The California Coastal Commission has rebuffed residents of the Malibu Colony in their efforts to shorten the business hours of Malibu's largest shopping center, located just across the street from the wealthy seaside enclave. Representatives of a homeowners group, whose members include actors Larry Hagman, Lee Majors and Burgess Meredith, argued before the commission Thursday that the center's builder, Reco Development Corp., is violating a 1987 agreement limiting hours. Tenants of the center, Malibu Colony Plaza, include a 24-hour Hughes supermarket and a soon-to-open restaurant to be operated by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
Despite the residents' complaints about noise, parking and security, the commission voted to accept changes sought by Reco in the 1987 agreement. That agreement, reached after lengthy negotiations with the residents, included concessions by Reco aimed at preserving the neighborhood's character by providing landscaping and shielding the Colony from public access, in addition to limiting the center's operating hours. The homeowners group, which includes about 35 owners of million-dollar properties along Malibu Road, sought midnight closing times for Puck's restaurant and for the supermarket.
The commission's vote means that the supermarket will be allowed to stay open around the clock and the restaurant until 2 a.m. A spokesman for the homeowners group, the Old Road Committee, said it would appeal.
Actor Meredith and several other residents attended the session Thursday to help plead their case.
"I'm shocked, and I also feel very badly because it's my home, where I live," said Meredith, 79, when it became clear that the vote would go against them.
Puck also attended the hearing, accompanied by his wife, Barbara Lazaroff, and both insisted that their restaurant would not cause any trouble.
"We don't run a bar; we run a restaurant," Lazaroff said.
"I want to be friends with the neighbors," Puck added, "because they are all rich (and) they will be our customers."
Roy Crummer, the owner of Reco until he sold the company last month, said he had negotiated Hughes' hours before the 1987 agreement with the homeowners group. The homeowners disagreed.
In voting 7 to 2 to accept the changes sought by Reco in its building permit, the commission appeared to accept the conclusion of its staff that restricting the center's hours was not within its jurisdiction--even though several members of the commission acknowledged that they thought Reco was reneging on earlier promises.
But homeowners' attorney Joel Klevens said the commission acted improperly.
"I am very disappointed that the commission did not see fit to enforce its own conditions and that it instead sought to undermine the process of negotiation and compromise it had endorsed less than two years ago," Klevens said.
Most of the $12-million, 100,000-square-foot shopping center was completed this spring. Adorned with a mission-tile roof, carved stone columns imported from Mexico, semicircular brick arches and two fountains, landscaped with palm trees and bird-of-paradise plants, the center has drawn general praise even from its opponents.