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Malibu City Manager: 30 to 35 Acres of Bluffs Park Likely Developable

Malibu Councilman John Sibert plans to meet with Coastal Commissioners later this week to confirm whether 30 to 35 acres of land at Bluff's Park are open to development.

More than 30 acres of Malibu Bluff’s Park may be developable for recreation facilities, Malibu's city manager announced Monday. The new information is an important piece for city officials to consider as part of a proposed land swap and settlement of a lawsuit with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Under the proposed swap, the city would gain ownership of 83 acres of Bluffs Park in exchange for Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) control over 532 acres at Charmlee Wilderness Park. Originally, the city believed that only 10 acres of Bluff’s Park were developable and not considered Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA).

In January, the Malibu City Council voted to move forward and explore the land swap proposal and possible settlement of a lawsuit over uses in Ramirez Canyon, but outside of SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston's preferred end of January deadline.

City Manager Jim Thorsen said city staff members have been evaluating Bluff’s Park for the potential of building ball parks, recreational fields and a skate park.

The due diligence so far has focused on geology, costs, fire, recreation and other potential uses, he said. Originally the council believed that only about 10 acres would be developable.

“I wanted to bring this up to the council and to the public that one of the interesting items that we did find out because we did believe there was only non-ESHA in the upper westerly corner,” Thorsen said, showing a photo of plans by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for 40 campsites, parking and restrooms in Bluff’s Park. “What you see in very light in green, is they had a biology assessment done and they’ve shown that as grassland. Grassland is considered non-ESHA.”

Thorsen said Coastal Commission staff have reviewed the document and have agreed the area is not environmentally sensitive.

The designation opens up 30 to 35 acres of Bluff’s Park to development if the land swap moves forward.

“It opens up the whole center of the Bluff’s Park swap land area to development for park and recreational facilities, whether that be a skate park, soccer fields, baseball fields, BMX, tennis courts or any number of combinations of athletic facilities is available because it is not considered ESHA,” Thorsen said.

He said the biological assessment conducted by the SMMC could become part of a future Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and would not be required to go back before the Coastal Commission.

"As we move forward, we’re still gather the data, but this was interesting enough that I wanted to bring it forward," Thorsen said.

Several council members are planning to walk Bluffs Park and Charmlee Park over the next several months, and the public is invited.

Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Councilman John Sibert plan to walk Bluff’s Park on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. and Charmlee Park as early as March 9.

Separately, Mayor Pro Tem Joan House and Mayor Lou La Monte plan to walk Bluff’s Park this Wednesday at 1 p.m. They will meet in the parking lot. Those interested are asked to wear sturdy shoes.

Edmiston has said the city of Malibu has a right to perform its due diligence on Malibu Bluffs Park, but that he is expecting swift action.

"This issue has been debated pretty thoroughly within Malibu. We’re just not interested in something that just drags out and drags out. Otherwise, we do have a proposal ready to go ahead for camping on the Bluffs," Edmiston said.

After the meeting, Sibert said he always believed that more than 10 acres of Bluff’s Park were not Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas.

“I’ll be meeting with at least two Coastal Commissioners over the next week or so. We’ll make sure we confirm that,” Sibert said. “At this point, this is just another piece of information. In other words, before we do anything, we need to find out all this stuff.”

Rosenthal said she hopes many people come out to the walk on Jan. 23 in order to learn more about Bluff’s Park and converse with residents.

Both Rosenthal and Sibert said they are not on Joe Edmiston’s schedule.

“We have to do our due diligence. We have to make sure we have all the information that we need and we’re going to drive this,” Rosenthal said.

Sibert agreed.

“This is not a Joe decision, this is a city of Malibu decision,” Sibert said.

Mei Ling February 12, 2013 at 09:55 PM
There is already a baseball field (of sorts) there and really, does it need to be developed into a more consumer friendly atmosphere? To build upon it would take away the natural ambiance of the Bluffs....why mess with nature? It's one of the last unadulturated areas left in Malibu. Next, they'll want to add a Coffee Bean....aauuugghh! Leave it alone, please and keep it kid friendly.
Don February 13, 2013 at 05:12 AM
Looks like the city of Malibu is no different than heal the bay and Baykeeper. They just can't keep their hands off of the natural beauty. Leave it alone!!!!!! My sense is that people will ignore this just like they did the Malibu lagoon until they drive by and say "what happened"?
Max February 13, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Of the 83 acres, they say that between 10 and 35 acres may be suitable for baseball/soccer fields. That leaves about 50 to 70 acres. I hope that a grassy dog park can be realized using a very small fraction of the remaining area. There are many dog parks that are not perfectly flat, so a dog park can blend perfectly with the topology in areas where a baseball or soccer field may not be suitable (which demand well-defined, flat patches of land). Hopefully, Malibu may finally have a dog park with two partitioned areas... one for large dogs (30+ lbs.) and another for small dogs!! (And, BTW, why haven't they added a simple linear fence to the Trancas dog park, so that small dogs can enjoy the area w/o being attacked?? That dog park already has two existing dog-entry locations!)
J. Flo February 13, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Agree 1000%.
Marshall Thompson February 15, 2013 at 06:37 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/us/california-more-parks-woes-found.html?_r=0 The California State Department of Parks and Recreation does not know how much it costs to operate each of California’s 270 state parks, beaches and recreational areas and had no way of knowing how much the state would have saved by closing 70 parks last year, according to an audit released Thursday. State Auditor Elaine Howle’s findings were part of an investigation into $54 million found hidden last summer in two special funds, but it reveals the money troubles were a symptom of much deeper dysfunction within the department. The audit said department administrators estimated the operating costs for individual parks based on geographic regions using 10-year-old figures.

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