Malibu Beach Inn: Is Perception Reality?

in City/Lifestyle/News/Politics by

By Lester Tobias

At Monday night’s planning commission meeting (Dec. 18th, 2017), the owners of the Malibu Beach Hotel had two agenda items up for approval, denial, or (in this case) continuation.

Confusion was the order of the day.  The biggest question on the minds of those watching the proceedings, and of those who had even briefly reviewed the staff report was “how does a project requiring so many obviously deniable discretionary requests even get to a hearing?”

The staff report, and the staff presentations, were both unequivocal.  The project required variances of which the first four findings could not be made.  The new owners wanted to count the historically illegal occupancies of the “guests only” restaurant as “grandfathered”, and only add required parking to any additional seating beyond the illegal seating count.  Not gonna happen. The offsite parking and valet and parking study plan was not approvable in its submitted state.  The project sits in the wastewater moratorium zone, and the existing septic system (and by extension, the permitted use capacities) could not be expanded.  And finally, a “condition” of Public Works was that a flashing light crosswalk would need to be installed, across the PCH, in front of the hotel to provide safe(?) passage for the valet parkers.  Who in their right mind would approve such an impactful device for the convenience of valet parkers? (read on and you will find out…sort of…)

However, owner Simon Mani’s testimony at the hearing painted a different picture.  He made several bold and confident statements.  A mashup of his testimony goes like this:
“The city was with us 100% of the time, to build the pool, to build the crosswalk…we’re gonna get it next week….we’ve done whatever the city has wanted….we are gonna build a crosswalk…it’s not a variance…everything we’re doing is within our rights…we worked with Coastal…we’re not going outside the box…we’re not here to fight anybody….we just want a pool…that’s all we want…”
Drop the mic.
So who’s right and who’s…ummmm…not right?  In order to attempt an answer, the numerous requests must be unpacked.  So, taking Mr. Mani’s statement that, “All we want is a pool” at face value, the answer is that the proposed pool location requires the relocation of 30 parking spaces.  Since the existing hotel has more rooms than all other beach hotels in Malibu combined, and was quadrupled in size (legally) in 1987, there is no room to relocate the 30 spaces on site.  That means that the Mani brothers need to obtain approval for offsite parking which is NOT within their rights. It would require a discretionary approval.  staff-1, applicant-0.
But, Mr. Mani does not just want a pool. He wants the city to accept an historical abuse of the hotel’s use limitations imposed by the CUP as a given, and basically wave a magic regulatory wand to adjust those limitations  UPWARD to his representation of its actual restaurant use  That’s a big ask, and to say that “everything we are doing is within our rights” is eyebrow raising, to say the least.  Staff-2, Applicant-0.
Mr. Mani also wants the existing septic system, installed in 2006 and sized for a 47 room hotel with a “guests only” restaurant, to be relocated (again, to make room for the pool) and to not violate the moratorium’s restrictions.  The only way this can be accomplished is with some serious recalculation of the approved use capacities and then an acceptance of the “actual” versus “legally approved” capacities, then somehow justifying that a restaurant expansion will not add any impact to the system.  So when the moratorium states that one can not increase the loads onto existing systems, and kind of alludes to the fact that new systems are prohibited, and Mr. Mani wants to both install a new system and increase the loads, it seems like those requests are not within his rights.  Staff-3, Applicant-0.
Continuing on, Mr. Mani also wants to remove the “guests only” restriction on the hotel restaurant, although the 1987 and 2006 CUP specifically state those limitations. Clearly not within his right to do this.  In his testimony he went so far as to say “I don’t know who’s been there, who hasn’t been there.  It’s been open to the public.”  Ooops!  Staff-4, Applicant-0.
With regard to the crosswalk, Caltrans is, in fact ready to issue Mr. Mani a permit to install a cross walk across the PCH at the hotel, and this will remove one of the Public Works conditions imposed on the off site valet parking.  Staff-4, Applicant-1.
However, that condition is only one of several other issues with the granting of the approval for the off site valet parking.  Staff-5, Applicant-1.
Getting back to the crosswalk, how did that get approved?  Who knew about it?  Was there a hearing?  Should there have been a hearing?  Who in the city signed off on it without telling the public?  The answer, so far, comes from Paul Shin at Caltrans, who has stated that Caltrans worked with Mr. Mani, the city of Malibu Public Works Department, and the city of Malibu Planning Department.  In his testimony, Mr. Mani has testified that he has done “whatever the city has asked.”  A recent comment by one of the planning commissioners suggested that the crosswalk was actually required by Coastal of a previous owner in some sort of access settlement, yet nothing in the staff report, which provides the historical permit documents, supports this assertion.  Mr Mani testified that he had to “work some things out with Coastal”, but did not elaborate.
In conclusion, the big questions are why do some applicants believe they can attain the demonstrably unattainable, and who the fuck at the city, OUR CITY, approved a god damn flashing crosswalk so that the hotel owner of the biggest hotel in Malibu can increase his parking, increase the use of his restaurant, and turn a low key car rental business into an open air eyesore of jacked up cars? I guess as long as the spaces inside the hotel can create instagram moments for its guest, whatever chaos is caused off site must be worth it.  Instagram rocks if you’re a hotel owner.
Oh yeah, one more question.  Besides the increase in tax revenue that we as residents never see, what is in this deal for us besides increased traffic, and more distractions on an all ready dangerous section of the PCH?  Dinner at the Malibu Beach Inn.  No thanks.  I’m good.
Drop the mic.  Again.

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