Blocked route puts lives at risk

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Editor’s note: This letter, which was edited for publication, was addressed to the Malibu City Council.

I am writing to make a formal request that the City unblock the Cavalleri neighborhood’s historic Emergency Evacuation Route, (shown on the City’s “Master Trail Plan” as the “Rosemary Thyme Trail”).

In 2003, several Malibu Trails Association members and Trancas Riders & Ropers presented 60 residents’ signatures complaining to the City that the Rosemary Thyme and Chute trails were blocked. The city Public Works Department confirmed this and the council instructed the Malibu Trails Association to make a formal request to Code Enforcement to unblock the trails. However, to date, there has been no enforcement action by the city and the trails remain blocked, putting the community at risk.

In 2006, residents presented questionnaires to the city wherein 65 residents described using this route for fire evacuation and recreation since the 1930s. The new owner of the parcel then built a big fence across the route. Residents complained that this fence at 6317 Gayton was blocking this route, which is illegal because it requires a coastal development permit.

Now, in October 2007, when wildfires lit up the eastern sky at 5:30 a.m. and Cavalleri residents prepared to evacuate, the unpermitted fence blocked our emergency evacuation route, which was locked until 3 p.m. On Nov. 24, wildfires again lit up the eastern sky starting at 3:30 a.m. and a mandatory evacuation order was issued by Sheriffs deputies.

The Cavalleri neighborhood has an abundance of large animals, from goats to alpacas to horses. Animal owners who did not own a horse trailer could not walk them to the east or north because of the approaching fires. They could not go south to PCH where 15,000 residents were being evacuated. Their only option was to walk west to Bonsall and go under the underpass to the Emergency Staging Area at Zuma Beach. However, again, the unpermitted chain link fence blocked the emergency evacuation route.

A deputy stopped his vehicle to assist a lady who was attempting to evacuate her animals via the Rosemary Thyme Trail when her egress became blocked by the unpermitted fence. Bolt cutters were located to cut the lock and the lady and animals, as well as other residents and their animals, used the route to safely evacuate to Bonsall and Zuma Beach that day. However, had Cavalleri or Kanan Dume been at the flashpoint of the fire, as were residents of Corral Canyon, people and animals could have died because of this blocked emergency evacuation route.

We urge the City to take immediate action to prevent unpermitted fences from blocking neighborhood connector trails that residents use for emergency evacuation routes so that our large animals and our families’ lives are not endangered.

Please enforce the LCP, which prohibits the blocking of historic routes and trails and requires Coastal Development permits for fences on vacant land so that we can take comfort in knowing that we can safely evacuate.

Judy Fogel