Rambla Pacifico project raises many issues


Comments can be submitted to the city until Friday in preparation for the writing of a draft environmental impact report.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

Environmental concerns as well as insurance and monetary issues were raised at a hearing last week on Wednesday on the proposed reconstruction of the Rambla Pacifico road. The hearing took place in preparation for the writing of a draft environmental impact report for the privately funded project that would cost neighbors an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million.

The proposed 1,800-foot-long gated road would relink northern and southern Rambla to Pacific Coast Highway. Direct access to the highway has been closed since a landslide in 1984. Lawsuits and other disputes have slowed the process.

Representatives from Rincon Consulting co-hosted the hearing with the city. The purpose of the hearing was to describe the project to concerned parties and “discover public concerns” and “solicit counter proposals,” which should then appear in the draft EIR. These include seismic issues, potential slope failures, impact of possible landslides, soil erosion and emergency protection.

While City Planner Stephanie Danner encouraged the approximately 20 residents attending the meeting to keep comments limited to topics that would be examined in an EIR, they continued to discuss non-environmental issues.

Representatives from the Lower Rambla Pacifico Road Owner’s Association were at the meeting. The association, now numbering 75 households, will be paying for the full cost of the road, including continual maintenance and initial construction consulting costs.

Goran Scuric, a resident who attended the hearing and is not a member of the association, said he was worried about how large the association would get, and how many people would be driving on the road. Scuric, who lives below the road and is worried about traffic and noise levels, questioned if there would be any maximum placed on the number of cars or households that could use the road.

“I am completely supportive of a road being built for emergency access,” said Neil Strum, another area resident. “My biggest concern is liability. I live at the bottom and there are four houses that loom over me on a hill that’s been destabilized for years. I have insurance issues. Is there going to be insurance with those houses so they have a continuing obligation to protect?”

Strum said the Lower Rambla Homeowners Association should take this responsibility.

Although cost will also not be examined by the EIR, some residents expressed concern that the estimated cost of the project was too low and questioned what would happen if construction could not be completed.

“This is a nongovernment entity [building the road], I think it should be taken into consideration whether they have the financial capability to complete the project as designed or what would happen if they ran a bulldozer into the slide [and halted construction],” said Rambla resident Mike Shockrow.

Scott Dittrich, head of the association, said it is in the association’s bylaws that they must have enough money to complete the project.

“The fact is, we need to look at what this road will do,” Dittrich said. “It will lessen the impact of the environment on this hill compared to not having this road at all.”

Dittrich credits the severity of the spread of the 1993 fire to a lack of access to the area by emergency personnel to contain it.

The road will contain two driving lanes with two automated gates at the northern and southern ends of the road, which can be opened by members of the association.

Comments can be submitted to the city in preparation for the writing of the draft EIR until Friday.