Hearing on Proposed Malibu High Campus Development Plans Slated for Next Week
• Staff Flip-Flops on Parking Lot Lights
BY BILL KOENEKER
Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District officials, who have successfully sought delays for a Malibu Planning Commission hearing since last year, are finally scheduled to meet next week on Monday, March 18, for a new hearing.
“The modified project now includes a completely redesigned lighting proposal for the new 150-space parking lot and upper walkways accessing the lot,” wrote Senior Planner Joseph Smith, in a staff report.
“Lighting along the new access road leading up to the new 150-space parking lot was eliminated from the original design. The lighting proposal utilizes advanced lighting technology with light emitting diode (LED) fixtures, three occupancy/motion-sensitive areas in the new 150-space parking lot, and redesigned pole heights, styles and orientation that adhere to the most recent version of the International Dark Sky Association/Illuminating Engineering Society Model Lighting Ordinance.”
Another modification the district is addressing, according to the staff report, 217 existing exterior lighting fixtures at the school campus, which comprises all exterior lighting fixtures currently in use will be replaced.
“The district has started replacing the fixtures with IDA-compliant, 26 watt LED fixtures with full cut-off performance. Replacement of these fixtures is already underway with 23 being replaced as of the date of this report with priority given to the fixtures that pose the greatest lighting impacts to neighbors. Perimeter lighting will be replaced within six months.”
Another change involves the Morning View Drive right-hand turn lane. “The modified project includes an approximately 700 foot long, dedicated, right-hand turn lane along the south side of Morning View Drive from Merritt Drive to the entrance of the new 150-space parking lot access road.
“Since August 7, 2012, the district has been in contact with the city’s Public Works Department on this component and determined that the improvements could be made within the Morning View Drive right-of-way. No additional properties will be required to accommodate the turn lane as the roadway will be repaved with asphalt and restriped. This component will further help alleviate congestion by moving arriving vehicles to the campus.”
The district’s new public hearing to secure permits for remodeling the high school campus successfully skirted the tentative approval of the commission’s decision denying the lights in the 150-space parking lot of the makeover plan .
“[The delay] was requested so final revisions to the right-hand turn lane and associated pedestrian and vehicle improvements could be made by the district’s engineer prior to review by the planning commission,” wrote Smith in an email notice.
What had happened is the commission had voted on the school district application including denying lights for a parking lot at the Aug. 7, 2012 meeting.
The resolution was scheduled on the consent calendar for the Sept. 4, 2012 meeting, however, approval of the item as conditioned, was continued to the Oct. 1, 2012 planning commission meeting to allow sufficient time for district representatives to meet with the California Division of the State Architect to discuss lighting requirements for parking lots. However, in order to consider new information and re-evaluate the project, the planning commission was advised by the city attorney that a new, fully-noticed public hearing for the item would be required. Further delays were sought by the applicant.
Smith, in the revised staff report, notes the revised lighting proposal builds upon the mitigation measures identified in the project’s Final Environmental Impact Report in order to reduce the effects of the parking lot on sky glow.
“However, the project would still result in a new source of light associated with the addition of lighting in the 150-space parking lot proposed in an undeveloped portion of the campus,” Smith wrote.
While sky glow would be substantially reduced as compared to the original proposal, according to the city planner, as compared to the original proposal, a new source of sky glow would still be introduced and the impact would remain “significant and unavoidable with respect to the impact of the project EIR.”
“While the development of the parking lot and upper walkway without lighting would completely eliminate the significant and unavoidable effect of sky glow, such a condition would result in added neighborhood parking impacts by rendering the parking lot unusable during after 3 p.m. uses. As such the revised lighting proposal is considered the least environmentally damaging alternative feasible pursuant to the [Local Coastal Program],” Smith added.
The new application is to redevelop portions of the MMHS campus with a new classroom/library/administration building totaling 20,274 square feet of net new building area; approximately 12,509 square feet of interior renovation and modernization of existing classrooms.
The application also calls for a new 150-space lighted parking lot; a reconfigured 119-space lighted parking lot with an onsite roundabout; a reconfigured 61-space lighted parking lot and outdoor lighting, according to the city’s public notice.
The school district also seeks approval for a new student drop-off and pick-up lane; a right-hand turn lane for about 700 feet along Morning View Drive; two new unlit tennis courts; new outdoor common areas; new fencing, landscaping, retaining walls and grading; relocated equestrian trail and the renovation of existing facilities.
When City Attorney Christi Hogin was asked about the unusual set of circumstances about a delayed planning commission hearing and subsequent new hearing, she said, “There is no final action. From the city’s point of view, there is no hurry. It will even give the opponents another chance to speak.”
The city attorney said the school district is asking the city’s permission for a new hearing and there is nothing to prevent the city from granting that request.
During the previous hearing many public comments endorsed the staff recommendation about reduced lighting.
However, district officials reiterated their concern about the unlit parking lot and told commissioners they were also bound by code and safety requirements. The big issue, commissioners were told, is the parking lot lighting and walkway lighting.
The standards, according to school officials, are not established by the district but are adopted by other agencies requiring the district to meet those mandated safety and liability standards. A school campus requires a certain kind of lighting, according to the district.
After hours of questions and deliberations, the commission tentatively approved the staff recommendation of the unlit parking lot, some traffic changes and for two new unlit tennis courts, new outdoor common areas.
The Conditional Use Permit is for operation of a public educational institution and the expansion of more than 500 square feet in that zone.
Variances were sought for grading in excess of 1000 cubic yards, and constructing structures on 2.5 to one slopes and impermeable coverage over 25,000 square feet.
The school district, which is the lead agency, issued a Environmental Impact Report last fall.
An Environmental Impact Report describes the project as approximately 76,694 square feet of new construction, some of it replacement building since 15,041 square feet of old buildings are earmarked for demolition while other buildings will be upgraded.
The EIR, which was approved by the school district prepared for the proposal, acknowledges that the project would not be able to avoid adverse impacts related to increased sky-glow because of night lights.