City Council to Continue Negotiations on Point Dume Land Purchase
BY BILL KOENEKER
On a 4-0 vote, with Councilmember John Sibert absent, the Malibu City Council this week approved sending City Manager Jim Thorsen back to the negotiating table over possible acquisition of a nearly 10-acre lot in the Point Dume area.
The property is located on the landside of Pacific Coast Highway near Heathercliff Road. Tucked between agricultural acreage and a theatrical production company, the parcel owned by a longtime Malibu family is listed for sale at $4.9 million. The site is currently utilized as a plant nursery.
There was a mixed reaction when the public commented about the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.
Land use consultants, who represent the owners of La Paz, which is currently seeking a development agreement with the city for a city hall on its shopping center property, said the city’s acquisition of raw land and subsequent buildout would not be cost effective for the municipality.
“I feel like the jilted bride. You have not had a hearing for La Paz, and you are already flirting with a young new property on the westside of Malibu,” quipped Don Schmitz, who represents the landowners.
However, it was Susan Tellem, who recently ran unsuccessfully for city council, who posed the strongest opposition to the west Malibu purchase. “The property is rural, you should not be rezoning it and putting cement there,” she said, who citing traffic safety and other issues.
“Turn it over to the people. It is a fertile piece of property. We could grow our own fruits and vegetables as a cooperative. We could look at all the concrete of a city hall, or [look at] vegetables and fruits,” Tellem said.
However, Daniel Stern, the president of the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu, urged the city to explore acquiring the land and partnering with his group to provide space for a teen center. He said the group’s current location couldn’t accommodate high-schoolers. “This place is a terrific idea. A teen center has to be some place. This is a wonderful opportunity worth pursuing,” he said.
A Pepperdine University library spokesperson told the council that if the site was chosen for a library, the city could call on the support of the university’s library for programs and assistance. “We could partner with the city for different programs and offer library resources,” said Amy Hunter.
Whether the site would be ideal for a library, a city hall, teen center or ball fields, as another speaker advocated, caused a debate among council members.
“I will not support a main library up at that end,” insisted Councilmember Sharon Barovsky, who said she was not opposed to buying the property, but rather was opposed to “how we are going about it. What is the price? I want to see it all in writing. Let’s stop and think about what we are doing. It could be appropriate for a teen center. There is a logic to that. The schools are up there.”
Councilmember Andy Stern said he was “fundamentally and totally opposed” to the proposal. “It is just wrong, It is not what we decided to do. I don’t think the use belongs there,” he said.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner said, as the newest member on the council, he was seeking answers rather than expressing opinions. He wanted to know how much space the city needed for a city hall and was told “at least 30,000 square feet,” by the city manager. Wagner asked how much space was being taken up now at City Hall and was given the figure of 17,000 square feet.
The council member also wanted to know how much building area could the Point Dume site provide. Thorsen said he did not know for sure, but it could be 60,000 square feet to possibly 80,000 square feet.
Wagner was also told it might cost anywhere from $400 to $600 per square feet to put up a building. He also asked if what the city plans could it be built, or installed, in phases and was told yes.
Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich said it was good the council was discussing what have been the city’s priorities for years and reminded the council the city currently is paying rent for a city hall and in the next 10 years would spent up to $8.5 million in rent. “We might as well take the money and burn it,” she said as Barovsky interjected, “Or take La Paz’s offer” of a development agreement that includes a donated city hall.
The mayor said the city is currently planning on spending over $5 million for two parks in Las Flores and Trancas Canyon and noted that neither have ball fields for regulation.
“We can walk away and we can do nothing. I would rather see the council explore options. This is a step in the right direction,” she said.
Barovsky replied, “I’ve never heard of buying property and not knowing what the use is for. I agree with Susan Tellem and Don Schmitz. We have to decide what it is for.”
Conley Ulich was asked what she wanted to see built on the property, but the mayor demurred and said she wants to know what the community wants. “I will get more comfortable when I know what the teens want,” she said.
After a brief debate about where the population center of Malibu is, Wagner said the population is moving west, the council agreed with a Barovsky motion to instruct the city manager to meet with the property owners and come back with a price in writing. “We can do that in closed session,” Thorsen said.
Administrative Services Director Reva Feldman suggested the council think in terms of what uses are revenue neutral and which are not, for example, uses like a library or city.
If the city separates from the county library system and purchases the vacant land, municipal officials could build a library using $2 million set aside by the county and then would receive an ongoing stream of revenue from property taxes earmarked for the library.
Similarly, if a city hall was built, there’s a nearly $2 million building fund earmarked for a new city hall and the revenue stream for paying back acquisition and construction costs could come from replacing the rent the city currently pays at about $700,000 per year.