Planning Concerns Close to Home

Aired July 11, 2015

Some reflections on a Malibu Planning Commission hearing I attended this week.

It was the latest of several I have recently witnessed at City Hall concerning a host of planning issues confronting Malibu. For a small city of about 13,000 it does generate considerable controversy and discontent, giving some weight to the adage, the smaller the city, the more small-minded the politics.

Some of our city leaders are disturbed by the citizen protests, but I consider the grumblings healthy, an expression of down home Democracy. Though, frankly, I prefer they weren’t so often shrill, and ill informed.

I place much of the blame for this on the City’s failure to communicate, whether out of timidity or preferring to keep things close to their vests. For the record, my description in a commentary of the council being timorous did prompt Mayor John Sibert to take exception.

In an e-mail he states that far from being timorous the council has taken the initiative in host of issues, citing among other things scoring a needed study of the PCH and funds for improvements. And he added, and I quote, “if you think we don’t stand up to developers, you really do need to do a cranial/anal inversion. “ end of quote. Nothing timorous in that statement.

The mayor continued, saying the council for all its efforts gets no support from the-come lately spectators, who only descend on City Hall to carp. While wincing, I have to add that it is at least comforting to know that the council is listening.

This prompts me to cite yet another adage, a mathematical formula popular among journalists that states: public service equals megalomania, divided by paranoia.

But on occasion one must sympathize with those who volunteer for public service, donating their time for no compensation other than the reward of good citizenship. This was evident the other evening at the planning commission hearing considering an application for the remodel and expansion 29042 Cliffside Drive.

Aside from the questionable design, I testified that I felt the indicated construction of 49% is a blatant attempt to have the project declared a remodel and not a new structure, with its additional constraints and fees.

However, my prime objection is based on my experience as the past chair of the city”s View Preservation Task Force, and as a planner.

I fear as do current Cliffside residents that if this application is approved, and however it compromises the blue water view of any property, even by a sliver, it will also clearly affect their property values.

My view is not affected, but others are, and with the result of lowering their property values, mine also would be affected.

This did not bother the city’s wavering planning department, which recommended approval. But happily the commission did not. Member Jeff Jennings was particularly forthright . So was Mikke Pierson. And chairman David Brotman displayed his forte as an architect noting that the layout with its five master sized bedrooms, each with its own bath, was more indicative of a residential medical clinic than a family home.

Such residences have become the bane of Malibu, since only State approval is needed to convert an ostensibly private home to a clinic. Though, consultants for the corporate owner said this was not intended; that the house will be a retreat for a large extended family.

Obviously sensing the commission’s sentiments and a looming no vote, the applicants asked for a continuance. The neighbors hope in the two months given the applicant will attempt a redesign that preserves views. That is the hope, but deep pocketed developers in the past have not been so accommodating. We’ll see.

Im Sam Hall Kaplan, and this the City Observed, on 97.5 KBU and radiomalibu.net.

 

 

Is it Possible to Make PCH Safer, and Malibu Saner

Without question, the PCH is the bane of Malibu, given the highway’s daily accidents, capricious gridlock and conspicuous distracted drivers.

It is the price the city’s 13,000 residents must pay living in a self-anointed coastal paradise, through which 80,000 commuters pass every day, and up to an estimated 400,00 beach-bound visitors descend on sunny days.

After years of endless complaints, and years of studies, the city gave its blessing last week to an exacting 900 page report, recommending some 150 improvements with a price tag totaling 20 million dollars plus, presumably to make the roadway safer.

As detailed by consultants, the improvements include synchronized traffic signals, realigning several intersections, straightening sections of the road, an underpass, and bolder stripping and signage.

The improvements will fine-tune the highway, and no doubt make the intersections less prone to rear end collisions. .

But not solved is the conflict trying to accommodate bike lanes and on street parking in the eastern stretch of PCH, or more critically slowing traffic. Despite the praises of the City Council and others, there is no silver bullet to solve the harsh realities of the PCH.

Indeed, many of the recommendations might be counter intuitive. Traffic will probably increase.

Improving roadways almost always generates more traffic; traffic being like water, flowing downhill, to find its way into the most conducive channel.

And in Malibu, the PCH is the one and only channel, a lone connect linking the 21-mile long sausage-like city squeezed between an ocean and a mountain range.

Putting on my planner’s hat, as I have in past commentaries, and in remarks before the City Council, I feel the PCH should no longer be considered a highway, with speed limits of 45 and 55, in particular through the civic center.

Reevaluating the speed limit for the 4-mile stretch between Webb Way and Las Flores Canyon Road is way down the consultant’s priority list.

I suggest a high priority, and lowering the speed limits there to 35, and further down to 25 edging the Civic Center Way. That are the limits for the PCH where it passes through downtown Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar and other coastal towns.

In effect, this section of the PCH would become Malibu’s main street, and as such, Caltrans urban standards would apply, not incidentally protecting the hallowed trees. Also encouraged would be cross walks, and other amenities, lending the commercial clutter and park there a more welcoming identity.

In tweaking the PCH, the traffic study also needs some tweaking.

I’m Sam Hall Kaplan, and this is the City Observed, on 97.5 KBU FM, radio Malibu. Dot COM.

To be aired 6.27.2015

 

Ever Desirable and Threatened Malibu

Aired 6.13.15

Today, its my ever real estate desirable Malibu, where the planning commission and council are under pressure pondering the future of the civic center.

As the heat of the summer builds, and the heat of development bubbles , focus is on two proposed projects: a whole foods market and shops sweetened by a park, and the second, a commercial cluster that actually was approved by the city in 2008, but still must resolve some environmental issues.

Whatever, we can expect these developments will be with us for some time, tied up by appeals and law suits.

Meanwhile, a citizens task force is completing a draft of design guidelines for new commercial development, which most likely will recommend further study, on a broader plan , to weave a more attractive and accessible center, for residents as well as tourists.

But this continuing debate over the civic center can be distracting, for Malibu, after all, is primarily a residential community, which to be sure is also under development pressure, one project at a time. And this being a desired address for the deep pocket crowd, where big is considered better, the projects sadly are often egregious.

I feel they are compromising Malibu as much as the excessive commercial.

Consider the proposal of 29042 Cliffside Dr to be aired before the planning commission Monday. It takes a bad faux Mediterranean style house and attempts to convert it to a bad faux modernist structure.

From my perspective as an architecture critic, the design looks cheap.

I also feel the indicated construction of 49% is a blatant attempt to have the project declared a remodel and not a new structure, with its additional reviews and fees. The result is what I would label a macmansion .

However, my prime objection is based on my experience as the past chair of the city”s View Preservation Task Force, and from years as a planning consultant, to private corporations and public agencies.

I fear that if this application is approved, and however it compromises the blue water view of any neighboring property, it will also clearly affect their property values. That in turn will constitute what is known in planning as a taking; the taking away of value from one party to benefit another. This could be the basis for a costly law suit against the city.

My view is not affected, but if those of my neighbors are, and with the result of lowering their property values, mine also would be affected, and also that of all Malibu. Macmansions are a plague to be avoided. Tune in next week for the results

Im Sam Hall Kaplan, on 97.5 KBU and Radio Malibu, dot com.