Draft Report Ranks Trails, Not Fields as Malibu's Top Recreational Priority

City officials have been citing a need for recreational space to justify plans to swap Charmlee Wilderness Park for Bluff's Park, where the city hopes to build more sport fields and a skate park.

Several council members say the idea behind a proposed land swap between the city of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) came out of a need for more youth sport fields and a skate park.

But a scientific survey conducted last year as part of the city's draft 2012 Parks and Recreation Master Plan shows that residents rank walking and biking trails as the city's top recreational priority. The need for a skate park and more sport fields is on the lower half of the list.

The Malibu City Council recently voted to further explore a proposed swap of Malibu-owned Charmlee Wilderness Park for SMMC-operated Bluff's Park. Several council members, including Mayor Lou La Monte, have said Malibu ownership of Bluff's Park, which is currently under California State Parks, would help meet the city's need for more playing fields and a skate park.

"Having one soccer field in this whole city has led me to the conclusion that we don’t have enough soccer fields," La Monte said, adding that his daughter has played in AYSO since she was young.

"We haven’t played a home game in years," La Monte said.

Survey background

The survey, which is statistically valid (meaning accurate), was conducted by Kansas-based Leisure Vision/ETC Institute in the creation of the updated master plan, according to Bob Stallings, Malibu's Parks and Recreation Director.

The master plan aims to "provide direction to city staff, the Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council for future development, re‐development, and enhancement of the city’s park system, open space, trails, recreation facilities, recreation programs and services." The draft has been on the city's website since October and is still open for public comment.

Between April and May of last year, 1,600 surveys were sent out to a random sampling of Malibu households. Only 325 were needed to ensure the survey was accurate, and a total of 355 surveys were returned, Stallings said.

"If it was done 10 more times, the survey would come up with the same result," Stallings said.

The council has the discretion to prioritize any of the city's recreational needs, and it is up to the council to look at the bigger picture, according to Stallings.

The survey found that the top five priorities out of 28 outlined by residents included walking and biking trails, small neighborhood parks, indoor swimming pools, off-leash dog parks and a multi-generational community center.

The respondents ranked adult soccer fields, youth football fields, year-round synthetic fields, adult baseball and softball fields as the lowest priority.


The report will not be officially presented to the City Council for comment until late March. City staff, geologists and engineers are currently examining Bluff's Park to see if it is adequate to meet the needs of several additional fields and a skate park.

The clock is ticking on the proposed land swap. Joe Edmiston, executive director of the SMMC, has said that he hopes the city does its due diligence, but does not lag in its decision making process.

He said previously an application for camping at Bluff's Park is ready to be submitted to the Coastal Commission. For now, Edmiston has agreed to hold off on submitting the application while the city of Malibu considers the proposed land swap and settlement of a lawsuit over uses in Ramirez Canyon.

"I don’t want somebody to say, well, we’ll drag this thing out and then a year from now, they turn it down and meanwhile we could have been going ahead with our application to the Coastal Commission. We have an application ready for the camping on the Bluffs. … We’ll hold off for a month and see what you guys are going to do. There is no hard and fast deadline. Things are moving forward," Edmiston said previously.

'We need to get more fields'

Several council members, including Councilman Skylar Peak and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House, said they have seen the draft report.

House said she could not remember most of the draft report, but that she recalled her impression from a presentation she watched during a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in October.

"I felt the sample was too small," House said of the survey.

She said that most of her opinions come from her personal experience and interactions in the community.

"I think most of my opinions come from people I talk to at the market, the post office, the bank. I hear that we need to get more fields. A lot of people I come in contact with, they are all ages and make different requests. I take that into account because these are unsolicited and volunteer suggestions," House said.

House said she believes the survey in the master plan may not have asked enough people of different ages and backgrounds.

"The skate board group, they were huge when they came to council. That’s why the sampling leaves me a little unsure of what direction is really intended," House said.

La Monte, who said he has not yet read the report in full, said he also relies on his personal experience and conversations within the community to inform his decisions.

