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Cemetery Idea Emerges in Discussion Around Retiring Civic Center Land

The idea of putting aside land for a cemetery is one of several about how to preserve vacant land zoned for commercial use in the Civic Center of Malibu.

A discussion around how to preserve land in Malibu's Civic Center continued Tuesday at a town hall meeting, with some interest rising in the possibility of putting aside an area for a cemetery.

“We’re just exploring whether that would be feasible, if people are interested, and then we can look at specific areas,” Malibu Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal said during the nearly two-hour meeting.

This was the second town hall meeting led by Rosenthal and Councilwoman Joan House, who hope the meetings generate ideas about how to preserve vacant land zoned for commercial use in the Civic Center of Malibu.

Dennis Torres of Malibu, who is on a team of people researching the possibility of a cemetery in the Civic Center, said he believes the idea of a cemetery meets the needs of the community because it could preserve open space and generate income for the landowner.

"Virtually everyone I know in town wants to be buried here," Torres said.

About 20 attendees also discussed possible ways to relieve traffic in the Civic Center, including the possibility of a parking garage and a shuttle system.

In July, a group of about 40 people met and , which are researching:

  • Uses of purchased Civic Center land;
  • Research of bond, tax and other revenues;
  • Exploring donations, charitable trusts or other funding;
  • Changing zoning codes and developing a master plan for the Civic Center;
  • Gauging the appetite of Malibu residents for Civic Center;
  • Opportunities for naming rights; and
  • Forming development districts.

The meetings were put together following outcry from local activists and residents about the future of the Civic Center area.

Rosenthal said the meetings are meant to generate ideas at this point.

"Let's find some information, get some ideas and find some agreement, if possible, and then bring it back with some recommendations for the City Council about what we want to do, how we want to go forward. Are we going to have to do polling of the community?" Rosenthal said of the road ahead.

House said she believes these discussions come at a critical time for Malibu.

"I think the opportunity is now what we can preserve and how we direct the build out of the city and what we can work with different owners to see if we can't create more green space and keep the semi-rural environment," House said.

The next meeting is set for Sept. 11 at .

