What’s so wrong with the California Coastal Commission’s proposed Land Use Plan for Malibu?
Is it really something worth getting upset about? The answer is, unfortunately, a resounding Yes. Fundamentally, the California Coastal Commission doesn’t believe we Malibuites belong here. And since it can’t get us out of here without paying us off, it instead intends to limit us in every way possible.
The commission’s plan is to turn this Malibu land over to the people of the state of California (which apparently doesn’t include us), administered, of course, through the benevolent hands of the California Coastal Commission. The way the commissioners intend to carry out this plan is to designate as much of our property as possible as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHAs), and an ESHA label on your property is like having the mark of Cain placed on you. It doesn’t matter if you already have a house on your land. It doesn’t matter if there is a commercial development already there. For example, they wanted to designate the area where Zuma Sushi restaurant, the Corral Beach Cantina and the post office are located as an ESHA. If they can make the ESHA designation stick, it means they can put all sorts of restrictions on the land without having to pay the landowners a dime.
If you think I’m over reacting, let me give you a few examples of how this Coastal Commission plan affects you.
- If you live in Point Dume and there is a gully in your backyard, then you’re either in an ESHA or next to an ESHA. There are all sorts of things you will not be allowed to do within 100 feet of that ESHA, and that could consist of a good part of your lot.
- If you live on the beach, then you’re also in an ESHA. And if you have a protective wall in front of your property to guard against storm damage, you’re going to have to pay a tribute to the coastal commissioners because they call your wall “armoring the coast,” and they say that’s bad.
- If you live along the beach and you have those little signs in front of your house that say “private property,” you can pretty much forget those. The way the Coastal Commission and a few other state agencies define the “mean high tide line,” means you can expect the general public as company for dinner.
- If you live on the landside next to a gully, a stream (even if it’s dry) or a creek, you’re again in an ESHA. You will then be limited in what you can build, repair, plant and fence. It only takes seven out of 12 votes from the coastal commissioners to turn you from a landowner into a land custodian, holding your land in trust for the greater public.
- If a coyote, a cougar or a deer wants to transit your land, as long as they’re not driving an automobile, they’ve got priority over you and you’re prohibited from stopping them.
- If your house can be seen from multiple public roads by anyone driving by, the size, color and position of your house can be limited so it doesn’t interfere with a public viewshed. So, unless there is some way to make it invisible, the casual passerby has as much to say about your lot (through their guardian, the Coastal Commission), as do you owning the lot.
- If someone claims there is a historic trail, or public easement to walk, ride, or perhaps bike through, the burden will be on you to prove there isn’t one.
- If you decide you’ve had enough and want to sell out, you had better find a buyer who wants to buy it “as is” because, if they want to add on or change it, it’s probably going to be very tough, if not downright impossible to do so.
- If you own a duplex or a triplex on the ocean, the California Coastal Commission intends to downzone your property to single-family residence. That means you go from being a legal-conforming lot to a legal-nonconforming lot with a stroke of a pen. You’ll then be subject to all sorts of restrictions if you need to change or renovate your property. The commission insists it wants us to have more low- and moderate-income housing, and then proceeds to knock out what we already have.
- The commissioners want the ball fields on Bluffs Park gone. Supposedly, there’s a deal brewing to move them to another portion of the bluff. The problem is that deal is stalling, even though the city wants it, State Parks wants it and Roy Crummer, who owns a bunch of land up there that he’s willing to trade, wants it. It’s stalling because the California Coastal Commission doesn’t like some of the specifics of the deal.
- It also insists it wants more beach access, but there are already many accessways in Malibu that have never been opened by it. The reason is that it has to find an agency to accept them, and, the truth is, no one wants them. They’re expensive to maintain, they have to be opened and closed every night and morning, and there is garbage to be cleaned up and all sorts of legal liability. The commission’s goal is to have us maintain the additional accessways, which we don’t want to do any more. Then the multitude of state or county agencies, or nonprofits, with the possible exception of a few who don’t have two nickels to rub together, would take over the task.
Lest you think any of these ideas are just my fancies, let me refer you to a few sources. Go to the City of Malibu Web site at www.ci.malibu.ca.us and check out the report that city Attorney Christi Hogin delivered to the Coastal Commission, and the city biologist’s report concerning the so-called commission’s justification for the ESHAs. Then take a look at the letter the county Department of Regional Planning sent to the Coastal Commission before the last hearing on Jan. 10. Both pretty much say the same thing-there is little scientific justification for trying to make all of Malibu into an ESHA. To put it in my words, they’re accusing the Coastal Commission of using bogus science to buttress a political agenda, which to me is nothing more than a barefaced land grab.
Their proposed plan is still far from a done deal, but the only way to stop it is to organize politically. We’ll get nothing from talking to the Coastal Commission, which has legislatively been given the power to do whatever it wants. The answers are political.
Let the gubernatorial candidates know that we are adamantly opposed to the Coastal Commission plan and it must change, as well as some of the coastal commissioners. If that fails, then all that’s left is the courtroom, which is probably where this is all headed.