Pepperdine University's enrollment one day may grow to 5,000 students and some empty portions of the campus will be developed with new classrooms, dormitories and offices under an ambitious long-term expansion plan approved by the County Board of Supervisors.
The plan was approved 4 to 0 Tuesday, after Supervisor Ed Edelman questioned whether there were sufficient safeguards to protect the community from the cumulative impacts of the developments.
Edelman requested that the final ordinance, now being written by county staff, include wording requiring that the cumulative impact be addressed during each stage of the expansion.
The board approved a final environmental impact report, granted the university a zoning change to allow the plan to proceed and declared that the expansion would not have a significant effect on the environment. The only remaining hurdle is approval from the state Coastal Commission.
Roddy Wolper, director of public information for the university, said officials there "are very pleased" with the long-term plan. He said university officials believe they can adequately address fears of residents about increased traffic congestion and visual impacts of the expansion.
"We feel this is a very good approach for land-use planning," Wolper said.
"Not a lot dramatic is going to occur out there," agreed Supervisor Deane Dana. "They will add one building at a time over many years."
However, the 15-year plan was immediately assailed by Leon Cooper, president of the Malibu Township Council, which has opposed many aspects of the expansion.
"I am simply appalled at this bland statement that this Pepperdine expansion plan will have no significant effect on the environment," Cooper said. "It will have an-- overwhelming is the only word I can think of--impact on the environment. Who is kidding whom here? I feel like I'm on a Marx Brothers comedy."
Plan Called Vague
During hearings before the county Regional Planning Commission, officials from several county agencies complained that Pepperdine's expansion plan was vague and open to broad interpretation.
Under pressure from the Malibu Township Council, the university agreed to operate under a permit that requires the county to study each stage of the expansion and impose requirements to lessen the impacts of growth.
In a report to the board, the commission stated that the review process was necessary because of potential traffic problems, the need for more sewage treatment capacity at the school and because the expansion plan is so general that it does not yet include plans for "protecting the visible environment."
Although most of the developments will not take shape for many years, Cooper and other Malibu-area leaders say that the expansion will further exacerbate the traffic-snarled Pacific Coast Highway and bring unwanted development into the area.
According to environmental impact reports on the project, the expansion could generate 9,000 to 16,000 additional car trips in Malibu each day.
"Caltrans is very candid in admitting that there is very little they can do to improve PCH," Cooper said. "What is it going to be like with thousands more car trips each day?"
He said he is concerned that the traffic estimates were based on a 5,000 student enrollment, which he said does not take into account "a whole host of accompanying activities that will come with the expansion: conferences and other events that the school clearly has a mind to do."
However, Dana pointed out that Malibu's Local Coastal Plan, given initial approval earlier this year by the state Coastal Commission, prohibits construction of more than 2,100 dwelling units in Malibu until the highway is improved.
"You are very limited in what can be done before the traffic problems are addressed," Dana said. "And Pepperdine does not lead to a lot of people running up and down PCH. They are students who live there. The trouble on PCH is the commuters coming back from work and trying to get to the San Fernando Valley."
Under the first stage of the expansion, a reception building will be constructed next to the campus entrance.