Katherine Row August 15, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Malibu needs a cemetery. For years I've privately floated the idea of creating one in Trancas Field, but the civic center would work. It would be lovely to design a cemetery based on traditional rural Malibu for those who prefer interment in nature rather than in marble mausoleums. What solace that space could bring to the bereaved. Great idea!
Charlie Skouras August 15, 2012 at 04:03 PM
" A parking garage and a shuttle system" ??? Enough said!
Jessica E. Davis August 15, 2012 at 04:15 PM
To be clear, these are all things being discussed among a wide range of possible solutions to relieving congestion in the Civic Center and preserving open space.
MIke Sidley August 15, 2012 at 05:13 PM
It is time that we have a discussion about development. That does not mean no development but carefully planned development. Our community is demanding significant services. The city has little hope of providing those services without revenue. The only way for the city to raise revenue short of taxing its citizens is through sales tax. To suggest taking our commercial core out of potential development without a discussion about how to replace the potential revenue is just irresponsible government.
Andy Lyon August 15, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I think the City should look into a deep well injection cemetery in the Civic Center area.
R Y A N August 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM
This group exists for the purpose of retiring vacant land without buildings. There are always developers in the audience pushing their agendas. Strange on how attendees are always presenting development proposals instead of working towards the goal of the group.
Mark Hayes August 15, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I recognize that these discussions make people upset and angry but is it realistic that the city will be able to come up with the tens of millions of dollars it will take to purchase land and retire it. This is a city that has ignored or delayed any real attempt at future planning and now is faced with mandatory wastewater requirements that is leading to widespread development applications. We may not like a specific project but it doesnt make the owners evil to want to do something with their property. I know it sounds like fantasy but if a developer or the city proposed a project and showed the community upfront that it was leasing to real services the community needed and the rents were half of the Rodeo Drive rents being achieved would the people support it?
Marshall Thompson August 15, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Services like what, Mark? More high-end women's fashions? Combination Range Rover/Bentley sales lot? The two biggest issues that are obstacles to commercial development are water and traffic, both of which are nightmares. Why does the City have to pay millions of our tax dollars for research that will only benefit developers? Let's stop those studies right now and spend the money on acquiring the downtown land for real parks where kids and families can play ball and active sports, unlike "Lunacy Park" which is a cruel joke in every way. I'm for a Malibu Central Park and if we need a downtown organic cemetery, well you can plug me in there when the time comes. Everybody, all together: MALIBU CENTRAL PARK!!!
JBB August 15, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I think a cemetery would be a great idea if it could be done in a way that fit into the landscape and wasn't prohibitively expensive so not just the super rich could afford it.
R Y A N August 15, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Malibu Lumber was a significant sales tax generator for all of the building materials, lumber, and windows sold for new construction. There were many years that NO sales tax was generated for this City, or the State while the whole place was being remodeled into a tourist attraction. Eventually, the Anawalts opened their (albeit much smaller) lumber and hardware store up the same road, but there were many years in between with NO SALES TAX REVENUE. And I ponder if the lackluster sales performance of the group of stores in the Lumberyard shopping center have achieved sales tax collections equal to a 20-year average annual sales tax of Malibu Lumber. Yes, Mike, there are forums for discussion about types of development, just not this one. Zoning disallows, or permits, particular uses in the Civic Center, so it is not all up for grabs. High-traffic-generating uses should be discouraged for this congested area.
J. Flo August 15, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Agree with Marshall. Preserve as much natural, open land as possible. Within that, areas of maintained parkland with community facilities could be created, designed around nature. A cemetery, as Michael Hart suggests, should be kept natural. I suggest first going through City Hall's budget with a fine tooth comb, eliminate all undo spending. Cut the budget down. Take a hard look at every cost, every waste. Guarantee that our city works with what it has today, not dependent on more development. Don’t create an insatiable, ravenous beast. Appoint a fiscal committee of citizens. Project a future budget for a decade, have a solid idea of what's needed to run this city without constantly creating more reasons to spend. If this has already been done - make it public. I wonder about some of these extraordinarily wealthy developers. It can't solely about money - why not create a sanctuary that will last forever that bears their legacy for generations? Put their name on it, do something of tremendous and lasting value. Lead humanity by example. The history, the legend of Malibu is the raw beauty, the one remaining place in Los Angeles to experience the ocean, the mountains still in its natural state. Fully understand, respect and protect that legacy. Always make that the lead priority. It's always very positive when citizens are engaged. You never know what kind of spark will be lit when like-minded people put their passion towards a goal.
Mark Hayes August 15, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Once again it is unrealistic that the city will raise ,borrow or beg $100,000,000.00 to retire vacant property in the civic center. I never suggested that we need more high end retail but to fantasize that there are not services that the community would benefit from puts you in a distinct minority. This is strictly my opinion so please dont crucify me for having a different opinion from you but I could imagine small creative loft type offices that would allow the typical businessman or woman to work locally,(high ceilings and walking distance to shops and restaurants). Also a modern medical facility would be fantastic. It doesnt have to be gigantic just ADA accessible and modern.I dont think we allow mixed use in the center of town but this would be an intelligent choice. Small retail shops that are 1/2 of the rent of the existing landlords would attract local businesses back into the center of town. There is no light industrial place in town so our local contractors and service people scavenge what they can but are constantly forced out(Charter building for an example). I will add more uses when I think of appropriate ones. In the meantime Marshall and Ryan let me know when you have mortgaged your house and donated your money for the purchase of civic center land.
