The Malibu Little League is celebrating a decision by the California Coastal Commission allowing the league's ball fields to remain on ocean-view bluffs across Pacific Coast Highway from Pepperdine University.
"We finally have a place for kids to play youth-organization sports in Malibu," said league President Patricia Paul, noting that area residents have long sought to establish neighborhood parks and a permanent home for playing fields in Malibu.
"We're delighted," she said of Wednesday's decision, which, in effect, lifts a 1987 deadline on the league's use of the fields.
During a four-day meeting at the Ramada Inn in Culver City, the commission also heard another plan for a neighborhood park that would feature an equestrian center on 20 acres east of Malibu Park Junior High School. The commission, however, deferred its decision and asked for more information on grading and traffic impacts. The commission staff recommended against approval of the plan.
The Little League plan represents a compromise between the commission and the state and county over the use of a valuable 30-acre site overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The commission in December rejected an earlier state-county plan because members were concerned that playing fields did not constitute the best use of the prime oceanfront property, purchased with $6.8 million of state taxpayers' money.
The original plan called for the ball fields to be improved as a first priority, with bleachers, refreshment stands and irrigation systems. Under that plan, picnic areas and trails would have been developed afterward.
But the amended plan puts as the first priority the development of picnic areas and hiking trails by the fall of 1987 to encourage the broadest public use, said James Park, facilities planner for the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
The plan also calls for removeable goal posts that can be taken out at the end of football and soccer seasons, freeing two acres for picnicking, he said. Another two acres will be available year-round.
Ball field improvements will be made later and are "at least a couple of years away," he said.
Park said that the commission's decision takes the pressure off the league, which had a five-year lease to use three ball fields on five acres of state land.
The commission, in approving the state-county plan for the first 30-acre phase of the 93-acre Malibu Bluffs State park, "removed the time limitation" on the league's use of the site, Park said.
But the commission stopped short of saying the league can use the site permanently, and instead ordered the county to continue its search for other appropriate sites for local recreational activities, Park said.
As a practical matter, however, he said it is unlikely another site can be found. The county has been looking for the past 10 years, he said, but it has had difficulty finding park sites because land is so expensive in Malibu and so little flat land is available. "Finding 10 acres of (affordable) flat land in Malibu is pretty difficult these days," he said. "That's our quandary."