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Chili Cook-Off Land Purchase in Malibu
Twenty acres of mostly open land in the center of Malibu -- between Cross Creek Road and Webb Way east to west, and between Civic Center Way and PCH north to south -- has been the site of the annual Labor Day Weekend Chile Cook-Off festival since 1982. Further back, it was agricultural land, planted in geraniums, other flowers and vegetables by the Takahashi family since 1924. Part of the rectangle is now separately owned, the site of the Malibu Country Mart and an office building, but the large, flat unoccupied area has been part of Malibu's community life for decades.
The parcel is also part of the flood plain of Malibu Creek, historically agricultural land subject to periodic flooding. As with many other Malibu sites, the Chili Cook-Off land became the focus of controversy related to conflicting perceptions of community leaders, developers, and environmentalists.
Malibu Bay Company Development Plans
The history goes back to Reco Land Corp., headed by Roy E. Crummer whose family came early to Malibu. The land on the west side of the Civic Center area was known as Crummer's Field for many years when it was the site of horse shows. It was Reco that developed the Malibu Colony Plaza but in 1989 they sold the Plaza and 11 other Malibu properties to the newly formed Malibu Bay Company, formed by media tycoon and Colony resident Jerry Perenchio and the Konheim family for the purpose. (Perenchio bought out the Konheim's in 1999.) Crummer still owns Malibu land, including the Bluffs site which has its own controversial story.
The Malibu Bay Company (MBC) properties consisted of six mostly vacant commercially zoned sites in the Civic Center area, one vacant residentially zoned Point Dume property and four vacant residentially zoned lands in Trancas plus the Colony Plaza. From 1989 to 2000, MBC made numerous development proposals for their properties but nothing went forward due to Malibu's "slow growth - no growth" policies. After many attempts that failed to break the impasse, MBC and the City of Malibu came up with a proposal that would allow MBC to develop eight of its properties over a 20-year period, dedicate three for open space. In addition, and most significant, instead of development of the Chili Cook-Off Site, MBC would give the City an option to purchase the land for $25 million. Malibu planned to build a wastewater/stormwater treatment facility and possibly a park and lake on the site.
Although the City Council unanimously approved the agreement in late July 2003, city law required a referendum. Malibu split on the proposal with many residents favoring the arrangement as a reasonable way forward, while those who opposed development or who had environmental concerns were against it. Malibu Community Action Network (CAN) led opposition group to Measure M and filed a lawsuit just in case it passed. The vote on "Measure M" came on November 4, 2003 and it was defeated. Possibly it was too complex for voters to understand although some charged dishonest campaigning by Measure M opponents.
After Measure M
Although MBC President Jerry Perenchio had said they would never sell to the City if Measure M did not pass, in fact by the summer of 2004 discussions between MBC and the City were renewed and in September 2004 the deal was back on. Malibu had until December 31, 2005 to come up with the $25 million. There were a few strings attached including the proviso that the city could build the wastewater/stormwater treatment facility on the property, but nothing else.
The acquisition of the Chile Cook-Off site became a key focus of the Malibu City government. Putting that large tract in the center of town off-limits to development would have a permanent, positive impact on Malibu much as New York's Central Park. During 2005 the City formed alliances to facilitate funding, some of which came apart almost immediately, such as a brief arrangement with the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy in January which collapsed in February. City officials scrambled to find sources of grants and loans to finance the acquisition finding allies in Santa Monica College, the State Water Resources Board and other sources.
Finally, at a special December 12 2005 City Council meeting, they approved the final wording of the purchase contract with Malibu Bay Company and set in motion the selling of special bonds called Certificates of Participation (COPs) to fund part of the purchase. Escrow opened on the property with a closing date of March 31, 2006 or earlier if a commercial lease is finalized for the vacant Malibu Lumber building.
In the end, the purchase was financed by:
The Water Board funds were be delayed, but were covered by Malibu General Fund until available.
The Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy donated $500,000 toward the purchase, the largest donation given to the city from the private sector.
Malibu Legacy Park Project
After the land purchase was complete, the new 17-acre Malibu Legacy Park Project was constructed on the site bordered by Pacific Coast Highway on the south, Cross Creek Road on the east, Webb Way on the west, and Civic Center Way on the north, opening October 2, 2010. The retail property of the Malibu Lumber Yard was redeveloped into an upscale collection of stores and restaurants, opening March 27, 2009. In 2010, the Malibu Kiwanis Club's 29th Annual Chili Cook-Off and Carnival went on as usual, but moved to still-open land across Civic Center Way, on the Ioki property, at the corner of Civic Center Way and Stuart Ranch Road.
Other Malibu Properties for Public Use
In addition to the Chili Cook-Off site, the Crummer property adjacent to Malibu Bluffs Park (25 acres along Pacific Coast Highway) and the Yamaguchi properties (two sites totaling 17 acres located in the Civic Center) were in and out of negotiations. The Crummer Bluffs property is coveted by the City for recreation fields, to offset the loss of ball fields on land the State is taking over. To control further development in the Civic Center for public purposes, the City also hopes to acquire the land from the Yamaguchi Tokiye Trust.
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