SMMC Talks Skate Park with Counsel
• City Calls Camping Compromise Suggestion 'Non-Starter'
BY BILL KOENEKER
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy board is scheduled to go back to its attorney at a meeting scheduled for Sept. 24 during closed session after discussions with the City of Malibu over the municipality's planned skate park fell apart. The SMMC board in a previous closed session had given instructions to negotiators to talk to municipal officials.
"The Conservancy was willing to discuss reopening the discussions if we were willing to talk about camping sites," said City Attorney Christi Hogin at that time. "That was a non-starter. I don't see this going anywhere at the moment."
Preparations for more discussion or possibly a showdown began months ago when the SMMC board and the Malibu City Council met separately in closed sessions to talk about potential courtroom action over the skate park plans.
Hogin announced at a recent city council meeting that members took "no reportable action," but did meet in a closed-door session "to discuss the threat of pending litigation."
This week's Conservancy notice indicates the board will discuss with legal counsel regarding "consideration of initiation of litigation, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy v. City of Malibu regarding enforcement of parking and use deed restrictions at Bluffs Park." Conservancy officials contend they own parking and use deed restrictions at Bluffs Park where the city wants to build first a temporary skatepark and construct a new "world class" facility.
It appears inevitable that construction of even a temporary skatepark at Bluffs Park may be stalled for much longer if the two entities cannot even come to the negotiating table, reach some kind of understanding or a settlement and must proceed to court.
SMMC spokesperson Dash Stolarz confirmed the board previously met in closed session.
Quoting the board's secretary, the conservancy spokesperson said, "The report out of that meeting was 'instructions were given to negotiators.'"
SMMC attorney Laurie Collins had previously said the reason for the meeting was to keep the board aware of what is going on at Bluffs Park.
"When the city acquired the property, it agreed to certain uses and deed restrictions. The plans for a skatepark raises several issues for the Conservancy," said Collins. There was no mention of talking about campsites.
Collins said because it was a closed-door matter, she could not discuss it in any further detail.
The Conservancy's wish to talk about campsites refers to a previous lawsuit that the SMMC lost to the municipality on the appellate level and was later turned down for a hearing by the state Supreme Court, concerning the court invalidating the Conservancy's plans to provide overnight camping in several SMMC parks in Malibu, including Bluffs Park.
The city objected to the camping portion of the Conservancy's park plans, which besides overnight camping called for trails connecting several coastal canyons with the camping sites.
The city's plans call for the interim skatepark to be located in an existing parking lot and the conversion of vacant land into an auxiliary temporary public parking lot, according to city officials.
The permitting process has been continued since May, when the city's planning commissioners were told additional time was needed for the staff to work with the Conservancy to resolve issues regarding the SMMC's deeded use of the existing parking lot.
The action comes after the city council approved a license agreement for parking to allow a temporary public parking lot on privately owned land known as the Crummer site, named after a former owner of the property.
Enthusiasts and municipal officials have pointed to Bluffs Park as the ideal for relocating the skatepark, but were initially thwarted because of a lack of adequate parking, according to city planners.
"The feasibility of relocating to this site is dependent on the use of the privately owned property adjacent to Malibu Bluffs Park to offset the loss of the parking spaces," wrote Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings, in a memo to the city council.
The agreement provides the city use of the property with the understanding that the landowner has plans underway to develop the land for single-family homes. Story poles on the site have shown his tentative plans. An Environmental Impact Report scoping meeting was held recently for the proposed five-home subdivision.
The parking lot agreement, according to Stallings, contemplates a broad scope of indemnities and liabilities the city agrees to undertake.