Lee Reams August 15, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Why not have mixed use retail/housing so the city deals with the affordable housing issue at the same time. I am sure that is the next thing unelected boards will force down Malibu's throat.
Marshall Thompson August 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM
OK, here's a radical new idea on how to preserve the civic center open land, completely without precedent: get together with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy - yep, our pal Joe Edmiston - and have them with their deep pockets acquire the land en toto. Talk about counter-intuitive! With their endless supply of State funds they can acquire all the land and still keep ten acres or so for a "natural" - or otherwise - Malibu Cemetery in the lower water table area. bingo! We get a Malibu Cemetery, a REAL Malibu Central Park, and SMMC pays for the whole sheebang!
hellwood August 15, 2012 at 11:09 PM
we could turn open spaces into community farms and grow organic food. we could have xmas tree farms. we could turn it into canals and row boats around the civic center. i could go on for days...
Marshall Thompson August 15, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Yeah but somehow we have to pay for the land, there's no free lunch.
Mark Hayes August 16, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Tax incentives. Thats the ticket. Rich men need tax incentives. A great write off is probably better than the fight they are undertaking if they believe that developing all of the civic center will be easy and on time. The first of the delays of the centralized plant has just occurred. Even with the city approving 6.5 million dollars to fund the design and studies, I am betting that many of the property owners wont join without a development agreement. Will the rest fund it because they need it to build their projects? It is going to be interesting because so much is at stake.
J. Flo August 16, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I suggest the City and citizens work backwards. Recognize the priceless, inestimable value of Malibu. What makes Malibu extremely rare? The geography - period. Open space, preserved nature. What does it take to safeguard that? Preserved land and open, safe roads. More development of commercial properties destroys both objectives, we know that. How to limit development, preserve open space at our center? Keep human danger, fire loss to a minimum? Keep roadways – highway and canyons uncongested and safe? Make existing development more effective? Would start at the city with a tight budget that doesn’t require more and more development revenue. Have permanent, extremely strict commercial building codes. Grant variances rarely, only in critical situations. Use legal means of reducing development to protect limited roadway access into and out of Malibu, including purchasing and/or land trusts, incentives, etc. Development already in the pipeline must be held to the most stringent guidelines. All impact on infrastructure must be scrutinized and if it creates hardship – with PCH at a breaking point, uses should be denied with sustainable development encouraged both in density and use. Safeguard local needs/amenities, businesses and commercial rents. In my opinion - Malibu must use, and be adamant about, the word “protect”. Keep Malibu Malibu. Once gone - forever lost. That's just a fact.
Marshall Thompson August 16, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Government today is like a Ponzi scheme: you need more and more development to build larger and more complex City Departments, hire a bunch of people with great salaries, benefits and retirement but then you'll need more and more development to fund it and ten years down the road you are Laguna Beach. The ENTIRE reason the City was founded was to prevent exactly what is happening today: sewers and development. So, a big THANKS to our expansive City Government, THANKS City Council members who grease the pace of development and THANKS developers that don't give a rat's ass about what is special about Malibu which is - as Jae so poetically wrote - "Once gone - forever lost."
Wendi Werner August 16, 2012 at 03:43 AM
@ Michael. The "green" cemetery was the topic last-night. Looking into the one in Mill Valley.
Wendi Werner August 16, 2012 at 03:49 AM
The parking garage and shuttle system was not the only thing discussed. We talked a lot about a people park. A Frisbee throwing, football catching, people park. Per the shuttle idea: we were discussing ways to keep the parking away and traffic down. Got a better idea? Please come to the next meeting Sept. 11 at 7:00 pm and share.
Wendi Werner August 16, 2012 at 03:56 AM
@Marshall. The general consensus is for a central park. It will be nice to have it there.
Wendi Werner August 16, 2012 at 04:00 AM
We all need to band together and get this land purchased and retired so that we can water on top and not inject below.
J. Flo August 16, 2012 at 04:08 AM
That is such a beautiful idea, Wendy, preservation that would last for generations. Malibu is certainly home to people who have the finances to fulfill this dream, and those who could guide ideas to create it. Dreams are the beginning of a new reality!
Bruce August 16, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Like the idea of a green cemetery but only of it is away from the center of town. More peaceful, serene and practical. Agree there are no free lunches and a central park for the community would be ideal. Best bet is to block the developers and wait them out or get them to contribute a significant portion of land for conservation or park in exchange for rights to develop mixed (retail apartment) use.
J. Flo August 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Smart, Bruce!
Terry August 17, 2012 at 02:52 AM
we dont need septics anymore anyway. have u seen the new gates toilet. maybe we can try them in city hall. they say you can use the waste for fertilizer. and we know how much bs there is in our city hall
Nancy Crow August 18, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I strongly support the idea of a cemetery for Malibu. Why should people be torn away from the place they have been all there lives in death.
Marshall Thompson August 19, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I agree with Nancy. Here's an interesting/controversial article about home burial: http://bit.ly/QPOTl7 I'm not advocating it (home interment) but death is a fact of life and it would be nice to have a Malibu Cemetery.
Jonathan Friedman August 27, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Interesting, I just learned that here in Massachusetts, state law requires all towns (not the cities, which are usually larger) to provide burial space for residents. I wonder if that is true in other states and if it were ever true in California. I suppose it would be nice to be buried where you lived. I plan to live forever, so I'm not thinking about that too much. Take a look at this: http://attleboro.patch.com/articles/seekonk-running-low-on-grave-space.

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