Conservancy Committee OKs LACPA Override for Park and Trails Plan
• Panel Also Gives the Nod for Expenditures for an EIR and Possible Litigation Expenses
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
The advisory committee of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy last week, with Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks dissenting, approved a Local Coastal Program Amendment override and also authorized $300,000 for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report for the revised plan that will be directly submitted to the California Coastal Commission by the Conservancy. The revisions eliminate any proposal for camping at Charmlee Wilderness Park and bring back the original request for campsites in Ramirez, Escondido and Corral canyons.
SMMC Executive Director Joe Edmiston explained to the committee why he was recommending the override procedure.
“At this point to get the Conservancy’s proposals before the Coastal Commission in a timely and fair manner, the procedures of the commission’s override regulations are directly on point. In this way the full range of proposals and public benefits can be submitted to the Coastal Commission without the limitations and fetters that were negotiated with Malibu and from which Malibu subsequently benefited by limiting the project scope,” he said.
Edmiston said the override process contained in the Coastal Act are regulations “that contemplate a situation where one municipality’s actions could adversely affect regional or statewide public sponsored projects.”
The SMMC head was referring to the Malibu City Council’s attempt to ban overnight camping in the city by not allowing it on public parklands or zoning designated as open space in its LCPA, which was recently approved over the strenuous objections of Edmiston.
The SMMC director explained that the proposal would have the same fundamentals that were contained in the Public Works Plan that was previously scrapped when the city urged the SMMC to come before it using the LCPA process.
To no avail, the city’s appointee to the Conservancy, Dennis Seder, sought to keep matters on the negotiating table by suggesting the Conservancy consider camping sites closer to the coast where many folks who opposed overnight camping in the mountains said they would be comforted by campsites placed near the water’s edge such as at Leo Carrillo and Point Mugu.
Seder suggested the state agency consider Westward Beach.
However, Edmiston responded that he did not believe that Westward Beach, which is county-owned, or the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority holding at Lechuza Beach could be considered viable for overnight camping.
No other Malibu city officials besides Seder were present or spoke. Five local residents attended and made comments.
Council hopeful Susan Tellem insisted the SMMC was ill-prepared to take on more recreational projects when its rangers and other personnel at State Parks and the National Park Service were spread out so thin.
She said the shortfall for the upcoming budget for rangers has not kept pace with either crime or the amount of acreage needed to be patrolled.
Tellem’s husband, Marshall Thompson, concurred, “We don’t believe any new campsites will be supervised. It is not irrational for us to have a fear of fire. The issue is fire.”
Kate Novotny, a resident and local real estate agent, said to put camping in the mountains and canyons below homes is absurd.
“We can’t even get trash cans and toilet paper in the parks,” Novotny said.
Edmiston acknowledged the shortfall for other state and federal agencies, but noted the MRCA has a budget for rangers that is not tied to the line item budget of the governor and legislators.
Additionally, another advisory committee member, Ron Schaeffer, who heads up the local district for State Parks, said there are five new rangers graduating from the academy that will be assigned to the Santa Monica Mountains sector.
The executive director also told committee members he thought it obvious that going the individual coastal permit route through the city, even if the CCC approves the Conservancy’s LCPA override submission, “will be tortuous, if not a torturous process.”
“Much better in terms of everyone’s time, efficiency and fair play is to use the Public Works Plan process. Members will recall that under the PWP process, once a detailed plan is adopted by the Coastal Commission, rather than have individual permits submitted for approval, a notice is given to local government and the Coastal Commission, and then unless there is an appeal that the proposed project is outside the scope of the PWP, the project goes ahead without further permitting delay,” he added.
Edmiston said since there is a disagreement among counsel with respect to whether a PWP needs an EIR, that with the near certainty of litigation, “the present course of action is to prepare a full EIR on the proposed PWP.”
With that in mind the Conservancy director successfully sought approval for a $300,000 grant for the work—with up to $50,000 related to legal fees for outside counsel if necessary.
Edmiston outlined how he anticipated the process would work. The process involves the submission of a proposed LCPA to the CCC’s executive director who has 30 days to determine if the submission meets the criteria unanticipated by the agency proposing the project at the time the LCPA was before the CCC for certification and meets the public needs of an area greater than that included in the certified LCP.
If Peter Douglas, the CCC executive director, rules favorably, then the proposal is submitted to the affected local government for its review.
The local government has 90 days in which to consider the proposal. If the local government fails to amend within that time, then the applicant can file directly with the Coastal Commission.
The newly submitted plan will include a request for up to 32 major events at Ramirez Canyon Park, completion of the Coastal Slope Trail and linkages from Corral Canyon Park to Ramirez with camping, restrooms and parking provided at Escondido, Corral and Ramirez canyons.