Lower Topanga businesses, homes demolished

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Something's Fishy restaurant at Pacific Coast Highway and Topanga Canyon Boulevard was demolished last week, along with Ginger Snips hair salon and several homes to make way for state park facilities. Robert "Baretta" Overby / TMT

Longtime businesses Something’s Fishy and Ginger Snips hair salon are demolished, as well as several homes, making way for state park facilities.

By Hans Laetz / Special to The Malibu Times

Bulldozers and dump trucks began the next phase of demolition last week at Topanga State Park to make way for visitor-serving amenities, crushing and hauling off remnants of two longtime businesses and eight houses.

“It’s the end of Lower Topanga, the end of the village, the end of our great nirvana,” lamented 31-year resident Robert “Baretta” Overby. “It was everybody’s dream, a cheap house across the street from the beach. It was Walden Pond.”

Once a cluster of about 85 homes, shacks and roadside businesses, Lower Topanga is making way for a state park after its purchase by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 2001. An official in Sacramento said the construction of the first park amenities will start this spring, when public bathrooms and a short hiking trail will be built near Pacific Coast Highway’s bridge over Topanga Creek.

Last week, the small buildings on the highway housing the Something’s Fishy restaurant and Ginger Snips hair salon were scraped away by state contractors. Eight homes on the newly purchased parkland were slated to be removed this week, with more demolitions to follow later this spring.

“There are six more houses that are going to be removed at the end of the month,” said lifelong Lower Topanga resident Ginny Wylie, whose grandparents founded Wylie’s Bait & Tackle Shop next to the creek in 1946.

Although Wylie is going to lose the only house she has ever lived in, the fate of the landmark bait shop is still not permanently settled. “We are still in negotiations,” Wylie said.

Other businesses that will continue on month-to-month leases with the state are the Malibu Feed Bin, and the Reel Inn and Cholada Thai Beach restaurants.

“No news is good news,” said Reel Inn manager Kim Ruge. “We are still paying the same rent that we’ve always paid.

“We feel we’d make a good state park restaurant,” she added. “We’re casual and people have to eat somewhere.”

In 2004, business operators were given a 90-day eviction notice by California State Parks, which had purchased the 1,659 acres for the public four years earlier. While tenants at the old Malibu Ranch Motel and the grocery store have moved on, visitor-oriented businesses along the coast highway have remained open .

Sheryl Tankersly, a California State Parks spokeswoman, said no permanent plans have been made for the businesses, but that the parks agency has in the past indicated it wished to keep those enterprises in business.

But the once vibrant and colorful residential colony is nearly vacant. State officials said only a few holdouts remain on the forested, hilly plot, which had little sections known by residents as the Rodeo Grounds, Snakepit, Brookside and The Lane.

“It was the last of the cool places,” Overby lamented.