MALIBU — For the first time in more than two decades, Santa Monica College will offer courses for credit here as part of a pilot program that will help develop a plan for a permanent campus in the Civic Center, something which the college is required to do as part of a 2004 bond measure, officials with SMC announced Friday.

The pilot program will be held at Webster Elementary School in the Civic Center area and will offer six general education classes in art, English, geography, photography and psychology. Classes will be offered Tuesdays through Thursdays, late afternoons and/or evenings starting in the spring semester, which begins Feb. 16.

“We’re very pleased to be returning to Malibu with an offering of credit classes,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “This pilot program will help us determine the demand for courses and the best way to serve the Malibu community.”

Though SMC has not offered regular credit classes in Malibu for many years, it has had a presence with noncredit courses through Emeritus College, a program for older adults, and with dual enrollment classes for students at Malibu High School.

SMC has been working to start an educational program in Malibu since 2004 when Santa Monica-Malibu voters approved a $135-million bond measure that included $25 million set aside for an instructional facility in Malibu.

SMC officials were involved in negotiations in 2006 to purchase a 7-acre site in the Civic Center at 23801 Stuart Ranch Rd., but the Board of Trustees pulled out of the deal with Yamaguchi Tokiye Trust saying that the site was determined to be “unsuitable.”

At the time, former Malibu Mayor Ken Kearsley raised some concerns about geologic fault lines, however, no detailed statement was released on why the college cut off negotiations. A legal agreement prevented all parties from disclosing any details about the sale.

Greg Brown, who is in charge of facilities at SMC, said the college is looking for a property closer to Pacific Coast Highway. He also said that any new school facility has to meet strict seismic code standards.

“It’s more difficult to build in hilly territory,” he said. “It’s very difficult to find suitable property in Malibu,” because of cost and size of parcels needed for a satellite campus.

Brown said the college is working with the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County to acquire land for the planned campus. One site that has been publicly identified is a parcel owned by the county that was once an old sheriff’s station. Sheriff Lee Baca has objected to the sale, saying it would inhibit his ability to properly patrol Malibu and adjacent unincorporated coastal areas. The Sheriff’s Department has a station in Calabasas that serves Malibu.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the area, has been a strong supporter of the sale and a member of his staff said an agreement is nearing completion. Details of the deal, including the size of the parcel and the price to be paid, were not released.

Katharine Muller, dean of external programs for SMC, said the spring classes are filling up, which shows there is interest in the offerings.

“These are generally some very popular classes and we picked them because we thought that they had some appeal to people in Malibu,” Muller said. “We’re just hoping that is true and that we can keep doing this. The classes are taught by the same faculty. Everything is the same as it would be taught at the main campus or another satellite campus.”

If demand continues, so will the class offerings, said Muller, who recommends prospective students go online to register and learn more about SMC. For further information about the Malibu courses, go to www.smc.edu.

Brown believes the pilot program will give SMC officials a good ideas as to what Malibu residents want and in turn guide the planning process for a new facility.

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