Need Permits for Post-Fire Rebuilds? The Process Will Now Be Just a Bit Easier

Malibu Planning Director Bonnie Blue addresses the California Coastal Commission during its March meeting in Los Angeles.

Ten minutes before the California Coastal Commission was all it took to clear the way for Malibu’s emergency Woolsey Fire rebuild ordinance to achieve its final approval. 

The process was so streamlined during the commission’s Thursday, March 7 meeting in Los Angeles that the item was up for a “concurrence,” not a vote—all commissioners concurred with commission staff’s suggestion to permit changes to help fire victims rebuild.

The items on the meeting’s agenda had been approved by Malibu City Council earlier this year, and are designed to “facilitate and help streamline the process of the rebuilding of the structures damaged or destroyed by the 2018 Woolsey Fire,” according to Coastal Program Analyst Denise Venegas, who described the amendment—which will apply only to fire rebuilds—during the meeting.

“The amendment includes revisions to existing temporary housing regulations to allow for temporary housing structures to be placed on a property during reconstruction of a residence that was destroyed or damaged due to a natural disaster, and allows for these temporary structures to be processed as an emergency permit—coastal development permit,” Venegas recited. “Furthermore, the amendment adds a de minimis waiver procedure that would allow the city to waive the CDP requirement for upgrades to onsite wastewater treatment systems, and for minor access road improvements required by the fire department for structures damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.”

“Lastly, the amendment includes a clarification that the removal of native trees that were fatally damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster may be exempt from the native tree protection policies of the LCP, and includes other minor and major provisions,” Venegas said.

A de minimis waiver is one that has to do with small changes.

“’De minimis’ is a Latin expression meaning ‘about minimal things,’ beneath a certain low level,” Malibu Planning Director Bonnie Blue described in a later email to The Malibu Times “The de minimis waiver waives the requirement for a coastal development permit for certain minor developments, like a septic system upgrade or access improvements that are not located in ESHA or the Coastal Commission appeal zone. The development still has to comply with the LCP, but can be approved with a more streamlined permitting process.”

Blue attended the short hearing and spoke briefly to thank the commission staff for helping move the item along; the amendments were only approved by Malibu City Council on Monday, Feb. 25—10 days before the coastal commission hearing.

“Our community is struggling during this time but I think making strides and we really appreciate the cooperation, and thank you for the support,” Blue said.

The only comment from a commissioner was to ensure the commission’s local office was pitching in to help fire victims begin rebuilding. 

“I’ve had a couple people approach me … they don’t know what the process is, and I want to make sure that information is getting out in whatever channels it can, and whether or not we’re doing some sort of public workshop to make people aware that, for instance, a motion like this is going to go through the coastal commission,” Commissioner Mary Luévano said, addressing Deputy Director Steve Hudson. Hudson described that the commission staff had added information to its website and was “working closely” with both the city and Los Angeles County.

“Participating directly?” Luévano asked.

Hudson said no, but they would “field any calls directly from the public that come to us.”

Luévano assured him she would do outreach to put more fire victims directly in touch with the commission.