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A Win for Clean Water in Malibu

09 • 11 • 2018

A Win for Clean Water in Malibu

Improve water quality in the Malibu watershed by working with the California Coastal Commission to stop unpermitted development and to implement restoration activities to protect habitat and clean water

Property owners in the Santa Monica Mountains engaged in multiple types of development without seeking the necessary permits from the California Coastal Commission:

  • Construction of a sand-filled horseback riding ring and horse-related structures immediately adjacent to Dark Canyon Creek; 
  • Horseback riding trails, a tack shed, tractor overhang, hay shed, and fences;
  • Removal of major vegetation;
  • The destruction of 2.25 acres of an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (“ESHA”). 

The property where this unpermitted development occurred is part of a unique ecosystem that comprises the largest and most pristine example of Mediterranean habitat remaining in coastal Southern California, and is adjacent to over 2,700 acres of wilderness, including public parkland, and Dark Canyon Creek, a U.S.G.S. designated “blue line stream” that is part of the Malibu Creek watershed. 

The unpermitted development has likely impacted species – including mountain lions, mule deer, foxes, bobcats, badgers, lizards, snakes, and many species of raptors and owls – that rely on this habitat by further fragmenting habitat linkages.  

Other expected impacts are additional adverse effects on water quality and marine resources, and increased erosion filling and altering Dark Canyon Creek, as well as the smaller stream, Little Dark Canyon Creek. The upper horseback riding ring is within the riparian buffer area for Dark Canyon Creek, could not be permitted under the Coastal Act, and has the potential to impact the creek, as well as the numerous species that inhabit the creeks and waterways, including the threatened Pacific Pond Turtle, a California Species of Special Concern, as well as several species of salamanders and frogs.

This property and “surrounding wildlands offer large, nearly pristine, un-fragmented areas of native habitat that support a wealth of native animals, including…mountain lions, bobcats, gray foxes, coyotes… the [threatened] Pacific Pond Turtle,... raptors, and owls.” 

The agreement reached benefits coastal resources, the public and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Under this proposed agreement, Respondents (MRCA) have agreed to:

  • Remove items of Unpermitted Development and restore areas impacted by these activities;
  • Address temporal losses of habitat and to address civil liabilities associated with the Unpermitted Development;
  • Remove approximately 62 large, fire-prone, invasive pepper trees plus 13 other invasive trees and replace them with approximately 75 new, native trees, such as oaks;
  • Restore additional areas on the properties;
  • Transfer nearly all of two undeveloped parcels, representing roughly 22 acres of land, and worth approximately $1 million, to MRCA, a significant benefit to coastal resources, the public, and MRCA.