"We have a city with 13,000 people and we own one soccer field. I don’t know where all the information came from in the draft [master plan]," La Monte said.

Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal, who is a former Parks and Recreation Commissioner, said she has not had a chance to read the report, but plans to examine it before making a decision on the land swap.

"We don’t have one basketball court in all of the city of Malibu. I know just from my own experience that we’re woefully short on fields. I don’t know what the report says," Rosenthal said.

She added that a few years ago during an economic survey, most respondents said they wanted a Target store.

"We all know nobody wants a Target here in Malibu," Rosenthal said.

She said that she wants to develop fields for the future Malibu, 30 years from now, not five years.

"I often wonder what if we had gotten land 20 years ago for fields, when it was so much cheaper," Rosenthal said.

Councilman John Sibert said he has spoken to the city's Parks and Recreation staff and has a general knowledge about the report.

"We’ll be looking at all these things before we go any farther on this land swap," Sibert said.

He said he is most interested in alternatives for fields in Malibu. 

"We’ll be looking at the master plan as part of it," Sibert said.

Here are the rankings from the survey on the most important facility and amenity recreation needs in Malibu:

Facility/Amenity Priority Rankings Overall
Ranking Walking, biking trails and greenways 1 Indoor Swimming Pools 2 Small Neighborhood Parks
3 Off‐leash dog parks 4 Multi‐generational Community Center 5 Community Gardens 6 Adventure Facility (rock wall, ropes course. etc.) 7 Outdoor Swimming Pools 8 Visual / Performing Arts Facility 9 Outdoor Tennis Courts 10 Large Community Parks 11 Small Family Picnic Areas and Shelters 12 Amphitheater 13 Nature Center 14 Teen Center 15 Youth Soccer Fields 16 Playground Equipment 17 Outdoor Basketball Courts 18 Skateboard Parks 19 Youth baseball and softball fields 20 Disc Golf Course 21 Multi‐purpose Fields (Lacrosse, etc.) 22 Large Group Picnic Areas and Shelters (50+) 23 Equestrian Trails  24 Adult Baseball and Softball Fields 25 Year‐round synthetic fields 26 Youth Football Fields 27 Adult Soccer Fields 28 *Information from the city's 2012 Draft Master Plan

The city's first Master Plan was approved by the Malibu City Council in 2000.

Read the full 2012 Draft Master Plan in PDF form to the right or online.

