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Traffic Dominates Discussion Over Proposed Whole Foods Project

Developer Steve Soboroff said he believes the project’s plans will stand up to the scrutiny.

Many residents called into question on Tuesday the impact of traffic on Malibu's Civic Center if a proposed shopping center with a Whole Foods and other planned projects are developed in the city.

The comments came during a two-hour public scoping meeting held as part of the creation of an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project, which would be located on the corner of Cross Creek Road and Civic Center Way in Malibu. About 40 people attended the meeting.

The city of Malibu brought on a consultant, Impact Sciences, to generate a draft EIR for the project, which envisions the Whole Foods market, plus several other businesses, a park and a clock tower.  

Developer Steve Soboroff, who attended the hearing but did not speak publicly, told Patch that he believed it was a good meeting.

“I think the things that people brought up are things that I’ve considered from the very beginning,” Soboroff said.

He added that he is proud of the project and believes it will move forward.

“All the things that would have stopped the project were not correct in what people said and this wasn’t the time to correct them,” Soboroff said of comments made by activists and residents during the meeting.

During the hearing, Malibu’s Senior Planner Bonnie Blue said a conditional use permit and a coastal development permit are needed for the project. Blue added that changes are also needed for the city’s general plan and the municipal code zoning map because of a conflict with the Local Coastal Program.

The project includes two parcels, one of which is zoned for a higher commercial use that needs to be downgraded to match the other parcel, she said.

"It’s basically a cleanup to bring things into consistency," Blue said.

Traffic

Jeff Fuller, a resident of Serra Canyon, said that many owners of the 110 homes in the canyon oppose the project because of its possible impact on traffic on Cross Creek Road.

"All the truck traffic will come off our private Cross Creek roadway. It’s not a public road, it’s a private road," Fuller said.

He added that he is concerned about the ability of emergency vehicles to access Serra Canyon and of residents to evacuate during a fire.

"We are deeply concerned about the impact of the traffic of this particular project. We’re concerned about the overall cumulative impact of this project and all the commercial projects within the civic center," Fuller said.

Ozzie Silna, who also lives in Serra Canyon, said he is concerned about the impact of future traffic from projects in the pipeline in Civic Center.

"I can't imagine that you can even do an EIR that would show the impact of all of those parking spots after they are built," Silna said. "... This is virtual insanity."

Steve Uhring requested that new technology is used "to make sure we have accurate counts" in the project’s traffic study.

Malibu Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said that new traffic counts will be required for the study. She added that a traffic consultant will be hired by the developer, and it will be peer reviewed for accuracy. In response, several residents called on the city to do its own study.

Planning Commissioner John Mazza asked that parking be looked at closely, especially with the plan for a restaurant with outdoor eating.

Brian Eamer asked that an independent firm does a peer review of the EIR to make sure that the cumulative effect of future development on traffic be analyzed.

Open Space

Jae Flora-Katz, of Preserve Malibu, said she wants the EIR to examine the proposed amount of landscaping for the project, adding that it should not be lower than what the city’s general plan calls for.

"We will vigorously protest that," Flora-Katz said.

Alessandra Di Carlo also called the project’s design into question.

"It looks really jolly to have this little thing," Di Carlo said, pointing to the project's design on a nearby wall. "This to me looks more like a Beverly Hills or a Hollywood. It doesn’t really fit into the Malibu way of life."

Water, Fire & Sewer

Activist Cindy Vandor called on the city to examine the site’s water issues.

"You must provide proof that you will have as much water as you will need as well as what water will be necessary for a fire," Vandor said.

Attorney Frank Angel said he is concerned about water runoff.

"I request that the runoff flows be very carefully studied," Angel said.

Andy Lyon, who recently ran for Malibu City Council, said he is concerned that there is no backup plan beyond the project tying into the proposed sewer in the Malibu Civic Center, which is in the planning stages.

"I’m just curious about getting rid of all of the water. It seems like we are putting the cart before the horse," Lyon said.

Former City Councilman Jefferson Wagner said an easement should be dedicated for emergency vehicles behind the property to tie into a similar easement on the La Paz property nearby.

He also asked that the project keep a water storage tank on site to help firefighters protect the center's structures during a wildfire.

Jae Flora-Katz also expressed worry about wildfire sweeping through the Civic Center.

"It will come. It is going to come. There are lives that are going to be at stake. I hope the city takes this all into consideration and at some point says no," Flora-Katz said.

'Take Back Malibu'

A few residents expressed disapproval of the project and called on the city to put a stop to it.

Pamela Fink said she wants a list of all projects within two miles of California's coast that have been halted during an EIR process.

