Public input sought in Topanga Lagoon restoration 

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The Topanga Ranch Motel, build in the 1930s, was one of the first local motels in the Malibu, California area. It closed for good in 2004 and has sat vacant on state land since then. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Long-shuttered Topanga Ranch Motel included in project

Members of the public now have the chance to comment on the restoration of the Topanga Lagoon. The lagoon is one of the last remaining wetlands in southern California and acts as a natural filtration system and stormwater buffer, and hosts rare and endangered species, including the tidewater goby and steelhead trout. With over a million visitors annually, the project also aims to increase coastal access by expanding recreational and cultural resources, offering visitor facilities, and preserving important ecological habitats and ecosystems, with an integrated program, including addressing the effects of sea level rise.

“Topanga Lagoon is a very special place,” said Jamie King, senior conservation biologist with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM). “It once was over 30 acres, but due to development patterns, it shrunk to half an acre in size. The lagoon is home to two endangered fish: the tidewater goby and steelhead trout. This is the only known location in Santa Monica Bay where steelhead trout breeds and thrives. It’s only one of two locations in Santa Monica Bay where the tidewater goby can be found and it’s here in abundance. From a biological perspective, it’s imperative to not only protect but enhance the lagoon so the species have a chance for survival.”

King explained funding the restoration: “The project is a joint effort by California State Parks, Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors and Caltrans. All the landowners are involved. 

“Funders include the Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state Coastal Conservancy, State Parks, and significant efforts from Assemblymember Richard Bloom. The RCDSMM is functioning as the project manager.”

Of interest to the public might be the long-shuttered Topanga Ranch Motel, vacant for two decades. There are a few scenarios being proposed. One alternative is to fully remove the motel to maximize the footprint of the lagoon. It would increase the size of the property from a half acre to 10 acres. Another alternative proposes to keep most of the motel in place and restore it. It could become a visitor center or possibly low cost overnight accommodations. “What its ultimate use will be has yet to be determined,” said King, but “coastal access will be improved by getting more people to the park, providing better traffic flow, pathways, and additional parking.”

A draft environmental impact report (DEIR) is available for public review and comment until April 12. Feedback can be submitted. Online visit topangalagoonrestoration.org, in person view the DEIR at the Malibu, Topanga or Calabasas Library, Malibu Creek State Park Administration Office: 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, or at the RCDSMM office located at 4505 Las Virgenes Road, Suite 215, Calabasas.

Submit comments to topangalagoonrestoration.org, email TopangaLagoonRestoration@gmail.com or mail California Department of Parks and Recreation, Attn: John Ota, Environmental Scientist 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, CA 91302.

Two public meetings on the project are upcoming, Saturday, Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Annenberg Community Beach House at 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica, or live-streamed on YouTube.com/@rcdsmm. Another meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Topanga Community Center at 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.

RSVPs are required for in-person attendance. Submit requests to topangalagoonrestoration.org. Both meetings will be recorded to view later at YouTube.com/@rcdsmm.