Planning approves Rambla Pacifico access road

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The road would connect Rambla Pacifico to Pacific Coast Highway, which has been closed since 1984.

By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times

A Malibu saga that has lasted more than a quarter century could soon come to an end. The Planning Commission last week granted a permit to construct a private road that would reestablish a link between the northern and southern sections of Rambla Pacifico Road. The precise location of the gates that would be at the end of each side of the road must be sorted out, as that remains a conflict among the neighbors.

There has not been an access road from Rambla Pacifico to the highway since a landslide in 1984 closed a portion of the road. Various legal disputes and other problems have prevented the road from being reconstructed since that time. For this most recent proposal, an environmental impact report was completed.

The difficulty emergency vehicles have in accessing Rambla Pacifico was blamed for causing the further spread of the 1993 fire, which led to two deaths. Scott Dittrich, president of the Lower Rambla Pacifico Road Owners Association, described the difficult situation to the commission.

“We have to drive from the city, coming from PCH, into the county and back into the city to get home,” he said. “What used to take two minutes when the road was open now takes 10. But if a fire engine comes … it will take them 15 minutes up and 15 minutes back. Sheriff’s vehicles and ambulances are always lost. If you have your GPS, it gives you the wrong directions. You end up at the bottom of Rambla wondering where to go.”

The new, gated road will be 1,800 feet long and 20 feet wide. It will be privately funded and maintained by the road owners association. However, as part of the project, a five-foot wide trail easement has been granted to allow for the re-establishment of the Malibu Pacific Trail. People will be able to access the trail through small entries located next to the vehicular gates on foot, bicycle or horse.

Leslie Barett, who joined a committee of residents to get the road repair completed 14 years ago, said he was only supposed to be on the committee for a few months. He praised the current plan.

“We’ve made heroic efforts to try and incorporate all the concerns and issues and so forth, specifically from the residents and landowners [who] might be impacted by the opening of this road,” he said. He continued, “We feel we have been more than adequate with respect to trying to improve the stability of the road itself and potentially improving the stability of the hill.”

But after all these years, even now not all are happy. Edward D’Andrea, an architect who represented a client living just outside the location of the proposed bottom gate, said life will become unpleasant there for his client.

“We know the pride and prestige that comes from living on a gated road,” he said. “But for families living near the gates, particularly the first house outside the gate, life is less than the quality of life we expect here in Malibu. Vagrants and criminals when turned around at the gate look for the closest house. It’s a matter of fact and a rather dangerous position on the road.”

Attorney Cynthia Martin represented Marina Grasic, a former member of the local neighborhood board. She complained that a gate was too close to her client’s home and said the situation could lead to litigation. She also said the gate location came as a surprise.

Resident Brian Goldberg said, “It is a joke they are coming here tonight and saying they had no knowledge of the gate location.”

The commission will allow the residents to further discuss the final gate location. But the planning manager will have the final decision.