Big Rock, Big Risk? Planning Commission Splits On House Plans In Active Landslide Zone

Written by on January 5, 2021

The Malibu Planning Commission Monday night came up against a hard question, with some of the members feeling that a particular lot in the Big Rock area is so dangerous that no house can be built on it.

Landslide dangers are the problem … at least for two city planning commissioners … who worry that the area could again collapse onto Pacific Coast Highway.

They said they were not convinced that geologists plans to stabilize the bluff above Moonshadows was any good.

In the end … the Planning Commission decided that a proposed house on Big Rock Mesa should simply be decided by the city council.

The house .. proposed for a lot on top of a cliff above Moonshadows restaurant … is opposed by neighbors.

They worried that treated sewage water and other runoff would further destabilize the cliff … and threaten hundreds of other homes.

Big Rock Mesa is an active landslide … but a subdivision was built there decades ago.

Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings said building a house on this one particular lot is not possible … under current safety standards.

But the same is true for all the other houses in the neighborhood … according to Jennings.


There is no way to stabilize any structure on this proper to reach the required factor of safety … because the whole area does not reach that factor of safety.

So if you’re going to say you can’t grant a variance then that means that you’re saying, not only can’t this house be developed on this property, but no house can be developed on this property.”

But commission Chair John Mazza said the city cannot grant a variance from safety standards … given the risk of another landslide down onto Pacific Coast Highway.

The same general area saw a major rockfall back in the 1980s … closing PCH for weeks.

John Mazza.


“If we give this approval with no limitations, and we had the highway closed for six weeks for a slide on the bluff, ok?

Everybody either driving through the valley or walking across the slide.

Until we determine what the situation is on the property, I don’t think we can give them the variance.“

Mazza and commissioner Chris Marx voted to turn down the proposed house …

But the other two commissioners said the geological reports submitted by the proposed homebuilder’s experts show the house meets city standards.

And without a fifth planning commissioner … the Planning Commission was stuck.

Steve Uhring is now on the city council …

The project applicants asked that the matter be kicked up to the city council for a decision.

And that’s what they did.

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