County Invites Public Comment for North Area Plan Update

A map of the North Area Plan shows the boundaries of the NAP, LCP, and the small portion of Topanga that falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles. Courtesy of MRCA

The North Area Plan (NAP) update process got off to a rocky start on August 21, when county planners failed to arrange a big enough venue to accommodate the public. The meeting, held in a room at the Los Angeles County field office in Calabasas, had to be turned into two sessions, after turn-away crowds packed the room and overflowed into the narrow corridor.

Many would-be participants left the crowded venue. Others stayed for the second session, only to be told that the AV equipment had overheated and that there would be no visuals. One member of the public requested a meeting do-over, but all the meeting consisted of was an introduction to the county staff and consultants attached to the project, an overview of the timeline, and a short public comment period.

The original NAP was approved in 2000. It sets out the development and environmental guidelines for the part of the Santa Monica Mountains north of the Coastal Zone, and not subject to a Local Coastal Plan (LCP).

In Topanga, everything north of the Summit is in the NAP, while most of the rest of the canyon falls under the LCP.

The NAP update process requires a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Chester Britt and Sandra Alarcón-Lopez, representing Aspen Environmental Group, the consulting firm selected by the county to oversee the EIR, explained that the scoping meeting marked the official start of the process.

“This is the official kick-off,” Britt said. “We need to let you know about the project and the schedule and we want to make sure we hear from you.”

Luis Duran and Anita Gutierrez, planners with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, Community Studies West Division, introduced themselves and explained that their department will be handling the project, in house, with the assistance of the consultants.

Duran discussed the timeline and assured the audience that there would be additional opportunities for the public to comment, including an upcoming Regional Planning meeting and a hearing in front of the Board of Supervisors. Once the draft EIR is complete, more meetings will be scheduled and a new public comment period will open.

The update will include new habitat designations, equestrian guidelines, expanded native tree protections, and rules for special events.

Duran described the process as a way to “better clarify issues and needs” that were not fully defined in the original NAP. The goal is also to bring the NAP into closer alignment with the LCP, adopted by the county in 2014.

The draft EIR is anticipated to be ready by December. The final EIR will be completed in spring of 2019.

Video of both sessions of the August 21 scoping session is available online. Area residents with concerns or suggestions are encouraged to contact the planners overseeing the process. Email can be sent to smmnortharea@planning.lacounty.gov. Additional contact information is available on the website.

E-mail comments to: smmnortharea@planning.lacounty.gov; or mail to Anita Gutierrez, MPL, AICP, Community Studies West Section, L.A. County Department of Regional Planing, 320 W. Temple St., 13th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

For more information on EIR progress and updates

Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is a writer, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She’s covered environment, arts, science, history and crime for the local media for more than a decade and is the author of nine books of music for the Celtic harp. She can be reached at s.guldimann@messengermountainnews.com

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