Snack bar restoration efforts lifted by zoning challenges • The Malibu Times

By Emmanuel Luissi

Special for the Malibu Times

Progress on restoring or replacing the Malibu Bluffs Park Snack Shack continues to stall due to zoning restrictions.

The question of restoring or replacing the snack shack was discussed at a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission on October 18.

Despite support from the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Malibu Little League, and Malibu AYSO, the future of the snack shack remains uncertain.

As it stands, the cabin is considered existing non-compliant under current zoning restrictions, which limits what could be done with the existing structure. Under current restrictions, the structure’s only replacement use would be as a storage container.

Since the park is zoned as an open public space, zoning restrictions prohibit refreshment stands and other fixed-location outdoor food stalls.

The shack last served the park during the Spring 2019 Little League season. The shack was operated by Little League parents and served hot food such as hot dogs, pretzels and hamburgers.

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 Little League season, the shack was left without maintenance and fell into disrepair.

Since the return of Malibu Little League and Malibu AYSO to Malibu Bluffs Park, food is now served from food trucks parked on Winter Mesa Drive in the park.

Malibu Little League President Nick Shurgot said the loss of the snack shack hurt revenue that supported little league programs at the park.

“We are a non-profit organization and we need to earn money for uniforms, pitch rentals and referees,” Shurgot said. “We prefer the snack shack to be 100% open to earn some money and help our league continue to grow.”

He also explained that the snack shack is part of the Little League experience and that he believes food trucks cannot recreate the same experience. He described the snack shack as a gathering place just off the pitch and said it felt like a social event, and queuing in front of food trucks on the street isn’t quite the same social event for children.

Malibu Little League board member Jake Lingo said the Little League community doesn’t want to lose the snack. He hopes to be able to use the structure to raise funds to improve the current structure.

“I think you have a world-class designation and ballpark with very poor facilities,” Lingo told the commission. “We are committed to raising funds and doing what it takes to make this a premier location to host football and baseball.”

Proposals made by the Parks and Recreation Commission to restore or replace the cabin have encountered difficulties.

At its August 16 meeting, the commission voted to replace the snack shack with a similar structure with an updated three-compartment sink and outdoor grilling area. The recommendation prompted staff to meet with the planning department, who briefed the commission on the challenges of restoring the facility.

According to the Parks and Recreation staff report following the meeting with the planning department, the first step toward restoring the cabin would require the commission to inquire about a zoning change through a text amendment. (ZTA) and an amendment to the local coastal program (LCPA). This zoning change would reverse the ban on the sale of food and beverages in the park.

That process would require the commission to hire a planning consultant, which could cost between $20,000 and $40,000, according to assistant director of community services Kristin Riesgo. ZTA’s proposal would require approval from the Malibu Planning Commission, the Malibu City Council, and the California Coastal Commission and would take approximately two to three years.

If the commission decides to go ahead with the project, the project would be submitted to the city council and added to the 2023-2024 council work plan. The commission would then begin funding the efforts of the planning consultant.

If approved, the project would begin in fiscal year 2023-24.

Alternative options for the snack shack include food trucks or vending machines.

The commission also offered another fundraising opportunity for Little League or AYSO in the form of a Temporary Use Permit (TUP). The permit obtained by a youth league would allow the league to sell food and drink for up to 14 consecutive days. However, the permit would cost the league up to $700 in fees.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Suzanne Guldimann expressed concern about the project going ahead because of the difficulty of obtaining the required ZTA.

“I know how much the snack shack means to the kids and all, but the entire city of Malibu, to my knowledge, only gets four zoning enactment changes a year. We’re seriously backed,” Guldimann said, “I just don’t see us getting it. It’s a really thorny and difficult situation.

Director of Community Services Jesse Bobbett urged the commission to consider the importance of the snack shack project over other possible projects being considered by city council.

“While our role of serving this commission and the items that are on our work plan is something we can do, it’s not something that’s technically on the planning commission’s work plan,” he said. said Bobbett. “To prioritize this over other items, I don’t know what other area text amendments they would have on their plate moving forward.”

After weighing the pros and cons presented in the staff report, Parks and Recreation Chairman Dane Skophammer moved a motion to replace the snack shack with a similar structure. The committee passed the motion 3 to 2. The recommendation was made to the board to add the project to the 2023-24 work plan.

In the meantime, the park will continue to host food trucks during sporting events.

Shurgot said he hopes the snack bar will return to serve families at Malibu Bluffs Park.

“Kids obviously love to play the games, but the snack shack is where they go for after-game treats, catching up with their buddies, and reuniting with their families,” Shurgot said. “It’s a very big part of Little League, not just in Malibu, but across the country.”