Marianne Riggins January 31, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Items 2-9 on this list are not available in the City of Malibu at all and item 1 combines walking and biking trails, which should be split into separate categories. The city has lots of areas for walking, but I think we can all agree that safe biking areas are desperately needed. Until recently it looked as though we would have a new skate park, so why would you rank the need high on the list if the need was being met? The same could be said for most of the other items on the list, we have many of the items listed, so why rank an item you have higher then an item you don’t? The bottom line is that this list shows our community is in need of more developed recreational areas and we need space and money to create them.
Marshall Thompson January 31, 2013 at 03:09 PM
The flat area of Legacy Park near the Malibu Country Mart would have been great for a ball field but the "professional" land deal negotiators at City Hall allowed themselves to get run over by Jerry Perrenchio. This is one of the reasons I have zero faith in the City's ability to successfully negotiate ANYTHING with Joe Edmiston in any type of a land swap. It seems the City council members to a person are eager to give away public property of 500+ acres of Charmlee Park for the mere possibility of two new completely undeveloped ball fields in ESHA at John Tyler Road & PCH. Absurd.
Pamela Conley Ulich January 31, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Perhaps it is helpful to remember our past while deciding our future. In 2008 - 2011, the City had the opportunity to purchase nearly 10 acres of land at Heathercliff and PCH for $2 million. In 2011, Donald Sterling eventually purchased the property. (For the record, both Lou and Laura were on the Malibu City Council and both decided to pass on this opportunity.) In 2008, the only thing the Council could all agree on was the need for more public input. The 2008 Malibu Times article provides: "Dusty Peak, whose residence overlooks the Heathercliff property, urged the city to purchase the land. "My feeling is the city would be foolish not to purchase this property," he said. "You've got a piece of open land that one day will be treasured by grandchildren and great grandchildren. I realize these are tough times and there are opportunities to spend money everywhere else, but vacant land is disappearing and won't be around forever." See: http://www.malibutimes.com/news/article_2f2e6166-94cb-5fa0-b83d-751367a43ba1.html
Jonathan Kaye January 31, 2013 at 04:32 PM
People are missing the point... this is a scientific study that is statistically correct. You can't deny the science. If you ignore this, you're no different than the people who deny global warming. You can't say that the "the sample was too small" - it's science. You can't say that you need more "people of different ages and backgrounds" because this is the true sample of the people who make up Malibu. Surprise - the crowds that show up at City Council meetings DO NOT REPRESENT THE PEOPLE OF MALIBU - ONLY THE FRINGE.
Cindy Vandor January 31, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Joan House says she "could not remember most" of the scientific survey the city's own parks and rec head says is an accurate assessment of the recreational needs of the entire community. Thanks, Joan, you're doing a great job NOT listening to the public, you're showing outstanding fiscal sense NOT paying attention to scientific surveys taxpayers pay for so the city council makes decisions based on accurate assessments of recreational needs, and you're proving to be a terrific negotiator by NOT caring that you are giving away hundreds of acres of a jewel of a park in return for junk land, legal liability for slides, and a very expensive construction bill, if fields can be built and accessed at all. Oh, and thanks, Joan House, for wasting city money and staff time even looking into your insane idea to swap lives for ballfields. When a city councilperson admits she doesn't care about the majority of Malibuites (starting with no campfires endangering lives), she doesn't listen to scientifically surveyed needs assessments and public input, and she admits she had lawyered up deal discussions behind closed doors, it's time for Joan House to move to the City of Bell or for a recall of Joan House.
Hans Laetz January 31, 2013 at 05:32 PM
The most important book I read in journalism school was "How To Lie With Statistics." It taught me that "scientific" surveys can never, never be pointed to as fact. When I took the parks survey, I was shocked at how biased it was. It was a "push-poll" and I am incensed that the city paid for it. I'll give you an example. The survey of needs lumped together certain universally-popular parks uses (that are enjoyed by ANYONE who goes to a park), like walking, bicycle trails, greenways But it broke out separately the more specialized uses, such as "youth and adult baseball" football", "children's soccer", "softball", "disc frisbee" etc. So, the individual sports that all could use the same field (at different times of day or months) all came out predictably low. This survey was complete garbage. In fact, the City got ripped off by the consulting firm that did the draft study. It failed in so many ways. To his credit, Bob Stallings is reworking the draft report. One areas where it failed miserably was to add up the demand for different types of fields -- add the baseball, football, disc frisbee and other field uses up and it would be one of the very top areas of demand. And BTW, almost everyone who would say they need a baseball field would also say they need a trail to get there.
