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HOUSING : Malibu Project Opposed by City Gets OK, Ending 4-Year Fight


After a four-year battle, a developer has won approval from the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission for Malibu Estates, a housing development opposed by the city of Malibu.

The commission recently voted 3-2 in favor of the project, which was reduced from 69 units to 51, to be built near west Malibu in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles.

Commissioners Donald G. Toy and Richard C. Wulliger opposed the project saying it would be too dense. Wulliger also was concerned that the development would be in an area prone to wildfires.

Rancho Malibu Limited Partnership, which plans to develop the project on a 270-acre site in Encinal Canyon, made other changes to the plan to gain approval, including an agreement to preserve 86% of the site as open space, to keep 98% of existing oak trees and to leave the site's ridgeline undeveloped.

"The planning commission's approval places us one step closer to introducing a well-planned, well-designed community here in Malibu," spokesman Ed Podboy said.

But Malibu officials say the project will increase problems for the city.

"The most troublesome thing about this project is it is surrounded on three sides by the city," said City Atty. Christi Hogin. "That means the traffic impacts and the demands for municipal services are on the city for fire, animal control and law enforcement. It is frustrating for us because we aren't able to integrate the project into our infrastructure or get any of the property taxes."

Malibu Estates was approved by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors in 1990 and received a permit from the Coastal Commission in 1993. But the city won a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission that year, charging that the commission's approval of the project violated a state environmental law.

The developer got approval from the commission again last year, and the city filed a second lawsuit claiming that the revised project did not comply with the Coastal Act and still violated environmental law. The court ruled in favor of the developer, but the city has appealed the decision.

County approval of the Malibu Estates project follows on the heels of another county-approved development in west Malibu. Trancas Town, a 67-unit housing subdivision, won approval on May 10 from the 2nd Court of Appeal. The city also plans to appeal that decision.

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