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Malibu City Council: Bluffs EIR gets majority of City, public support at meeting

Lauren Coughlin, Editor
10:07 am PDT September 12, 2017

Community members were vocal Monday, Sept. 11, as the Malibu City Council again considered an environmental impact report, as well as geological and geotechnical studies of Bluffs Park.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the item, with Councilmember Jefferson Wagner dissenting.

The report and studies are proposed to be carried out by Michael Baker International, who also designed the project — a fact some members of the public saw as a potential conflict of interest, but one City Attorney Christi Hogin said was “pretty standard” — at an estimated cost of $211,000. The City’s agenda supplement notes that the 2016-17 budget includes $220,000 that can be used for the EIR and correlated studies.

Once it agrees to conduct an EIR, the City is mostly tied to the proposed design, though Hogin noted that the project could be reduced in scope.

“Often, you go for the biggest scope project,” Hogin explained. “ ... Scaling back is easy [but to add to the plans] you have to start all over again.”

The proposed project, according to the agenda report, includes “baseball fields and/or soccer fields as well as a parking lot on the central area; parking and a dog park connected via a pedestrian bridge on the western area; multi-purpose fields, an aquatic center and skatepark on the City’s Bluffs Park and parking on the Crummer parcel.”

The public was largely in favor of the City carrying out the studies, with 15 members of the public voicing support for the staff’s recommended action of ordering an EIR. 

“This vote that you’re about to take is the most critical for Malibu’s future and one of the most important votes that you’ll cast,” said former Councilmember Joan House, who strongly supported moving forward with the EIR.

Former Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich concurred.

“You have the opportunity to do something great for this community,” she said. “You need to know what our options are.”

Many in the public spoke excitedly of the opportunity for Bluffs to house an aquatics center for young and old, and playing fields that would allow children to have home games.

On the other hand, some speakers were concerned about the proposed scope of the EIR. 

With an anticipated time frame of six to eight months for the studies, speakers including Suzanne Guldimann, of the Malibu Parks and Recreation Commission, noted that the scope was not sufficient to study the site’s wildlife. Guldimann also urged against the proposed demolition of the Michael Landon Community Center.

Mayor Pro Tem Rick Mullen later asked Hogin what would happen if the EIR’s depiction of the aforementioned wildlife concerns did not address public concerns on the matter. Hogin said the public process would allow for evidence to be provided, and the consultant would then need to defend against those comments, she said.

Parks and Recreation Commission Member Judy Villablanca, and Malibu residents Patt Healy and Georgia Goldfarb were among those who encouraged the council to look elsewhere to build sports facilities in Malibu.