Making Malibu Dreams Come True

As land use planners representing our Clients, we serve as mediators between the City and the neighbors to reach consensus – allowing new developments to be welcomed as part of the neighborhood. We accomplish this by having an in-depth grasp of laws, policies, and regulations for the governing jurisdiction. Our strengths lie in our ability to engage in ex-parte meetings with Commissioners and Councilmembers–learn their political will and become situationally aware ‘on what basis’ are they grounding their decisions.

Our project sites often contain particularly sensitive biological or natural resources as well as, emerging environmental and land use issues. Our team of seasoned consultants including biologists & engineers collaborate early and often with the community to ascertain these regulatory, environmental and political constraints – a dynamic process which is critical to getting our Clients’ projects approved.

Below you will learn about how we were able to help our Client achieve success after a three-year battle with City of Malibu to refine, conform to, and approve the proposed project on Morning View drive.

Morning View Drive Overview

Malibu Development Case Study

Challenges Overcome

Our Client first came to us having spent almost two years processing their permit application with the City of Malibu. Having expended significant time and effort designing and redesigning their proposed residence, only to find what seemed to be a “continually moving target.” Like so many other clients we have had the opportunity to work with, prior to retaining the firm’s services, our Client was experiencing significant frustration with the shifting regulatory constraints and policies in the City. During this time, the City had elected a new City Council, political headwinds were developing and rules were changing, making it very difficult to determine which path to take. It was at this point that our Client retained our services and in less than a year’s time, we had successfully: 1. Addressed the concerns of our Client’s neighbor to the north protecting private views while avoiding any redesign and re-massing of the residence; 2. Worked with City staff to garner a quick application completion and staff’s support for the projects “Administrative” approval and; 3. Redesigned the project (once) and garnered approval from the City’s Planning Commission for the largest legally permitted residence in the neighborhood since the City’s incorporation in 1991.

Project Background

The Client’s proposed residence on Morning View drive is a 2 story 10,238 sq. ft. home is a superb and unique collaboration between Malibu architect Doug Burdge and Brazilian architect Arthur Casas. The gated estate is sited on an amazingly flat 4-acre lot with panoramic ocean and mountain views. It includes a guest house, pool house, Tennis court, Two Pools, a Spa, a Tennis Court, acres of landscaping and walking paths, water features, a detached 3 car garage and a superb waterfall feature upon entering the main auto court. The development is in a neighborhood zoned for medium-density residential development near Malibu High School, the Malibu Equestrian Park, and a block away from the Pacific Coast Highway and Zuma Beach.

The City approved a prior residential development project on the property in 2009. However, following our Client’s purchase of the property in 2014, they submitted an application was submitted for a new single-family residence.



Although, the Client’s newly proposed development was considered ‘clean sheets’ project (Requiring no discretionary review) a few of the Malibu City Planning Commissioners questioned the height of the proposed development. Typically, any development that is over 18 feet requires a Site Plan Review. The proposed height of the residence was limited to 18 feet to avoid Site Plan Review. Notwithstanding the fact that homes at or below 18 feet in height are permitted ‘by right’, the Planning Commission was concerned that the residence would impact public and private views of the Ocean and Mountains. In addition, there was a complaint from a neighbor about the location, height and massing of the proposed residence and landscaping on the site, which the neighbor claimed would significantly impact the blue water views as seen from their residence.

How We Achieved Results

Planning and Presenting projects before Planning Commissions and City Councils requires first and foremost, that you know your decision makers. To identify the issues that will drive the project narrative; you have to know where you are headed to get where you want to be. Next, you need exceptional fact gathering and organizational skills to formulate cogent and powerful arguments in support of your positions. Lastly, and possibly most significantly, you need the ability to persuade and present compelling arguments in a public hearing.

Each Project and hearing comes with its own set of challenges and approaches but one factor always remains constant: Who is telling the narrative? If its not you leading the narrative, then the likelihood of success in your endeavors diminishes greatly.

Malibu Development Case Study

For this specific study, we conducted a thorough neighborhood study, evaluating the average building sizes in relation to the size of the lots, the average building heights and massing as well as various patterns of development to demonstrate that our clients’ project was consistent with the neighborhood character. The study evaluated well over 20 nearby homes. We evaluated the size and massing of the original residence design approved in 2009 illustrating the design advantages of the Client’s current project vis a vis the previously approved project as well as the surrounding homes. Specifically, we illustrated how our Client’s proposed residence would be far less visible from public streets and view points in its current location and configuration than the previously approved project. To do this, we story poled the site and created renderings that illustrated the very limited potential for visual impacts from the proposed residence. We further illustrated how are client’s home would be less impactful to its neighbors and how the project’s architectural design “flowed” with the natural landforms and complimenting them as opposed to the prior project which appeared to loom over and dominate the natural landscape.

Prior to hearing we resolved the dispute with our Client’s neighbor by amending the landscape plan to remove a few Sycamore trees to avoid impacting his views to the ocean maintaining the use and enjoyment of his property and ultimately garnering his support for our Client’s project. Lastly, we gathered 11 letters of support from neighbors, many of whom came to our Client’s hearing and offered their support in person.

On January 4th, 2018, Schmitz and Associates was able to obtain a 4 to 1 approval from the City’s Planning commission. The project will be under construction shortly.

If you have any questions about the Morning View Project or your development Project, please feel free to contact us at (310)-589-0773 or

1 Schmitz & Associates, Inc. was retained two years after project processing commenced.