Mansionizing threatens wild

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A large swath of pristine wilderness in Malibu is being quietly developed with relatively little notice. The City is “piece-mealing” applications for mansions in the 100-acre Seaboard Trails area west of Big Rock, without considering cumulative impacts on Malibu’s environment or neighborhood character. At risk is a wide corridor of environmentally sensitive habitat stretching from Conservancy lands all the way down to PCH. It’s traversed by the “Malibu Pacific Trail.”

The several estates now in planning total 27,000 square feet, equivalent to about ten Big Rock homes-and more are contemplated. Construction would entail massive grading, as would the “improvement” of a half-mile access road.

The first of the projects was unsuccessfully appealed to the City Council. In approving it, they relied on an inaccurate recital of environmental law, denied that “neighborhood standards” applied, held that impacted property owners need not have been notified, and ignored several other clear-cut issues raised by the public and the Mountains Conservancy.

We agree that a property owner has a right to build something reasonable. A more fundamental issue is at stake. Over 30 acres of it was public until 1998, when the School District sold it. The sale was apparently illegal, in that the District had a statutory duty to first offer it to the Mountains Conservancy, but did not. The Conservancy suggests that it would have been interested in the land and likely able to acquire it in 1998, had it received notice.

Meanwhile, the owners of two other parcels in the area have stated that they would sell to an entity such as the Conservancy. This would leave only one owner who has both a clear title and a desire to keep his land. Yet even without his parcel, there could still be a preservable swath of over 70 acres between PCH and Conservancy lands.

It’s ironic that the City is being so quick to allow development of this coastal wilderness, while two miles down the highway at Topanga, the State has evicted residents and businesses to preserve a comparably sized swath. Does this suggest that city residents care less for the environment than residents statewide? We hope not.

Kraig Hill, David Olan, Kim Zanti, Dr. Frank Gawin, Valerie Vasquez-Gawin