"It seems like we go through a process we do all these tests and studies and they get built. It’s frustrating and against the will of the people. No one wants it," Fink said, adding that she believes Malibu residents should put all the proposed development in Malibu up for a vote.

Carla McCloskey also asked if attendees of the hearing were open to supporting a ballot initiative that would allow Malibu residents to vote on whether the project can move forward.

"Take back Malibu," Andy Lyon called out as other residents applauded.

Many more people spoke during the two-hour meeting. If your point of view was not included, please share it in the comments section below.

Hans Laetz May 30, 2012 at 02:37 AM
It gets better. The size and scope of the "critical" traffic jam out on PCH will not be measured properly in this study. Only congestion levels at six intersections in Malibu will be considered, under the City's terrible traffic congestion formula. You see, Malibu only counts congestion AT intersections, not BETWEEN intersections. There is no difference to the City if the Cross Creek intersection is backed up just to the Malibu Pier, or all the way to the Santa Monica Pier. (Or Newport Pier -- don't laugh, that happened for three months in 2004 when Santa Monica closed one of three PCH lanes at California Incline.) The City will not consider that a 10-car backup is more severe than a 10-mile backup. Of course, others have mentioned the overload of grocery store traffic on Cross Creek road itself. The City of Malibu's traffic study -- paid for by Mr. Soboroff but supervised by our highly-qualified traffic engineer -- HAS NOT EVALUATED CONGESTION ON CROSS CREEK ROAD. Remember, they only look at congestion AT intersections. Any traffic jams BETWEEN intersections, or run-over pedestrians at Howdy's, or gridlock at the Lumberyard, is NOT considered in the city's traffic analysis. I met with Steve Soboroff. He has great plans, a great track record, and a good tenant. But I kept asking about that turn lane, and was told "it's in there." Unfortunately, it's in Malibu Lagoon State Park.
Marshall Thompson May 30, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Hans, we all owe you a big THANK YOU for all the great research you are doing on behalf of us all. This is one of the reasons why I voted for and supported Hans in the recent city council election. Where were the REST of you guys? The turn-out was absurdly small.
Cindy Vandor May 30, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Who will be killed because of Soboroff's dangerous plan? You? Your loved one? A tourist? Does Soboroff care? Do city planners? Who dies when emergency vehicles can't get into or out of Serra Retreat or the Civic Center? Are residents collateral damage? When does the city council just say NO?!
Marianne Riggins May 30, 2012 at 05:02 AM
I think it does have to do with this discussion because a major concern that most are raising is traffic, if residents have some options besides driving their cars it will help solve a little of the problem. Currently, a resident has little option but to drive their cars everywhere and with that comes parking and circulation issues. How nice would it to be for residents to be able to hop on a shuttle bus from Big Rock or Trancas and be able to ride to Civic Center and either walk or ride their bikes around the area? Kids could go from one end of town to the other, enjoy one of Malibu's parks, or go to the library. Seniors and others could ride to SMC when it opens or to city hall. Even with our low population density, I believe a good shuttle system would work here, gas isn't getting any cheaper and kids here have no options and I know I would pay for a bus pass to ensure my child had a safe, realible way to get around town. Additionally, if by some miracle we could get some of the tourists to ride the bus it would go a long way to help get around town on a Saturday. If we could get a bus line over Malibu Canyon, we could be connected to the Valley and Thousand Oaks and maybe the Z traffic would use it to avoid driving through Malibu, I'm sure if WIfi was included many would use it instead of driving. .
Marianne Riggins May 30, 2012 at 05:02 AM
I think it does have to do with this discussion because a major concern that most are raising is traffic, if residents have some options besides driving their cars it will help solve a little of the problem. Currently, a resident has little option but to drive their cars everywhere and with that comes parking and circulation issues. How nice would it to be for residents to be able to hop on a shuttle bus from Big Rock or Trancas and be able to ride to Civic Center and either walk or ride their bikes around the area? Kids could go from one end of town to the other, enjoy one of Malibu's parks, or go to the library. Seniors and others could ride to SMC when it opens or to city hall. Even with our low population density, I believe a good shuttle system would work here, gas isn't getting any cheaper and kids here have no options and I know I would pay for a bus pass to ensure my child had a safe, realible way to get around town. Additionally, if by some miracle we could get some of the tourists to ride the bus it would go a long way to help get around town on a Saturday. If we could get a bus line over Malibu Canyon, we could be connected to the Valley and Thousand Oaks and maybe the Z traffic would use it to avoid driving through Malibu, I'm sure if WIfi was included many would use it instead of driving. .

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