Hans Laetz January 31, 2013 at 05:39 PM
"Large community parks" ranked number four, at 50 percent. By definition, large community parks have mutlipurpose athletics fields. This survey broke out individual sports -- which predictably each got small percentages. Add them up, and there is huge demand for multipurpose fields. Proof of that is the top ranking of need for "large community parks." * (Except of course, Legacy Park, an award-winning sump but a colossal screwup of a park).
Malibu Magoo January 31, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Community parks are larger parks designed to balance community needs with programmed recreational activities. Community parks should be large enough to provide certain functions to the entire city while providing opportunities for activities and facilities for the surrounding community. Special athletic fields and sports features should be preserved but maintain a balance with community activity areas. The location of community parks should be equally distributed to allow all citizens access at least one to two miles from their home. Community Parks may also take the place of a neighborhood park for residential areas within a half mile. Each community park should be available to the entire community. The parks should easily accessible by all residents, ideally by car, foot or by bicycle. Typically community parks are 25 to 100 acres in size and preferably the site would be at to accommodate ball fields and activity areas. (National Recreation and Park Association)
Malibu Magoo January 31, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Hans - absolutely agree with your assessment of the 'push-poll'. Amateurish work and a waste of money. Cindy - right on re House. Thanks for calling her out.
John McDonald January 31, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Malibu AYSO consistently has about 800 children on the fields each weekend in season. Add to that 2 parents, a grandpapa or sibling, referees and coaches and we must have at least a couple 2 or 3 thousand Malibuites on the fields each of those weekends. My family never participated in baseball, but right after soccer the baseball season seems to field about the same number of people. In a town of 15,000 souls that sounds like a very high percentage of usage. Calling something 'scientific' doesn't make it so. A little common sense is also useful.
Susan Tellem January 31, 2013 at 06:27 PM
AMEN, Cindy!
Sam Hall Kaplan January 31, 2013 at 08:25 PM
The Parks and Recreation Plan was relevant when drafted in May, 2000, as it is now. As a parks and rec commissioner back when dinosaurs roamed Bluffs Park, let me suggest we need more institutional history, and less institutional hysteria, if we can expect citizen involvement.
Carol Moss January 31, 2013 at 10:15 PM
yes, walking trails. AS unattractive as it is, wouldn't it be good to have sidewalk along PCH so we wouldnt always have to get in our cars(alas,I lost my balance for biking. The failure to buy Vital Zumen and the large fields that ae part of it boggles the mind.
John Mazza February 01, 2013 at 01:47 AM
I was Chairman of the Heathercliff Task Force set up by the city council to evaluate the land at Heathercliff. We had thirteen members and had 4 or 5 meetings and spent a lot of time making a report to the city council. We identified many uses for the land including several sports fields and a community house for the west side of Malibu including a library annex and meeting rooms. The property was perfect and had easy access , water and power and would require minimal grading.The property was directly adjacent to Zuma Farms which was also for sale.The west side is the population center of Malibu and the center of the school population and the schools. The city council totally ignored the report and ignored the needs for fields and services for the population in that area because (I am told) the council wanted everything in central Malibu.Jefferson Wagner and Pam Ulich supported the acquisition so you know who did not (one more vote would have done it).We still do not have any services and apparently will not as long as this council in running the show. I wonder what would would happen if the other flat property (the Christmas tree lot) were offered to the city. I guess because Pam had a good idea they just could not do it.
John Mazza February 01, 2013 at 06:09 AM
If you read the article that Pam linked above you can see why we lack parks and services. I headed the Heathercliff Task Force with, as I remember over 10 members, and we had numerous meeting and took quite a bit of public input including Marianne Riggins. We provided the council with over 16 potential uses for a park that had easy ingress/egress (with a traffic light), easy grading, water and power and an adjacent parcel (Zuma Farms) that was also for sale. The park was perfect for a branch library and community center with multiple sports fields and a skate park in close proximity to the majority of our schools and the center of our population. Because Sharon Barovsky , Andy Stern and John Sibert were in power at the time, the project was killed. Pam Ullich and Jefferson Wagmer were for it because they understood future planning and the needs of the citizens. The machine was against it, in my opinion, because Sharon Barovsky wanted everything in the civic center where she lives. Now she wants to eliminate camping by her house. The council should know ,if they walk the Bluffs Park parcel that there is little chance of sports fields soon if ever. Too bad the kids and the adults suffer for petty machine politics.
