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Fires Cloud Civic Center Accord


It seemed like such a life-or-death matter Monday night. About 100 people attended Malibu's public hearing on a proposed settlement with an organization of landowners who want to develop the civic center, and discussions continued until nearly 2 a.m.

By the next afternoon, the fire was showing what a life-or-death issue really was.

"One thing it does is put your priorities in perspective," Mayor Carolyn Van Horn said of the fire Wednesday.

The fate of the agreement to end Malibu's legal dispute with the Malibu Village Civic Assn. and some property owners in western Malibu remained uncertain Wednesday. The council made major revisions to the proposed agreement before approving it at the end of the Monday night meeting, and it was not yet clear whether the changes would be acceptable to the landowner group.

John Perenchio, president of the association, said Tuesday that he planned to confer with his partners, but a spokeswoman said Wednesday that Perenchio had spent the night protecting his property. The association consists of 16 civic center-area property owners led by Perenchio's Malibu Bay Co. and Pepperdine University,

Representatives from the city and the association had spent weeks trying to settle the lawsuit before its scheduled court date Nov. 12, but the agreement ran into trouble Monday when it was presented to the City Council for approval.

"I feel like they're almost putting a gun to my back," said Councilwoman Joan House, referring to a part of the agreement that required the council to speed up its review process for developers who want to build commercial and residential projects in west Malibu.

The proposed agreement calls for the Malibu Village Civic Assn. to drop its suit, which challenges the city's new interim zoning law. In exchange, the city would immediately begin the formal process of preparing a specific plan for development of the civic center area, rather than waiting until the city has completed its general plan, a blueprint for development throughout the city.

The specific plan process for the civic center is expected to take about 18 months to complete. During that time, the developers' ambitious plans for the area will be evaluated, as will other plans conceived by a citizens committee with a team of consultants. Under the proposed agreement, all proposals would be submitted by June, 1995, to the City Council for a final decision.

A second, more controversial portion of the proposed settlement calls for the council to reconsider the development restrictions that the interim zoning law imposes on five parcels in western Malibu owned by Malibu Bay Co. and others.

The city is bound by the agreement to process the developers' applications for rezoning and reach a decision within 180 days after the applications have been submitted. If the city fails to approve the development requests, the group can resume its litigation; if that happens, the city has the option of canceling the civic center portion of the agreement.

The agreement had originally called for the city to expedite its review process and reach a decision in 120 days. It also spelled out in detail the development goals of the property owners in west Malibu, including a 76,000-square-foot commercial mart in Point Dume and 21,000 square feet of additional commercial space at Trancas Center.

Councilman Jeff Kramer, who voted against the agreement, along with Councilman Walt Keller, said that he and many residents supported the civic center portion of the agreement, but that the portion dealing with west Malibu gave the appearance of offering special privileges to a few developers.

"They're using litigation to get special treatment," Kramer said, adding that other developers who also do not like the restrictions imposed by the interim zoning ordinance must wait longer to have their requests heard.

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