Rosebushes not allowed in LCP say critics, nonsense say supporters

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Details in the newly certified Local Coastal Plan for Malibu are hashed out among critics and plan supporters. Meanwhile, a referendum is up for a special election ballot, after citizens gathered more than 2,000 signatures.

By Sylvie Belmond/Special to The Malibu Times

From political backfires to home insurance and non-native plant forbiddance concerns, the impact of the Malibu Local Coastal Program, drafted and certified by the California Coastal Commission, is stirring up action from local citizens.

It was announced Tuesday afternoon that more than 2,000 signatures had been gathered for a referendum to overturn the LCP. (See below.) Meanwhile, citizens are voicing what they feel is wrong with the plan for Malibu.

Barry Haldeman, chair of Californians for Local Coastal Planning (CLCP,) does not support the new Local Coastal Program (LCP) because he, and others who have been gathering signatures to repeal the LCP, believe it should be drafted and administered by local jurisdiction.

One widely discussed concern is the planting, or the forbiddance of planting of non-native ornamental vegetation such as rosebushes in areas designated as an ESHA (environmentally sensitive habitat area).

“The rosebush issue, the lighting issues, it’s all true,” Haldeman said of the concerns. “Even if the CCC [Coastal Commission] says don’t worry about it, when it’s in writing it still prevails.”

But others say such concerns are nonsense. Ozzie Silna, who has been active in local politics for several years, is doubtful of statements made by the LCP opposition.

“Maybe I’m wrong, but the first person that shows me the declaration that you cannot plant a rosebush, I will buy him or her a free trip to Europe,” Silna said, convinced the plan does not, per se, forbid rosebushes in Malibu.

Sections 3.50 and 6.29 of the Land Use Plan (LUP) in the LCP state that in areas disturbed by construction activities, noninvasive ornamental plants, like rosebushes and lawns, may be permitted in combination with native plants in the irrigated zone near structures. Invasive plants like ivy are not permitted.

“Note the word “may,” which means Coastal can even, arguably, prevent ornamental plants if they can think of a good reason,” stressed Haldeman, who is an attorney.

For example, he pointed out a recently published letter to the editor in The Malibu Times, which indicated the writer was denied the ability to plant such bushes near her home in Point Dume.

However, Silna maintains that “the new ESHA maps are just presented differently, but they are not necessarily more restrictive. In the 1986 LUP you were not allowed to build anything in an ESHA.”

He also noted that by and large most of the areas in Malibu located in ESHAs are in public land.

“Only 14 percent of the land in ESHA is private,” he said.

Before people disagree with the LCP, they should read and compare the new LCP with the 1986 Land Use Plan, Silna said, which was administered in Malibu by the Coastal Commission until last month.

“I maintain that this LCP is no more constraining than the 1986 LUP. The only difference is that now, the city has the right to go ahead and issue the permits. That is local control,” Silna said.

Fire and insurance

But opponents maintain the new LCP is bad for Malibu. Aside from the ornamental plant issue, expanded ESHA boundaries will impact home insurance policies and shrink fire prevention provisions already in existence, they said.

The CLCP group, which includes two retired fire captains and an active deputy fire chief, was also concerned the Coastal Commission rules would prevail over Fire Department regulations.

The Coastal Commission designated areas with coastal sage and chaparral as ESHAs, thereby giving the plants protected status and they cannot be cut. But these are the most explosive plants in a fire and are on the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s list of target plants, Haldeman said.

Kathryn Yarnell, president of the Malibu Association of Realtors, pointed out that this could impact homeowners.

“We’re already having a terrible time with fire and homeowner insurance in California so this can’t help,” she said.

Some areas in Malibu already have difficulty obtaining home insurance coverage because private insurance companies consider them too risky. The California Fair Plan, a plan set up by the state to insure high-risk areas, is more costly with less insurance, Yarnell said. “And if they ask you to clear more feet than the CCC permits, than whom do you follow?” She asked. “We don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

But some of these concerns were addressed when the wording in the LCP was changed to state that if there is any conflict between existing ordinances and the LCP, the agencies have to confer.

“Ideally the Fire Department should rule,” Haldeman said. “But at least now they can talk and work out a solution. So unless the Coastal Commission decides it doesn’t like what the city does and takes jurisdiction, the city is likely to agree with the Fire Department.”

On this particular matter, Silna said he assumes the LCP rulings do take into consideration Fire Department requirements for safety reasons.