. That possible pig in the poke the land bank poses just may not be kosher.  1.17.17

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Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

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