Letter to The Editor: We must fight to preserve Malibu and Topanga

Letter to the Editor: The Malibu Times

Dear Editor, 

The letter below was sent to Malibu Mayor Steve Uhring and the City Council: 

Having lived in the Rodeo Grounds for 28 years and next to the Feed Bin for two years, I have some familiarity with this land. I fought the takeover of the land by State Parks, which attempted to circumvent our State’s Relocation Act by a subterfuge, using a private entity to officially purchase the land from the L.A. Athletic Club, who had owned but leased it to residents since the late ’20s when they discovered that the cost of building their planned boat harbor was too high. In 2001, the residents formed an association, for which I was co-president, and hired attorneys Frank Angel and Craig Dummit to force State Parks to follow state law.

The land that the motel sits on is fill dirt, placed there when PCH was built. It was discovered that dumping the dirt bulldozed and removed from the bluffs was one-third the cost of dumping the excess dirt in the ocean. The motel, as Kraig Hill stated, was run down 25 years ago and now is in such terrible shape as to make restoration unfeasible. During the various meetings surrounding the proposed purchase by State Parks, we saw that a variety of NGOs were salivating at the potential opportunity to take over the motel cabins. Yet to what purpose would rebuilding the cabins accomplish? Somehow, the idea of showing these structures to be classic motor courts of the ’30s would better be served with a fantastic online presentation. Unless, of course, you wanted to bring in the association with Charlie Manson, drugs, and ritual beheadings of chickens hung from Topanga Bridge into the mix. This brings up the idea of a visitors center. For whom? Santa Monica Mountains already has Malibu Creek. Visitors centers are another idea whose time has long passed. This information would be much better presented online. They cut all the trees and put them in a tree museum. I suspect that L.A. County residents much prefer the funky old Feed Bin to some concrete and glass building with some official’s name on it. Do not our officials understand that the Feed Bin and Bait Shop and similar actually preserve a lost era of Malibu better than anything that is being proposed.

Widening Topanga Beach is a total waste of funds. Topanga is a rock beach and not friendly for swimming. The rocks are why it was too expensive to build a boat harbor and why it is a good surfing break. It is not Zuma or Santa Monica.

As to the construction of the almost-six-times-longer bridge, we already have a perfectly adequate bridge and the state is broke. Already, because of potential rock slides on PCH below Big Rock and the mud Caltrans is not cleaning up at Paseo Miramar, the traffic is terrible, adding 40 minutes from anywhere east of Sunset Boulevard. This is already having an impact on Malibu residents and businesses. Have you noticed how many houses and apartments in Malibu are now for rent? As of May 1, I lose a tenant because of the extended commute. Caltrans promises to keep two lanes (out of four) open. Unless, of course, there is an unforeseen issue, which, as we know, never happens in construction projects. The purchase of the 1,600 acres in 2001 was based on a lie that somehow it would connect Topanga State Beach to Topanga State Park up in Topanga. But that would mean crossing Topanga Canyon Boulevard and climbing 60-degree slopes. We pointed this out back when the original purchase was being considered, but this was ignored. Why? The LA Athletic Club, who owned the land, had hired a lobbyist who was a friend of then Gov. Gray Davis and suddenly the land went from not being on State Parks’ acquisition list to being No. 1.

If State Parks wants to serve LA County residents and others, what they need is a campground in the Rodeo Grounds and Topanga Lane. These can be simple with just tent sites with a charcoal pit, and unlike other proposed campgrounds in Malibu, fire is not much of a danger because the area is very wet and even during a Santa Ana wind event, there are no houses downwind. It would require a footbridge over Topanga Creek for access when water is in the creek. And if anyone claims that the lagoon area is pristine, how can that be when people have lived there — and upstream still do — and the homeless have always lived in the creekbed. And there have been cars buried in the creek and I have footage of a dumpster sailing along during a flood.

All this means the best solution is very limited use and no terrible development that changes the character of the area from somewhat rural to urban. We must fight to preserve the reason people like coming to Malibu and Topanga.

Scott Dittrich, Malibu