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Malibu Limits Access to Parks

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to Take Fight to the California Coastal Commission
Contact: Dash Stolarz
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
(310) 985-5147 (cell)
December 5, 2007

Malibu-At a Special Meeting today, the Malibu City Council voted 5-0 to ask the Coastal Commission to certify a Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment that would prohibit all overnight camping in Malibu parks, and would require the Conservancy to purchase a $7 million property in order to build an alternative access road into Ramirez Canyon Park.  Under the city’s plan, even if an alternative road can be built, the Council would only allow the Conservancy limited use of the park.

“We are deeply disappointed but not surprised by the Council’s action,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.  “Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the battle.  We will bring our case to the California Coastal Commission where, unlike at the Malibu City Council, the broad public interest can get a fair hearing.”

“The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has had a statutory obligation since 1982 to ‘implement a program to provide recreation access from downtown Los Angeles and the inner city to the [Santa Monica Mountains] zone in order to provide recreation opportunities for all income and ethnic groups wishing to enjoy the Santa Monica Mountains.’  (Sec. 33204.5(a) of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Act). Weintend to meet our statutory obligation and fully expect the California Coastal Commission to support our position,” Edmiston said.

Last year, the Conservancy proposed the Malibu Public Access Enhancement Public Works Plan to increase public access to three Conservancy-owned parks in Malibu as well as two owned by the National Park Service.  The plan includes supervised, ADA- accessible tent camping, new parking areas, and trail connections between the parks, and enhancing the regional Coastal Slope Trail.  Public access to Ramirez Canyon Park-vigorously opposed by many neighbors-would be allowed to a level approved by a Coastal Development Permit for Ramirez Canyon that was previously obtained by the Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in 2001.  All funds generated by events at Ramirez Canyon Park would be used toward increasing public access at the park.

Last year, in a good faith agreement with the City of Malibu, the Conservancy agreed to apply to the City for a Local Coastal Plan rather than take the matter directly to the Coastal Commission.  The Conservancy further agreed to other provisions including exchanging new camping areas in city-owned Charmlee Park for camping in Conservancy-owned Escondido Canyon Park.  Today, however, after a year of negotiations and public hearings, the Council voted for less public access than was previously allowed.

“The clear intention of the Coastal Act is to protect the interests of all citizens of California and provide access to these unique public resources,” said Edmiston.  “Obviously, the City wants the open space and trails purchased with taxpayer dollars, but they won’t allow us to provide the parking and amenities that will permit anyone but local residents to use them.  The Conservancy has a statutory obligation to protect access to its parklands, even if a group of affluent homeowners doesn’t want to let intend to meet our statutory obligation and fully expect the California Coastal Commission to support our position,” Edmiston said.

Last year, the Conservancy proposed the Malibu Public Access Enhancement Public Works Plan to increase public access to three Conservancy-owned parks in Malibu as well as two owned by the National Park Service.  The plan includes supervised, ADA-accessible tent camping, new parking areas, and trail connections between the parks, and enhancing the regional Coastal Slope Trail.  Public access to Ramirez Canyon Park-vigorously opposed by many neighbors-would be allowed to a level approved by a Coastal Development Permit for Ramirez Canyon that was previously obtained by the Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in 2001.  All funds generated by events at Ramirez Canyon Park would  be used toward increasing public access at the park.

Last year, in a good faith agreement with the City of Malibu, the Conservancy agreed to apply to the City for a Local Coastal Plan rather than take the matter directly to the Coastal Commission.  The Conservancy further agreed to other provisions including exchanging new camping areas in city-owned Charmlee Park for camping in Conservancy-owned Escondido Canyon Park.  Today, however, after a year of negotiations and public hearings, the Council voted for less public access than was previously allowed.

“The clear intention of the Coastal Act is to protect the interests of all citizens of California and provide access to these unique public resources,” said Edmiston.  “Obviously, the City wants the open space and trails purchased with taxpayer dollars, but they won’t allow us to provide the parking and amenities that will permit anyone but local residents to use them.  The Conservancy has a statutory obligation to protect access to its parklands, even if a group of affluent homeowners doesn’t want to let anyone but themselves in. We will do everything within our means to meet that obligation.”

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy was established by the California State Legislature in 1980.  Since that time, it has helped to preserve over 60,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings, and has improved more than 114 public recreational facilities throughout Southern California.  The goal of the Malibu Parks Public Access Enhancement Plan is to provide a strategy for recreational access to public properties of regional significance for people of all background and abilities.