MRCA Moves Forward with Plan for Campsites in Malibu

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Projects such as hiking trails, picnic shelters and campsites are proposed at various sites in unincorporated LA County above Malibu in June 2018

The Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA), under the control of Joseph Edmiston, has long hoped to bring campsites into the hills above Malibu—and now, in a recently published notice, the agency is moving closer to its goal, announcing the preparation of an environmental impact report to study future campsites and other developments.

With Malibu camping, residents fear, may come fire pits and weekend vacationers who are not well versed in even basic fire safety. With the memory of last winter’s Thomas Fire still fresh in the minds of Malibu homeowners, the MRCA will likely face heavy resistance to the plan from residents and businesses in central Malibu.

Those concerns, atop worries over visitor traffic, litter, defecation, graffiti and vandalism, mean the MRCA may be facing an organized effort against the plan, similar to the effort currently underway to block the authority from opening up private neighborhoods throughout the city.

The proposed project, now in its earliest planning stages, would include three main sites, broken up into Site A, Site B and Site C by the MRCA. Each of these sites would be enhanced with various visitor-serving amenities, with only one of the three equipped for overnight camping.

Site A (4.9 acres) is located on MRCA property to the west of Puerco Canyon Road, just over the city limits into unincorporated LA County, near the top of the Corral Canyon Loop Trail, which begins near Malibu Seafood. The site would include a parking lot for up to 90 vehicles, public restrooms, a group seating area, landscaped areas and open space, walking trails and trailhead amenities such as drinking water, signs, equestrian hook-ups and picnic tables.

Site B (5.2 acres) is the proposed campsite area, located between Puerco Canyon Road (to its west) and Pepperdine’s campus (to its east). That site, as proposed in the MRCA’s letter, would include approximately 25 tent pad sites, covered dining and kitchen areas, a covered group gathering area, storage space, restrooms, walking paths and amenities including drinking water and seating. Other possible amenities may include showers and an enclosed cooking facility.

Site C (acreage not provided) would be developed for “passive recreation” such as hiking and picnics, but no structures would be built. That site is located farther into the hills.

Concerns over camping in Malibu mostly revolve around increased fire danger, which is mentioned in the MRCA’s notice:

“MRCA has been working with the Los Angeles County Fire Department to develop the proposed Project to meet or exceed stringent fire safety standards for the Santa Monica Mountains. The approach to fire prevention and defense includes both facility design and planned operational activities. Camping at Site B would be by reservation only, and MRCA staff would be onsite to supervise all camping activities. MRCA firefighters and firefighting equipment would be stationed onsite during group camping events, as needed, and the site would be equipped with sufficient water tank capacity to ensure prompt firefighting response. Fuel management would occur regularly, and MRCA rangers would patrol to ensure group camping and day use visitors are adhering to all posted requirements.”

Project Analyst Mario Sandoval was not available to answer questions by the time The Malibu Times went to print Tuesday.

The 30-day public scoping period, during which members of the public and reviewing agencies may submit input on the contents of the upcoming EIR, is open until July 9, 2018.

Comments may be directed to Sandoval at:

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

RE: Puerco Canyon Camp and Trailhead Project

Attn: Mario Sandoval, Project Analyst

570 West Avenue 26, Suite 100

Los Angeles, CA 90065

Or: mario.sandoval@mrca.ca.gov

 

Plans to build house in Sycamore Park crumble

For the second time in as many meetings, the Malibu Planning Commission has broken from tradition to deny permit extensions to property owners seeking more time to move projects forward. This time, on Monday evening, June 18, the applicant was the MRCA, which was hoping for more time on its permit to build a 4,184-square-foot house, 510-square-foot guest house and 765-square-foot garage on its lot at 6118 Via Escondido, in the Sycamore Park neighborhood.

“I’m here to urge the commission to permit the extension of the coastal development permit, because to do otherwise would essentially deprive the MRCA and the public of full use and value of the property, which the public paid over $900,000 for,” MRCA legal counsel Oscar Victoria said Monday. “Essentially, the extension denial is going to render the publically purchased property useless”

The lot, which the agency purchased about one year ago, has been in the spotlight after the agency began using it as a way to invite the public into the private neighborhood.

The lot was purchased with money from Proposition 1, a water bond. At the time, the agency touted the purchase as a way to preserve the land from being developed into a house.

“Whey they applied for Prop. 1 money, they made a very very big deal about taking that… property… out of development to protect the watershed,” former mayor and longtime Sycamore Park homeowner Ken Kearsley told the commission. “By voting to support the staff, you are protecting the watershed. The very same thing that they put in their application for the million dollars.”

Commissioners voted, 5-0, to deny the permit extension.