Calabasas City officials continue to approve inappropriate development that encroaches into ecologically and culturally sensitive areas, this time at the mouth of Malibu Canyon at Las Virgenes Road where a three-story hotel will block a historic trailhead in the scenic corridor.
When Juan Bautista de Anza rode through the Santa Monica Mountains in 1776, he is said to have traveled through a narrow gorge in what is now the Calabasas portion of the official Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. Until now, that path, protected by steep hills, remained largely the way it might have when de Anza first saw it, despite the encroachment of development. That is about to change.
The Calabasas City Council recently approved an ordinance that amends the city’s general plan to permit a three-story, 67,000-square-foot hotel to be constructed on a 5.4-acre parcel at the mouth of Malibu Canyon, directly in front of the Juan Bautista de Anza Trailhead, in exchange for a park and ride parking lot on adjacent vacant property.
The project is the brainchild of Malibu developer Richard Weintraub, who filed back-up plans for a three-story self-storage facility to ensure that the city would accept the hotel project. However, the original proposal was scaled down last year, when a much larger, four-story 73,000-square-foot hotel was rejected by the Calabasas City Council.
The current project, officially titled the Rondell Oasis Hotel development, features a three-story hotel. It is described as a future Cambria Hotel, a franchise chain owned by Choice Hotels International, a NYSE-traded company with more than 6,400 properties worldwide, according to the company website.
Weintraub’s smaller hotel project did not require a zoning change for the site, unlike the much larger Canyon Oaks hotel and housing tract project proposed for a nearby property, which was rejected by voters last year.
However, the Rondell hotel project has attracted a number of outspoken critics, who have raised concerns about traffic impacts, questioned the wisdom of permitting a project that blocks the historic trailhead, and have argued unsuccessfully that the hotel is not compatible with its location within the Las Virgenes scenic corridor.
Monte Nido resident Stephanie Abramson raised the issue of signage and trail access at the city council hearing on the ordinance.
“It’s a national historic trail, a national historic trailhead, that will be buried behind the Rondell Hotel, completely out of sight,” Abramson said. “What kind of signage will be put in front so people will know the trailhead is there?”
Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer assured her that “there will be a bathroom, water and parking for horse trailers. The [parking] lot is public. Signage is an important issue that was raised. I will personally be involved in making sure the signage is legible and highly visible. I think you will be very pleased with what is available for you,” Maurer said.
The council voted 4:0 to approve the ordinance enabling the project to proceed. Mayor Pro Tem Fred Gaines, whose law firm frequently works with Weintraub, recused himself from the discussion.