Hans Laetz February 01, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I spent two hours walking around the western bluffs yesterday. I counted 17 walkers, joggers and beach-goers on the paths west of the city's property. All were walking on paths that would be converted to roads, driveways and camping places under the MRCA plan. Joe's agency has nearly all the legal authority he needs right now to build those campgrounds. I enjoyed my hike through a REAL wilderness. PCH and Malibu Road were out of sight much of the time. 100 percent of this hiking area will be made a shambles if camping areas are built there. The real danger to Malibu hiking trails is the introduction of camping at Bluffs. 95 percent of the hiking trails at Charmlee would not be affected one iota if camping were built on Joe's land, outside city limits, which he is going to do if there is a land swap or not. And by the way, I also went to Legacy Park and did a census there. Bluffs/MRCA land: 17 people, not including the pickup soccer game at the city park with 30 people.. Legacy Sump Park and Weed Museum: Zero people, including all the sidewalks all the way around.
Hans Laetz February 01, 2013 at 08:55 PM
I uploaded a panoramic photo taken at the middle of the western mesa, just south of John Tyler. The field is grassy and you can see the reamins of the fence that the lima bean farmers used to keep the cows out. It's almost flat enough to play soccer on right now. It's flatter than Donald Sterling's "camp for underprivileged children". It is flatter than Trancas Fields. It is not as flat as the Malibu Bay Company land at Heathercliff. But it almost is.
Hans Laetz February 01, 2013 at 09:12 PM
You did great work, John, and the western parkland should have been built. It was a travesty that it wasn't. But it is what it is. We are here. not there. No reasonable person could conclude that we should make the same mistake NOW that was made then. Look, no one in the city says we would trade the parks under Edmiston's terms. The city owes it to its residents to see if reasonable camping and fire protections can be won. No protections? No deal. Getting western Bluffs Parks out of Joe's hands would be a huge win for the entire city, from Topanga to Sequit points. Wringing reasonable camping protections at Escondido and Ramirez canyons, and as much as we can get at Charmlee. is what the city council clearly heard must be accomplished in the talks. The majority of these guys just beat me in an election. Politically, I'd love for them to fall on their faces. But that's what's wrong with politics -- nationally and locally. It wouldn't be good for the city. That's why they deserve support on this.
Mikke Pierson February 02, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Like Hans I spent almost 3 hours walking the entire Bluffs Park property over the last week. And though I've lived in Malibu almost my entire life I realized I had never explored the whole area. And the first thing I noticed is that it is absolutely beautiful. The entire 83+ acre site is a true gem. Charmlee and camping aside (which obviously it can't be set aside at this point), the Bluff's Park area is a treasure that I would love to see as part of the city of Malibu. I'm not sure if ball fields, nature paths or what exactly makes the most sense for the site (actually I think you could do quite a few different uses), but I urge everyone to find time to walk the property and see it for yourself. And the same goes for for Charmlee. I grew up with Charmlee as part of my backyard. Take the time to visit. It's worth the time and I suspect very few people have actually explored either or both in detail. Knowledge is power.
John Mazza February 02, 2013 at 11:28 PM
The only problem with the park land south of John Tyhler is that 100% of it is ESHA and cannot be used for anything but trails. The land " north " of John Tyler is mostly non ESHA but has severe problems with access. You can wish for things but you must realize that the coastal commission cares about environmentally sensitive land . As far as i know Bluffs Park and Pt. Dume headlands are the only ESHA along PCH in LA County.
Hans Laetz February 03, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Mmmm, I don't think so. The land "south" of John Tyler is NOT 100 percent ESHA. Southeast of the intersection is a large, nearly flat mesa, which was one time classified by the Coastal Commission as "disturbed ESHA." This area, just to the west of Landon Center (and across the small arroyo) is perfectly suited for a city park. Let's call it the "middle mesa." The middle mesa was historically lima bean and alfalfa fields for the Rindges. Their big tank is still there. It was regularly plowed as fire break until MRCA took it over. The middle mesa is big -- about 28 acres according to my GIS software. That's 2.8 times the size of the current grass area at Bluffs. You could double the size of the city park down on that middle mesa without touching any real ESHA. And if the city were to disturb the "degraded ESHA." it could make the state happy by mitigating the non-ESHA land on the western mesa. That type of ESHA mitigation is accepted up and down the coast. No wishing involved, John. But we need to see what will happen. It seems possible that we can build a real park, for the first time in Malibu history, while preserving 100 percent of Charmlee as is forever. And get real commitments from MRCA to keep camping out of Malibu.
