North Area Plan Update

The County of Los Angeles, Department of Regional Planning is seeking public input for its upcoming update of the Santa Monica Mountains North Area Plan and the creation of a North Area Community Standards District. The project included a comprehensive update to the policies of the SMM North Area Plan and the development of North Area-specific standards within the county’s General Plan.

“The updates are proposed to address concerns that have developed since the adoption of the SMMNAP in 2000, to strengthen existing environmental resources policies, and to identify policies and standards that continue to support the community’s rural and semi-rural lifestyle,” a press release for the county states.

The county is seeking to bring the North Area’s plan into closer alignment with the recently certified Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Program. The goal is to ensure that land use regulations and environmental protections in the coastal zone and in the SMM North Area are consistent for these two major areas of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The proposed new policies include development standards for several elements that were not included or fully addressed in the original planning document, including signs, vegetation management, and water resources protections.

Map showing the boundaries of the Santa Monica Mountains North Area. The part of Topanga and the eastern Santa Monica Mountains that falls within the North Area Plan includes some of the most rugged terrain in the mountain range.

The North Area encompasses 30-square miles of unincorporated lands generally bounded by Ventura County and the City of Westlake Village to the west, Ventura County and local cities in Los Angeles County to the north, the city of Los Angeles to the east, and the coastal zone portion of the Santa Monica Mountains to the south. Topanga residents who live north of the Summit are in the North Area; so are residents of nearby Malibou Lake.
The area is described as a patchwork of urbanized areas, rural residential, ranches, vineyards, and open space that includes large areas of largely undisturbed mountain and canyon habitat—approximately 35 percent of the North Area consists of conservation and park lands.

“The mountainous topography and limited road system has shaped development in the North Area,” the county staff report states. “Many of the residential communities occur in or near park lands or natural areas supporting biological resources. The project area supports a wide variety of sensitive plants and wildlife, unique geologic features, important wildlife linkages, and aquatic features. Several state and federally listed species, as well as numerous California Species of Special Concern and rare plants, are in the North Area.”

The North Area Plan requires an environmental impact report (EIR) as part of the California Environmental Quality Act requirements. The first phase of the EIR is the Notice of Participation, an opportunity for “responsible agencies, trustee agencies, and other interested parties—including area residents to learn about the project and weigh in on the process.

Key areas that will be addressed in the update are: habitat protection, equestrian standards, expanded tree protections, and short term rentals. The process is also expected to include a review of policies involving development standards for scenic resource areas, scenic routes, visual resources, significant ridgelines, outdoor lighting and grading.

The County will conduct a public scoping meeting on August 21, 2018 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles County Field Office, Calabasas 26600 Agoura Road, Calabasas, 91302. 213-974-6465.


Comments can be submitted by email or in writing through August 31. To learn more, visit the project website


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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