SAN FRANCISCO — The California Coastal Commission approved Thursday a critical one-year permit extension for a proposed $60-million Malibu seaside hotel.
The extension came without discussion. Under commission procedure, extension requests are automatically approved unless at least three of the commission's 12 members object, in which case the extension is automatically rejected.
The hotel plan proposed by the Adamson Cos. has long been criticized by area slow-growth advocates, many of whom are active in the campaign to achieve cityhood for Malibu. They were especially upset in December after Adamson sided with the Los Angeles County supervisors in their attempts to further delay a cityhood referendum.
The one-year extension gives Adamson a fifth and final year to get the project started before it becomes necessary, under Coastal Commission regulations, to start over again with the application process. Company officials are also concerned that Malibu's incorporation might delay the project further, and they are eager to start construction before that occurs.
The company's representative to the Coastal Commission said he was optimistic the project would finally go ahead after several years of delays in which a regional sewer system, necessary to the hotel's construction, has been blocked by the slow-growth activists.
"I think we've finally crossed the Rubicon on this one," Adamson spokesman Barna Szabo said after the meeting. "We have endeavored to make the project more sensitive to the Malibu character . . . and I think you could say we have succeeded."
No one spoke at the meeting against the project, which Szabo said was evidence that public opposition had abated.
The Adamson Cos. first received approval from the Coastal Commission and the county in 1985 to build a three-story luxury hotel on 28 acres in the civic center area of Malibu, but the approval was predicated on construction of the sewer system.
Although the project has enjoyed the support of the county supervisors, the slow-growth activists in Malibu have long opposed the hotel and the regional sewer system that would make it possible. The sewer system, the opponents say, would open up the Malibu coastline to widespread development.
County officials have thwarted the cityhood effort for more than two years. After a lawsuit from cityhood backers, a judge ruled the county supervisors have until Feb. 27 to hold a cityhood hearing. This would pave the way for a June vote on cityhood.
As proposed, the 20-square-mile city would stretch along Pacific Coast Highway from Topanga Canyon to Leo Carrillo State Beach and one mile inland.
At Thursday's hearing, Adamson attorneys sought to have Coastal Commissioner Madelyn Glickfeld, a Malibu resident, disqualified from voting on the permit extension, citing her opposition to the hotel before she joined the commission in 1987.
The commission's lawyer advised, however, that Glickfeld's participation would not prejudice the panel's decision.
"I feel strongly that it wasn't a productive approach" by the company, Glickfeld said of Adamson's attempt to have her disqualified.