Fearful of a temporary ban on new home construction once Malibu becomes a city, a coalition of homeowners, real estate brokers, building contractors and others has asked Malibu’s future leaders for assurances that no such ban will take place.
But not everyone was pleased after a recent hearing, attended by about 250 people, at which Malibu’s unofficial City Council voted to sponsor a workshop and set up a task force to study the issue.
“It wasn’t what we wanted, but at least they’re aware of us and they’re thinking about the issue,” said Don Kowalewsky, an engineering geologist, who said his consulting work would be seriously affected by a building ban.
A petition, which organizers said contained at least 100 signatures, sought assurances from the council that once cityhood occurs there will be no moratorium on the construction of single-family houses, or the remodeling of existing houses.
It was the first time the slow-growth-oriented council, elected last June but unable to take office until Malibu becomes a city, has encountered such a large and vocal group concerned about a growth issue.
The City Council will have the authority to halt development for up to 2 1/2 years after Malibu becomes a city while it develops a general plan.
Several council members have said they do not want to disrupt people’s plans to build single-family houses, but the council has yet to articulate a policy to handle the transition from using the county’s planning guidelines to implementing its own.
Larry Thorne, who helped organize the presentation, said it was “essential that we get the issue out in the open now and not wait until the first City Council meeting after cityhood.”
Thorne said he was pleased with the council’s interest, but expressed concern that “this issue doesn’t descend into the abyss of a committee with the clock ticking down (toward cityhood).”
Besides asking that there be no moratorium, the petition calls for there to be no interruption of building inspections in cases where applicants have already obtained building permits from the county.
Proponents said they want Malibu’s new government to continue to use county laws and services on an interim basis, if necessary, until the new city comes up with its own guidelines.
“It’s very unfair for people who have invested a lot in their property to be told they’re going to be held back for maybe a year or two,” said homeowner Ross Gullotti, who has plans to build a new home. “I think there should be no restrictions whatsoever.”
Others warned that a building ban would seriously damage Malibu’s economy.
“We’re talking about the largest industry in our community,” land use attorney Paul Shoop said.
“There is nothing that impacts our economy more than the construction of single-family homes.”