More than 50 Malibu residents blasted plans for the proposed Rancho Malibu Hotel Wednesday and called on the city to look at the bigger picture of the potential impact on the Civic Center area and the future of Malibu.
The hearing was meant to gather input for a draft environmental report, which will be prepared and eventually opened up to more comment by as early as this summer.
Dan Gira, a consultant from AMEC who is preparing the draft EIR, led the hearing, which at times grew heated as speakers highlighted worries over traffic, public safety, wastewater and cultural resources.
"We’re aware there is a substantial amount of proposed development, especially in the Civic Center area. There are a number projects that are pending. We will be paying special attention to the cumulative effect, especially from this project," Gira said.
One of the project's developers, Richard Weintraub, said he believes the project will be the single largest economic generators in the city's history, but he declined to give specifics.
"We’re not looking to hide anything here. We’re not here to disrespect anything here ... I have fought like hell to hold on to this property," Weintraub said.
He added that he understands the concerns about traffic, public safety and water.
"I remember that traffic in the summer since I can remember has always been gridlocked. In the 50s it was gridlocked in August and it doesn’t have that much to do with the hotel," Weintraub said.
The hearing also sought to gather comments on whether the draft EIR should outline the project’s potential alternatives, including:
- The construction of a garden hotel, which would reduce the number of condominiums and increase the number of rooms in the main hotel.
- Decrease the size of the spa, retail and other facilities.
- Use the area for a commercial shopping complex.
Before public comment portion of the meeting started, Hans Laetz, a journalist and recent city council candidate, called the notice of preparation for the public scoping meeting into question.
"This time table beginning with this meeting is rushed and inappropriate," Laetz said.
He called on the city to take its time with the project so that locals have a chance to weigh in.
Comments can be made on what should be included in the draft EIR until June 4.
Jo Ruggles expressed concerns about the potential cultural resources on the site and impacts to traffic locally and regionally.
David Paul Dominguez, who expressed affiliation with the Chumash, said that the tribe should be involved.
"It's cultural sensitivity to us Chumash people, that is the last area on that bluff point overlooking that main village site," Dominguez said.
Gira said several studies have been completed on the cultural resources, and that an additional one is in the works.
Mati Waiya, who was recently appointed to the Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee, also expressed concern.
"Malibu needs to wake up and respect and honor the regulations of Chumash. Our dead are under your home. Thousands of them are buried here," Waiya said. "We have to stand together on this. We’re in it together. This is our home and we’ve got to take care of it."
Gira thanked all speakers for their comments.
"We will give every due respect to the Native American community," Gira said.
Jae Flora-Katz said that she is concerned about the impact the hotel could have on traffic during an evacuation because of a fire.
"It is extremely dangerous," Flora-Katz said.
Gira said he will be contacting the fire department as part of the study.
Susan Tellem said she wants water issues investigated.
"I think we have to look at water and traffic and public safety impact," Tellem said.
Former City Councilman Jefferson Wagner said he does not think the project's proposed 500,000 gallon water tank is enough to protect the property and nearby areas during an emergency.
"You’re looking at the potential of a 3 million tank for a project of this size," Wagner siad.
Several residents also mentioned the issue of how to deal with the amount of wastewater from the proposed project.
Malibu Planning Commissioner John Mazza said he wants the EIR to include up-to-date numbers of how much water the city is allowed to discharge.
“Is the EIR going to address the fact that No. 1 where do they get the water and No. 2 how do they get rid of it? How does it affect the ability to develop other [areas]?” Mazza said.
Gira said he has personally read the city's staff reports on the proposed wastewater treatment center, and will include those questions and more in the study.
Several people also asked for the impact of traffic to be analyzed, especially in light of the large number of proposed development coming to Malibu, including Whole Foods, the addition of an extension campus and other projects.
Steve Uhring said he wants to make sure current technology is used to generate accurate traffic counts.
"You’re going to create a parking lot in the Civic Center," Uhring said.
Andy Lyon said he wants a bigger picture traffic study.
"I think the city of Malibu needs to do one major traffic study for all of these projects right now," Lyon said.
Gira said the city is considering a traffic report currently. Story poles, which are used to assess the visual impact of a project, are expected to be put up soon, he added.
Many more residents spoke during the two-hour hearing. If we left you out, feel free to leave your perspective in the comments.