More than 30 acres of Malibu Bluff’s Park may be developable for recreation facilities, Malibu's city manager announced Monday. The new information is an important piece for city officials to consider as part of a proposed land swap and settlement of a lawsuit with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Under the proposed swap, the city would gain ownership of 83 acres of Bluffs Park in exchange for Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) control over 532 acres at Charmlee Wilderness Park. Originally, the city believed that only 10 acres of Bluff’s Park were developable and not considered Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA).
In January, the Malibu City Council voted to move forward and explore the land swap proposal and possible settlement of a lawsuit over uses in Ramirez Canyon, but outside of SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston's preferred end of January deadline.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said city staff members have been evaluating Bluff’s Park for the potential of building ball parks, recreational fields and a skate park.
The due diligence so far has focused on geology, costs, fire, recreation and other potential uses, he said. Originally the council believed that only about 10 acres would be developable.
“I wanted to bring this up to the council and to the public that one of the interesting items that we did find out because we did believe there was only non-ESHA in the upper westerly corner,” Thorsen said, showing a photo of plans by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for 40 campsites, parking and restrooms in Bluff’s Park. “What you see in very light in green, is they had a biology assessment done and they’ve shown that as grassland. Grassland is considered non-ESHA.”
Thorsen said Coastal Commission staff have reviewed the document and have agreed the area is not environmentally sensitive.
The designation opens up 30 to 35 acres of Bluff’s Park to development if the land swap moves forward.
“It opens up the whole center of the Bluff’s Park swap land area to development for park and recreational facilities, whether that be a skate park, soccer fields, baseball fields, BMX, tennis courts or any number of combinations of athletic facilities is available because it is not considered ESHA,” Thorsen said.
He said the biological assessment conducted by the SMMC could become part of a future Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and would not be required to go back before the Coastal Commission.
"As we move forward, we’re still gather the data, but this was interesting enough that I wanted to bring it forward," Thorsen said.
Several council members are planning to walk Bluffs Park and Charmlee Park over the next several months, and the public is invited.
Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Councilman John Sibert plan to walk Bluff’s Park on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. and Charmlee Park as early as March 9.
Separately, Mayor Pro Tem Joan House and Mayor Lou La Monte plan to walk Bluff’s Park this Wednesday at 1 p.m. They will meet in the parking lot. Those interested are asked to wear sturdy shoes.
Edmiston has said the city of Malibu has a right to perform its due diligence on Malibu Bluffs Park, but that he is expecting swift action.
"This issue has been debated pretty thoroughly within Malibu. We’re just not interested in something that just drags out and drags out. Otherwise, we do have a proposal ready to go ahead for camping on the Bluffs," Edmiston said.
After the meeting, Sibert said he always believed that more than 10 acres of Bluff’s Park were not Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas.
“I’ll be meeting with at least two Coastal Commissioners over the next week or so. We’ll make sure we confirm that,” Sibert said. “At this point, this is just another piece of information. In other words, before we do anything, we need to find out all this stuff.”
Rosenthal said she hopes many people come out to the walk on Jan. 23 in order to learn more about Bluff’s Park and converse with residents.
Both Rosenthal and Sibert said they are not on Joe Edmiston’s schedule.
“We have to do our due diligence. We have to make sure we have all the information that we need and we’re going to drive this,” Rosenthal said.
“This is not a Joe decision, this is a city of Malibu decision,” Sibert said.