Coastal Commission Meets in Santa Monica Mountains

The Commission is scheduled to visit Bluffs Park Open Space in Malibu on December 13, after the Messenger Mountain News goes to press. The 83-acre park was handed back to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy earlier this year, after City of Malibu plans to build recreational facilities ran up against the site’s environmental constraints and opposition from the conservation community. Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority plans to add camping to the site but may face similar opposition. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

The California Coastal Commission’s December meeting took place in the Santa Monica Mountains at King Gillette Ranch, with a tour of Malibu Bluffs Park scheduled at the conclusion of the December 13 session. 

The Malibu City Council made the controversial decision in 2014 to swap its 532-acre Charmlee Wilderness Park to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for 83-acre Malibu Bluffs Open Space. City officials planned the exchange with the intention of developing ball fields and other recreation facilities on the bluffs next to existing adjacent sports facilities, but the presence of extensive environmentally sensitive habitat at Bluffs Park Open Space derailed the plan. The City Council terminated the agreement in May 2019, after acquiring three parcels with a topal of 30 acres of undeveloped land better suited to accommodate the desired facilities. 

The Conservancy’s sister agency the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority is reportedly planning to push for a campground in the open space park. This project is expected to encounter some of the same opposition as the city’s ball field plan. Bluffs Park is home to several endangered or threatened species, including the yellow-breasted chat, a  chaparral bird that is a California species of special concern, and the Blainville’s horned lizard, a species that is headed for extinction on the coast due to habitat fragmentation.

Charmlee Wilderness Park burned in the Woolsey Fire and remains one of just two park units still closed for more than a year after the disaster. It was not on the Commission’s field trip with Bluffs Park.

This month’s agenda also included an update on the process to open a section of the secluded and exclusive Hollister Ranch beach to the public. A survey and interviews with stakeholders are planned later this month.

The most high profile hearing at this month’s meeting was an after-the-fact permit request by the owners of the Santa Monica hotel property that was hit with massive fines after the owners demolished two low-cost hotels to build a large boutique hotel without a Coastal Development Permit. 

As part of the permit conditions, an in-lieu mitigation fee of $8,288,312 is required. The owners must also commit to transforming 3,306 square feet of currently vacant ground floor street frontage into a 14-room lower-cost hostel, to be operated in conjunction with the hotel, which will provide approximately 34 beds. 

In the interim, until the hostel opens, the applicant proposes to offer 14 rooms in the existing hotel at a lower-cost rate of $127 per room per night, made available to first responders, teachers, military, government employees and public servants and their families. 


The commission meets monthly in Coastal Zone cities throughout the state. For more information, visit


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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