If the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passes a court-endorsed system of development controls for four outlying areas, Malibu will have two land-use plans that some people think may contradict each other.
One of them, last week's court proposal, is being praised by Malibu environmentalists and civic activists who want to limit growth there. Many of the same people are bitter critics of the other, a six-week-old agreement between the county and the California Coastal Commission that produced the coastal land-use plan.
They say the court proposal is more restrictive than the coastal plan.
Now some are wondering if a single paragraph in the coastal plan will effectively block the new restrictions from being applied to Malibu's 27-mile shoreline and the southern part of the Santa Monica Mountains.
"It's really unfortunate that this has been left unclear," said Madelyn Glickfeld, a Coastal Commission alternate and Malibu resident who has battled for development limits.
"They've really accomplished something with this proposal, and it would be a shame if it doesn't apply to an area as important as Malibu."
The court-appointed referee who suggested the system said "we're talking about that issue with the county," but added that he did not foresee any problems applying the proposal to Malibu if it becomes law.
The coastal plan cut by half the amount of new development for Malibu the county had originally proposed, and a narrow majority on the Coastal Commission said the plan offered adequate protection.
But local civic groups and conservation organizations believed the compromise did not go nearly far enough. They saw the coastal plan as a flawed document that would still allow too many buildings and too much traffic for Malibu's fragile ecology, which is prone to fire, flood and landslides.
Then, on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Norman L. Epstein forwarded a proposal to the Board of Supervisors for an amendment to the county General Plan that would impose residential, commercial and industrial building caps in Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains, as well as in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Antelope Valley and the East San Gabriel Valley. The proposal came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Los Angeles County Planning in the Public Interest, an alliance of environmental and homeowners groups.
The Malibu Township Council, a civic group representing about 1,000 Malibu families, joined the coalition in the suit.
In addition to building caps, the amendment would link approval of new construction to the availability of roads, sewers, water, schools and fire protection. The county would keep a running tally of the capacity in each area. The Regional Planning Commission and the supervisors would be required in most cases to deny project proposals that would overburden facilities, even if the caps have not been reached.
To minimize development sprawl, no projects would be allowed more than one mile away from existing communities or more than five miles away from employment centers.
The Malibu and Santa Monica Mountains planning area, specifically mentioned in the court proposal, encompasses the zone addressed by the coastal land-use plan but also reaches north through the rest of the mountains to the Ventura Freeway.
County planning officials have said they will recommend the proposal to the supervisors. Public hearings are scheduled March 5, before the Regional Planning Commission, and April 9, before the supervisors. Epstein plans to review the results in court April 21.
Passage of the amendment and its application to Malibu would give the community "a significantly better deal than we had in December of 1985," said Leon Cooper, president of the Township Council.
Though both the coastal plan and the court proposal include residential building caps, the court proposal also suggests limits on commercial and industrial construction. "We gave up a commercial cap in (the coastal plan) and that would now be reinstituted by the court ruling," Cooper said.
The distance requirements to limit sprawl also go beyond the regulations in the coastal plan.
Glickfeld said, however, that she questions whether the proposed amendment would apply to the portion of Malibu covered by the coastal plan. One paragraph in the coastal plan is her reason:
"Where there are conflicts between the policies set forth in the land-use plan and those set forth in any element of the county's general plan, existing ordinances or other county regional plans, the policies of this land-use plan shall take precedence."
Steve Scholl, an analyst who supervised the coastal land-use plan for the Coastal Commission, pointed out that the document also states:
"Prior to the issuance of a coastal development permit, the county shall make the finding that the development reasonably meets the standards set forth in all applicable land-use plan policies."
When asked about the paragraphs, Deputy County Counsel Charles Moore said, "I'd like to analyze it."
But he added that "I know that there are no inconsistencies" between the two plans.
The standards in the court proposal for roads, water, sewers, schools and fire protection apply "countywide in all expansion areas," said James A. Kushner, a Southwestern University law professor who was appointed by the judge to referee the coalition lawsuit.
In the Malibu planning area, Kushner said, the county has designated 600 acres that could be developed with major commercial facilities and 300 acres for industrial use.
Moore said that expansion land lies along the coastal terrace and near the Ventura Freeway. "There's certainly nothing in the mountains," he said.