Brian Eamer February 03, 2013 at 05:01 AM
The Wave Property!!!! For sale .... someone needs to buy it for an active MALIBU park! Here's an alternative that needs be discussed. An opportunity for LAND without the need for grading, shoring, retaining walls etc. development costs, engineering fees, earthquake fault analysis and mitigation, access issues and ESHA issues. There are alternatives to the swap to gain park area for play field, open areas skate park etc. OK the Goldman 2 acres set aside is being considered. Let's ALSO focus on land that is Available Now in the Cross Creek area of town before the vacant land is GONE!!! There is a property known as the WAVE property because it is owned by PEPPERDINE and two other entities. The property is for SALE. It is 9 acres of FLAT VACANT land behind the Malibu Library and Courthouse. SALES PRICE; $14,000,000 SIZE: 9 Acres commercial zones CC- which allows a PARK with CUP. The Maling Team of Colliers International Real Estate represents the Wave Property, 9.2 acres(400,752 +/- square feet) of land located in the heart of downtown Malibu. The asset is currently zoned as CC (Community Commercial) which allows for a wide variety of uses, including office, retail, restaurants, etc
Brian Eamer February 03, 2013 at 05:02 AM
The Wave Property is ideally located adjacent to the County Library and Los Angeles County Courthouse, with close proximity to City Hall, several restaurants, a movie theater, shopping and the beach. Go to www.MalingTeam.com and find the Wave property and see the beautiful photos and plot maps of the property. Please Mr. ELLISON sir buy the property and grant the land to the City of Malibu to preserve the MALIBU. Or I appeal to PEPPERDINE, who could co-own the property and utilize along with Malibu through a Joint Use Agreement the park fields etc.,please arrange a deal for the City of Malibu to receive the 14 acres through a deal that would benefit both Pepperdine and the City of Malibu!! Lets Get Creative!!!
Hans Laetz February 03, 2013 at 06:06 PM
You make good points, Brian. Please consider these: (a) Pepperdine has owned land next to the City Hall and, I believe, been trying to sell it. Or they sold it. Not sure. Either way, they apparently do not want to be Civic Center landowners. (b) $14 million is a lot of money. The Bluffs site is $0. (c) It is not an either/or situation. Acquiring parkland at Bluffs from the state (at no purchase cost) does not reduce the need to acquire vacant commercial land for greenbelt and development-prevention purposes. (d) Larry Ellison already owns vacant land next to the tennis club, and has shown no interest in converting it to parkland. (e) Ellison owns the most "private" beach frontage in Malibu. And deal for a park would likely come with strings attached. (f) The last deal we made for parkland with a megamillionare (Legacy) came with terrible restrictions that totally cripple use of it as a real park. (g) The Wave Property is behind a parking impound yard and will be surrounded by La Paz / Whole Foods / proposed MBC offices / community college etc. As a park, it will have the ambience of a Los Angeles high school. (h) Hike the Wave, then hike the Middle Mesa at Bluffs. You tell me which one is oceanview, wildlands-surrounded, gorgeous. Then tell me which one is tucked away, right next to houses. (i) Assembling the vacant commercial land at Civic Center is maybe a $40 million enterprise -- who knows?
Jill Nani February 06, 2013 at 12:34 AM
I have been a Malibu resident since 2000. I was not a recipient of Leisure Vision/ETC Institute's "statistically valid" survey. I find it difficult to believe that "indoor swimming pools" ranked (or ranks, as it were) as Malibuites' number two most important recreational need--as indicated by survey respondees--and this can be extended as a valid representation of Malibu residents' overall POV. I'd love to see the survey executed ten more times--as Bob Stallings suggests--to see if the same "statistically valid" results are duplicated, as he insists they will be. Perhaps they would be, but perhaps the statistics are inherently skewed by "the kind of person inclined to fill out a form and return it." By the way, I don't give a rat's ass about indoor swimming pools.
Marianne Riggins February 18, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Jill, I can see how you might consider an indoor swimming pool to be a bad idea, but there are a number of residents that would enjoy on indoor pool. Currently the city only has one community pool, it is located at Malibu High School and has very limited hours for community use. An indoor pool at a different location would allow seniors and parents with young children to have access to a pool not currently available. Additionally, by having an indoor pool it would allow residents with sensitive skin or other concerns about sun exposure an option to enjoy water sports.


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