The nearly completed Malibu Colony Plaza, the largest shopping center in the beachfront community, has come under fire from a group of homeowners who say the developer has ignored numerous Coastal Commission permit requirements in order to open more quickly.
The homeowners, who live on one of the streets bordering the 100,000-square-foot shopping center, have asked the Coastal Commission to intervene after failing to reach a solution during numerous meetings with the developer.
Roy Crummer, chief executive officer of the Reco Development Corp., denies any wrongdoing and said the dispute is "just a case of a few homeowners trying to rattle everybody's cage." Both sides have threatened legal action.
Open 24 Hours
At the heart of the controversy is the center's 24-hour Hughes Market. The homeowners group, which includes actor Lee Majors and about 35 other owners of the million-dollar properties along Malibu Road, say that under an agreement they made with Crummer last year, the anchor store in the shopping center, Hughes, would close by midnight. They said they were shocked when they discovered that the supermarket is operating around-the-clock, and when they investigated further, they say they found several other deviations from their covenant with the developer.
Crummer, who is the largest commercial developer in Malibu and who once called the town "the land that time forgot," called the dispute a case in which the landowners forgot the time. He said the center's hours of operation were "clearly discussed" during his meetings with the group. He said the operating hours of the supermarket, the other stores in the center and a planned restaurant are not negotiable.
"Their memory is probably not as clear as it should be," Crummer said. "There were never any restrictions on the hours for the restaurant or Hughes. I've done everything that I was asked to do, but it doesn't seem to matter. There's somebody on the committee who is always going to be (upset) about something."
Attorney John Belsher, who is representing the homeowners group, said the language of the agreement shows that Crummer hasn't kept his end of the bargain. The covenant states that "all stores shall close at 10 p.m. except for the supermarket, the restaurant and the drug store, the last of which will close at midnight." But Crummer maintains that all that means is that he agreed to close the Osco Drug Store by midnight.
"The homeowners just feel that he ought to honor his commitment to them," Belsher said. "The homeowners did agree to have a shopping center in their back yard, so they've given the developer what he asked for. But so far, there has been very little give and take. The developer could easily take some steps to alleviate the concerns of the homeowners, but he just has refused to do so."
In addition to the shopping center's hours, the homeowners say Crummer violated coastal permit requirements and their agreement with him by opening the supermarket before all of the landscaping was completed, by failing to extend a sound wall another 20 feet, by putting a drainage hole along Malibu Road and by placing a sidewalk around the west end of the center, where no access ways were supposed to be installed.
Tour of Center
The homeowners, Crummer and some Coastal Commission inspectors are scheduled to tour the shopping center next week to see if it is in compliance with the building permits.
When the Hughes Market opened in September, the only complaints came from local activists who said the shopping center would add to traffic congestion along Pacific Coast Highway.
The center, adorned with a mission-tile roof, carved-stone columns imported from Mexico, semicircular brick arches, two large fountains and surrounded by palm trees and bird of paradise plants, was approved by the California Coastal Commission in December, 1985. At the time it was approved, no one spoke out against the project. But after the developer demolished an old market on the property, several homeowners complained, and Crummer agreed to several changes, including moving the shops another 50 feet farther away from Malibu Road.
The fight over the $12-million shopping center, which is expected to be completed next month, comes at a time when Crummer is discussing selling a large amount of Reco's vast holdings to Jerry Perenchio, a former associate of television producer Norman Lear and now a major cable company executive. Reco previously sold Perenchio property across from the Malibu Colony, which he turned into one of the world's most expensive jogging tracks.
"No deal has been struck yet, but there are ongoing serious discussions," said Crummer, whose family has owned hundreds of beachfront properties in Malibu, among the most expensive real estate in the country, for more than 30 years.
Crummer and Belsher said they are trying to resolve the dispute amicably. However, unless there is a change of heart over the shopping center's hours, they said there is little chance that they can reach a settlement.
"They're making demands that the whole project be shut down," Crummer said. "I'm going to address all of their complaints, but I'm getting tired of the way that they've treated me, and if they want to exercise their legal rights, well, I've got legal rights, too.
"I think that the community loves the market but it's just a few homeowners who are nit-picking about things they don't want."