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Coastal Commission Delays Could Kill New Malibu HS Building, District Officials Warn

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By Jorge Casuso

June 26, 2023 -- A plan to build a new Malibu High School building is being jeopardized by delays at the California Coastal Commission, School District officials said Monday.

The Commission's staff is requesting a year to review the plan the District submitted in October to replace the high school's bungalows and aging buildings with a state-of-the-art campus.

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The delay, officials worry, will push back the opening scheduled for August 2024 and potentially kill the project bankrolled by Measure M, a record $195 million bond approved by Malibu voters in November 2018.

If the new building "is delayed for another year, rising costs will mean there will not be enough taxpayer money to build it," Interim Superintendent Mark Kelly wrote in a letter to parents, students, staff and community members.

"Your voice is needed to beseech the Coastal Commission to deny the staff request for an extension and to expedite the approval" of the plan "within the next 60 days."

The new high school building has been designed, the State has approved the construction plans and the former Juan Cabrillo Elementary site has been cleared for construction, officials said.

In addition, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Environmental Impact Report has been certified, the contractor hired and the School Board has approved the construction contract.

"Construction must begin early this fall to open in time for the 2025-26 school year," Kelly wrote in his letter.

District officials were following the Coastal Commission's advice when they opted to have a specific plan developed and approved beforehand, according to Kelly.

"The specific plan route proved to be more cumbersome, more time consuming and more costly causing delays getting it approved by the City’s Planning Commission and the City Council," Kelly wrote.

After the District submitted its plan eight months ago, Coastal Commission staff "continued to request more information" delaying their 90-day review until April.

"They are now requesting an additional year to review the submittal," Kelly wrote. "Following their review, the LCP Amendment will need to be heard and approved by the Coastal Commission."

It could then take another year to obtain the necessary permits before construction can begin, he warned.

"Not only will the opening be pushed to 2026 or after, but the escalated cost will most likely exceed the amount of bond funds available, either killing the project as conceived or requiring more taxpayer funding," Kelly wrote.

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