SMC Malibu Center (Rendering courtesy Santa Monica College)
SMC Malibu Center (Rendering courtesy Santa Monica College)
SMC Malibu Center (Rendering courtesy Santa Monica College)

MALIBU— Malibu officials gave a thumbs up last week to a proposed $25 million Santa Monica College campus slated for the seaside city’s Civic Center, pushing forward plans almost a decade in the making.

As proposed, the two-story, 26,500-square-foot SMC Malibu Center will include five classrooms and labs, a multi-purpose community room that will convert into an Emergency Operations Center for local emergencies, a computer lab and administrative offices.
An interpretive center within the building will support Malibu’s Legacy Park, and other programs meant to highlight the city’s unique coastal environment and cultural history, said Don Girard, director of governmental and institutional communications with SMC.
A critical component of the design is a substation for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, providing a nearby point of contact for Malibu residents who might otherwise have to go to the station in Lost Hills.
“It’s a significant addition to the meaning of a Civic Center,” Girard said. “It will provide a meaningful set of experiences to the families of Malibu.”
The physical footprint of the project will only take up 2.94 acres, and the square footage is roughly equivalent to that of the Emeritus College in Downtown Santa Monica.
While not huge, the design is “thoughtful,” Girard said, and provides for flexibility so art, science and general education classes serving roughly 200 students at a time will be available at the site.
To accomplish that goal, the campus will feature two general education classrooms, each with a capacity of 45 students, as well as a 100-seat formal lecture hall that can transform into an event space for art, film, music appreciation or panel discussions.
A computer classroom with at least 25 computers will allow for normal classes, but can also be used by community groups, much like an art studio and multipurpose room, an open space that can accommodate yoga or dance classes.
The multipurpose room can also transform into an emergency operations center for use by the Sheriff’s Office in the event of an emergency.
The project will be funded by Measure S, a $135 million bond passed by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in 2004.
It’s taken 10 years for the project to get to this point, largely because of the complexity of negotiations involved in securing the 9.18-acre site from Los Angeles County, said Laura Rosenthal, member of the Malibu City Council and Malibu Public Facilities Authority that saw the plans last week.
The results have been worth it, she said.
“I was very impressed by the presentation and the design. I like all of the sustainability parts of it,” Rosenthal said.
The campus will feature bicycle parking, draught-tolerant landscaping and natural day lighting as well as a permeable paving and a stormwater retention basin to protect the natural environment of the site.
The building will also be outfitted with dual-pane glazing, a recycling area and access to public transportation.
The addition of the Sheriff’s substation at so central a location was a real benefit to the community, Rosenthal said.
While officials will still have to some work out of the Lost Hills Station, which is located almost 10 miles away in Agoura, the physical presence in Malibu will allow deputies to serve the Malibu community directly and keep a handle on persistent problems like drivers on Pacific Coast Highway, she said.
“The added presence will have a big impact,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of people, but the longer an officer can be in the city the better.”
With the 10-year anniversary of Measure S fast approaching, Rosenthal hoped that construction on the new campus would get rolling quickly.
SMC officials believe that could be as soon as summer or fall of 2014. They will turn in a set of planning documents to Malibu City Hall within the next month, and hope to get the final piece of the environmental impact report together shortly, Girard said.
When built, the campus will provide a physical presence for the college that was lost decades before when economics forced classes out of a commercial space near the future site.
The college began teaching night classes at Webster Elementary School three years ago to test the waters in Malibu before embarking on the major construction project now looming on the horizon, Girard said.
The program showed wide community acceptance of the concept, he said.
“There’s a demand. It’s possible to run it, possible to get people to staff it and teachers to teach it,” he said.

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