By ELIZABETH MARCELLINO
City News Service
The Board of Supervisors today denied an appeal seeking to halt a major renovation of the Malibu Golf Club that would add an educational retreat and bungalows for overnight guests at a 650-acre site in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The developer, Malibu Associates, LLC, describes the project as a sports-oriented educational retreat that will cater to researchers at USC, UCLA, Pepperdine and other area universities.
A union spokeswoman, the only voice of opposition at today's meeting, called it a luxury resort and conference center.
The project, about six miles from Pacific Coast Highway and Kanan Road, includes an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, fitness center, educational and meeting facilities and 40 bungalows to accommodate up to 320 overnight guests. New construction will total about 225,000 square feet, and 387 parking spaces are planned.
The existing golf course is nearly 40 years old, "functionally obsolete" and loses roughly $1 million each year, said Tom Hix, managing member of developer Malibu Associates.
Hix said the project was significantly scaled back from original plans, and new buildings will now be clustered within about 20 acres which have already been "disturbed" by the existing club's environmental footprint. The renovated course and new construction will occupy about 200 acres in total, while roughly 450 acres of native habitat will be donated as permanent parkland, he said.
"This is a far cry from the project that they came in to see me about many years ago," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.
The developers made a number of changes to create an environmentally sustainable project, including a pledge to use environmentally-friendly construction materials and seek a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum or equivalent rating for the project.
Irrigated course acreage was reduced from 85 to 62 acres, and operators plan to recycle 100 percent of the center's food waste into mulch. An on-site wastewater treatment plant is designed to replace an existing septic system.
Pepperdine biologist Lee Kats was one of more than a dozen residents and researchers who spoke in support of the plans, saying the "project offers a unique opportunity for ecological restoration."
Kats will supervise the de-watering of portions of Trancas Creek to eradicate invasive species, remove potentially toxic sediment and restore water quality, according to board documents and the project's website.
The bungalows and conference center, dubbed the Malibu Institute, will be operated in affiliation with USC, Hix said. None of the bungalows will be for sale.
"Malibu Institute is a model and an example of how we can have smart green cities around the world," Woodrow Clark II, an environmental consultant, told the board.
Residents praised the developer's work with the community and said the project will offer overnight accommodations where few other options exist.
But the bungalows drew objections from a spokeswoman for UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents hospitality workers at hotels, restaurants, airports and sports arenas in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
"We support the use of this site for educational purposes," Melanie Luthern said. But she faulted the developer on three counts: "access, compliance and notice," charging that support for the project "may have been a little different" if residents knew about its hotel-like elements.
Yaroslavsky countered that support for the project was virtually unanimous.
"We have no local opposition to this, not because it was a secret, but because it was thoroughly vetted," Yaroslavsky said.
Supervisor Don Knabe called it a rare show of support from the community.
"I've never seen that many people in support of a project in Malibu in my entire career," Knabe said.
The board signaled its intent to approve the project by unanimously denying the appeal and certifying the Environmental Impact Report.