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MALIBU : Housing Blueprint Overdue, State Takes Over


In an unprecedented move, state officials have decided that Malibu has run out of time to complete its blueprint for development over the next 20 years because a draft version of the document, or General Plan, did not come close to proposing enough low-income housing.

"I cannot, in good faith, be a partner in this any longer," said Lee Grissom, director of the state Office of Planning and Research, in an interview explaining the decision. The action, he said, puts oversight of the plan in the hands of state officials.

Grissom said a draft General Plan recently submitted by city officials was "unacceptable because they had not made any progress toward the housing requirements."

"Either there was a conscious effort at deception to keep us off their back or there was total confusion at the local level," Grissom said. "There was a pattern of not being willing to stick to deadlines."

Because the city had not made progress, Grissom said in a March 22 letter to officials, he revoked an earlier decision to give Malibu until November to complete the plan. Grissom added that the city's maximum density for multifamily residential construction--six dwelling units per acre--is too low to encourage construction.

City Atty. Christi Hogin said that city officials did not understand that they were expected to make low-income housing policy and planning amendments to the current document by Feb. 28, the date when Grissom asked to review the plan. Grissom asked to see the document Jan. 13, but that date was extended to Feb. 28 because of mudslides and flooding.

The state's revocation, Grissom said, gives the job of overseeing the city's adoption of the General Plan to the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Grissom said authority to issue building permits still lies with the council.

But Hogin said the revocation leaves the city vulnerable to lawsuits in the area of discretionary permits--requests to build structures that are larger or higher than allowed by existing building codes. To issue discretionary permits, Hogin said, the state requires that the city find a project consistent with the general plan. Without the plan or a state-approved extension to adopt one, the city is technically out of compliance with the law.

The city continues to issue permits because to do otherwise would be the equivalent of a de facto moratorium, Hogin said, and the city already has exhausted its 24-month moratorium as allowed by state law.

"We are between a rock and a hard place," Hogin said.

Malibu originally had 2 1/2 years after its March, 1991, incorporation to adopt a plan before the state began granting extensions.

Although the state agency has threatened to revoke the General Plan deadlines for other California cities and counties, this marks the first time it has done so, Grissom said.

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