July 30, 2014

Exposing a Mountain of Deceit

 

This article is reprinted with permission from the website of County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, where it originally appeared. For further information and regular updates about the Third District and County government, please visit zev.lacounty.gov and subscribe to the email newsletter, Zev’s Weekly Web Flash.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF COUNTY SUPERVISOR ZEV YAROSLAVSKY

Exposing a Mountain of Deceit

Opponents of a plan that would protect the Santa Monica mountains for generations to come have launched a misinformation campaign to advance their own vested interests.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors adopted a widely-hailed, landmark plan to preserve one of our region’s most precious natural resources—the Santa Monica Mountains. Under this blueprint for environmental stewardship, streams would be protected from pollution, ridgelines would be spared the scars of unrestrained development, historic groves of native oaks would be saved from the ax and a public in need of recreational opportunities would forever find a serene haven in the hills above Los Angeles.

This plan—known as a Local Coastal Program, or LCP—resulted from the work of an unprecedented coalition of groups and individuals, including the Sierra Club, Heal the Bay, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation, the California Coastal Protection Network, State Senator Fran Pavley, Assemblyman Richard Bloom and a broad cross-section of the equestrian community. The Board of Supervisors approved the LCP by a 4-1 vote amid an outpouring of support.

But now, as the California Coastal Commission prepares to consider the plan, a disinformation campaign has been launched by a small army of lawyers and lobbyists, representing developer clients who do not want to play by the rules. They are shamelessly placing their self-interest above the public interest. And they are advancing this agenda not by stepping forward themselves. They are hiding behind a smokescreen they created by falsely generating fears among equestrians, backyard gardeners and others that the plan would rob them of the things they hold dear.

Make no mistake, these big-moneyed real-estate interests have one thing in mind: to derail the LCP so they can profit from an environmental jewel that, in the process, would be destroyed and lost to us all.

I encourage you to read the plan yourself here. In the meantime, here is the truth behind the more blatantly false misrepresentations that have surfaced in recent days:

FICTION: The LCP bans the riding, boarding and training of horses in Malibu.

FACT: The proposed plan specifically supports the riding, boarding and training of horses in the Santa Monica Mountains. It calls for a substantial increase in the current areas where such activities are permitted and would allow homeowners in unincorporated areas to board horses in their backyards, which is now prohibited by county codes. What’s more, the plan encourages the establishment of equestrian-friendly trailhead parking and staging areas to promote low-cost public access to trails. The plan clearly states that it seeks to preserve the equestrian traditions of the Santa Monica Mountains.

FICTION: The LCP was sprung on an unsuspecting public.

FACT: For months, the county and my office engaged hundreds of individuals and groups during the preparation of the LCP, resulting in the unprecedented coalition that coalesced behind the plan. Indeed, many of the plan’s provisions are the result of the thorough and constructive input we received from residential, environmental and equestrian stakeholders. Moreover, for six weeks before the Board of Supervisors’ vote, the LCP was posted online and placed in local libraries and government offices. It was also presented to more than 30 homeowner organizations, the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, equestrians, environmental organizations, representatives of neighboring cities and counties, and numerous other organizations.

FICTION: The LCP would commercialize the rural character of the Santa Monica Mountains.

FACT: The LCP’s guiding principle is that “resource protection has priority over development.” To that end, the plan would cut by nearly two-thirds the area zoned for commercial development under the plan. In fact, less than one percent of the Coastal Zone is slated for commercial use. Among other things, the LCP prohibits: ridgeline development, long access roads that carve-up natural hillsides, the blocking of streams, commercial vineyards and the destruction of oaks, sycamores and other native woodlands. It also strictly limits grading and imposes lighting restrictions to preserve the night sky. In addition, thanks in large part to the efforts of the county, state and other public partners, more than half of the Coastal Zone has already been acquired as public parkland on which development is restricted.

FICTION: The LCP would turn the City of Malibu into another resort town ridden with chain stores, severing the town’s connection to its rural origins.

FACT: The LCP does not in any way govern land use or business within the City of Malibu. It addresses the roughly 50,000 acres of unincorporated territory within the Coastal Zone north of the City of Malibu, between Ventura County and the City of Los Angeles. The City of Malibu has its own LCP, which governs land use inside the city. Land use decisions in the City of Malibu are made by the Malibu City Council. Land use decisions in the unincorporated county are governed by the Board of Supervisors. Neither agency has jurisdiction over the other.

FICTION: The LCP prohibits backyard fruit and vegetable gardens and bans vineyards.

FACT: The LCP explicitly protects the right of all new and existing homeowners—as well as schools and other community uses—to maintain fruit and vegetable gardens. At the urging of many environmental leaders, the LCP would prohibit new commercial vineyards because of their serious impact on water quality in our streams, beaches and the Santa Monica Bay. The policy prohibiting new vineyards would also prevent the loss of sensitive habitat and avoid concerns over the industrial spraying of pesticides near homes and the areas where tens of thousands of visitors come each year to enjoy the region’s beauty and recreational opportunities. Nevertheless, out of fairness to existing vineyard owners, legally established vineyards that currently exist would be allowed to remain under the LCP.

FICTION: The LCP will take away your dogs.

FACT: This is patently—and ridiculously—false. The LCP maintains the same rules for dogs as we have in the county code today.

FICTION: The LCP will add fees and costs.

FACT: The LCP would save the average property owner seeking permits thousands of dollars. Under the status quo, homeowners who want to build within the Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone must first go to the county to get an “approval in concept.” Once they finish the county process, they must proceed to the Coastal Commission for a public hearing, further review and more fees. Once the LCP is certified by the Coastal Commission, however, property owners will have a one-stop shop at the County of Los Angeles and they will no longer have to go to the Coastal Commission, pay a second set of fees and go through a second layer of governmental review.

So, there you have it. Those are the simple facts, which I urge you to verify for yourself.

The Santa Monica Mountains LCP is the product of years of meticulous analysis and negotiation. Its opponents want to delay and ultimately kill this important plan. And they are using deceitful tactics—including dishonesty—to try to achieve those goals. This cannot be allowed to happen.

The Santa Monica Mountains represent one of the largest remaining unspoiled coastal resources in Southern California. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to seize this opportunity.

Supervisor Yaroslavsky urges all Topanga residents to attend the Coastal Commission and voice their vision for the future of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Public Hearing Date and Location:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hyatt Santa Barbara

1111 East Cabrillo Blvd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Commission Hearing Begins at 8:30 am

If you cannot attend, letters can be mailed or faxed to:

California Coastal Commission

South Central Coast District Office

89 S. California Street, Suite 200

Ventura, CA 93001

Fax: (805) 641-1732

You can also email comments to: santamonicamtns@coastal.ca.gov

The subject line of the correspondence should reference “Agenda Item No. Th 17a and 17b – Santa Monica Mountains LCP.