Coastal permit delays trigger illegal additions


Frustrated by the inability to get coastal development permits for more than a year, homeowners are illegally building additions to their homes, city staff told the council at a recent quarterly review meeting.

Environmental and Community Development Director Vic Peterson told the City Council on Oct. 29 that code enforcement staff has been put into overdrive to deal with the problem. However, an end to the situation that is causing people to ignore the law-the

city and the California Coastal Commission’s dispute over Malibu’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP)-is still about two months away.

Peterson told The Malibu Times in an interview after the meeting that such structures as decks and retaining walls have been added to homes without owners obtaining coastal permits. When such additions are discovered, the city issues a stop-work notice. If the residents do not cooperate, although Peterson said they usually do, a notice of violation is filed with the county recorder’s office,

which could be followed with prosecution. The staff report stated that 60 alleged violations have been discovered in the last fiscal quarter, an unusually high number, according to Peterson.

A freeze was put on the issuing of all coastal permits in Malibu since the city’s quarrel with the Coastal Commission began last fall. This has caused severe delays on residential, commercial and even municipal projects. The debate is over the Coastal Commission-created LCP, which the city says it wants to put before Malibu residents for a vote. However, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge said the city cannot do that, and the case is now on appeal. At a council meeting last month, City Attorney Christi Hogin said a request has been made for a decision by mid-January. If the judge decides in the city’s favor, the LCP could be put before voters in the April 2004 election.

At that same meeting, Hogin said the city was looking for a way people with applications for minor projects could get coastal permit exemptions. She did not return phone calls to discuss how that is progressing. The city attempted to gain the ability to issue coastal permits while awaiting a decision by the appellate court, but a judge denied that request in July. Meanwhile, the Coastal Commission refuses to issue permits, saying it is the city’s responsibility to do so per the commission-created LCP.

Viewshed policy in the making

Another hot topic was also discussed at the quarterly review meeting-viewshed protection. The complicated issue involves allowing residents their rights to grow vegetation on their property while not interfering with their neighbors’ rights to maintain the scenic view from their home. Peterson said the problem has gotten worse as the trees on properties of newer homes are now getting large enough to create a viewshed conflict. With a recent request by the Country Estates Homeowners’ Association for the city to allow it to come up with a viewshed policy for its neighborhood (north of the Pepperdine University campus, near Bluffs Park), the council discussed the possibility of having the association-created set of guidelines be a litmus test for how a citywide one would work. City Manager Katie Lichtig said city staff would be speaking to the association’s representatives during the next few months about what ideas they have.