Against the backdrop of Point Dume on Westward Beach Friday afternoon, city and state officials announced a settlement of their five-year dispute over parking on the Point Dume headlands. In a ceremony highlighted by Chumash prayers and sighting of a whale, they celebrated the settlement and “sense of place” by releasing a seagull, nursed back to health by the California Wildlife Center, to the sky.
California Coastal Commission, State Parks and city officials told a sparse audience of beach-goers and television crews that thanks to the efforts of environmental activist Edward Albert, Mayor Carolyn Van Horn, Councilmen Walt Keller and Harry Barovsky, and education activist Laure Stern, two agreements had been signed to settle the dispute over boulders and “No Parking” signs placed by the city on Cliffside Drive near the entrance to the state’s Point Dume Natural Preserve.
“What is so special is that we will finally have state money to restore the natural and spiritual resources,” said Van Horn referring to State Parks and Coastal Commission funding. “This combination is so special,” she said of the native giant coreopsis plant, Chumash culture and whales. “Ten million visitors a year will be able to participate in this sense of place.”
Sweetening the deal is an extra $25,000 to be paid by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy as a result of resolution of a lawsuit over Birdview Avenue, Van Horn added. The money will be used to restore the headlands.
“This is all about stewardship and sharing,” said Keller. “We have always been willing to share the beauty of the neighborhood and we are willing to share access to the headlands. Referring to the city’s ongoing negotiations with the state over joint use of Bluffs Park after the state’s lease to the city expires, Keller said, “I hope the state will consider sharing Bluffs Park.”
The settlement, initiated by State Parks and Recreation Director Rusty Areias in August, calls for construction of 10 parking spaces on Cliffside Drive, a shuttle bus from Westward Beach to the preserve, removal of the boulders on Cliffside Drive, assignment of a full-time park ranger to supervise the preserve and Westward Beach, a state management plan that includes “carrying capacity” and a volunteer docent program, and a traffic access study. [See sidebar.]
A public hearing on the management plan is slated for March 2, according to settlement documents.
State Lifeguard Craig Sap, who will manage the preserve and beach, was introduced by state officials. He is to work with Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School Principal Cynthia Gray on the volunteer docent program. Gray, who is targeted for possible layoff by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, was not at the ceremony.
Councilmembers Tom Hasse and Joan House, who opposed the agreement, did not attend the press conference. Hasse told The Malibu Times he was against the settlement because it did not offer “closure on the public access issue.” According to the settlement, legality of additional parking restrictions the city may pursue is not resolved.
Malibu Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sam Hall Kaplan described the settlement as “a political solution of a planning problem.”