Judge Issues Injunction Nixing Permit for Rambla Fix
• City Forges Ahead and Approves Focused EIR for Geotechnical Study
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge disagreed with Malibu city officials this week about the urgency of issuing an emergency coastal development permit for construction of an evacuation route along the old Rambla Pacifico Road alignment and issued an injunction halting any work.
A group calling itself the Vista Hidalgo Neighborhood Association had filed the lawsuit, successfully obtained a temporary restraining order several weeks ago and convinced the judge that there is no emergency.
The legal tangle focuses on what constitutes an emergency, and whether it has to be something unexpected.
City Attorney Christi Hogin said the city cited the drought, the fire season in progress, the thousands of fires that had burned in the state recently and increasingly limited access in the upper canyon because of landslides.
“The judge said he did not think that qualified as unexpected,” said Hogin, explaining why she believes the judge ruled against the municipality.
The VHNA, which comprises several homeowners on Rambla Orienta that are in the city, apparently fears that work on the slide-prone area may damage their homes.
The Rambla Pacifico Road Association, most of whose members are outside the city but include a number of politically active residents, was granted the emergency permit, and contend they had tried to convince the other homeowners that the road work would create improvements to the stability of their neighborhood.
The upper canyon residents say they fear that without the emergency access, there will be another major disaster not only for them but also for homes in La Costa where a shower of uphill wildfire embers could destroy homes as in the 1993 inferno.
At this point, the city attorney said the legal issues are probably moot since the permit was for 90 days and any trial date was most likely six months away.
The city has never issued a special permit before. The permit issued by the city would have allowed a graded access road for emergency evacuations only and could not be used on a daily basis.
There have been failures on Hume Road and Saddle Peak Road that have reduced traffic to one lane. The city contends that would leave a situation where fire trucks and evacuees would be attempting to share a one-lane road.
While council members did not discuss the legal matter at this week’s city council meeting, they did approve a contract for the preparation of a Focused Environmental Impact Report because of concerns about geotechnical issues. The contract was awarded to Rincon Consultants, Inc.
With Councilmember Sharon Barovsky dissenting, the council agreed to take off the agenda another measure to consider whether to approve deferral of fees, including but not limited to plan check, inspection and consulting fees, related to the Rambla Pacifico Road reconstruction until such time as the road is approved for construction.
The majority agreed to have the city manager discuss and negotiate with the road association about the matter.
The council was reminded by local activist and council watcher Ryan Embree that the question of deferral of fees, if contingent upon approval, needs to be corrected and a time limit should be placed on any arrangement that is made.