About 40 people, including several Malibu city officials, toured Malibu Bluffs Park Saturday to learn more about a proposed land swap.
Under the proposed swap, the city of Malibu would gain ownership of 83 acres of Bluffs Park in exchange for Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) control over 532 acres at Charmlee Wilderness Park.
Malibu council members Laura Zahn Rosenthal and John Sibert, as well as City Manager Jim Thorsen held a town hall-style meeting during the two-hour tour.
"I wanted people to take away a few different things: to hear some more information, to see the area and to understand the depth of it, the length of it, the expanse and to be able to hear what other people are saying and people's concerns," Rosenthal said.
Mainly, Rosenthal said she wanted to make sure residents understand that the council has yet to make a decision about the proposed swap.
"I also wanted to make sure they knew we hadn't made up our mind the way a number of people are telling other people there is a conspiracy," Rosenthal said.
Standing atop Malibu Bluffs Park overlooking the ocean and Point Dume, Diana Mullen said the walk reinforced her belief that the park should remain the same.
"It's a jewel. It's a beautiful jewel," the Malibu resident said.
Others also expressed concerns during the walk on whether the city would be able to build at Bluffs Park, which has several land slides around Marie Canyon. One woman called for new biology assessments and other studies. Others questioned if any proposed projects at Bluffs Park would be appealable to the California Coastal Commission.
Seth Jacobsen, a former candidate for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said the walk through Bluffs Park reinforced his belief that the city needs to do its due diligence before moving forward.
"I think it would be amazing to have this property," Jacobsen said.
Shelley O'Connor of Malibu, who came out with her 8-year-old daughter, said she is keeping an open mind about the proposed swap.
"I'm just here for fact gathering today," O'Connor said.
O'Connor, whose daughter plays softball at Bluffs Park, added that she does not yet know enough of the details to say whether she supports the swap or not.
"Just because I have a young daughter doesn't mean we should have ball fields and developed park lands," O'Connor said.
During the walk, the council members and Thorsen held up a map of Bluffs Park showing which areas could be developed. The entire walk and conversation with residents was filmed by Olivia Damavandi, the city's media information officer.
Originally, the city believed that only 10 acres of Bluff’s Park were developable and not considered Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA). A map provided by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy shows that nearly 25 more acres are not considered ESHA, meaning the city could potentially build more recreational facilities at Bluffs Park.
Rosenthal said she felt some residents brought up some interesting points.
"Some of it reinforced some issues I had concerns about and questions that we are already trying to get the answers to," Rosenthal said.
A second walk with Rosenthal and Sibert is planned for March 9 at Charmlee Wilderness Park.