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.
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.