A longstanding Coastal Act violation issue on property located on Stunt Road, adjacent to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) parkland, is finally being resolved.
The enforcement action involves unpermitted development on private and public land dating back to 2004. The list of violations includes unpermitted grading, construction of a horseback riding ring, a tack shed and other buildings, a tractor overhang, hay shed, and fences and trails.
The report states that approximately 2.25 acres of Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area were cleared on three privately owned parcels and on adjoining public land to accommodate the development. The riding ring is described as having been constructed within 100 feet of Dark Canyon Creek, and partially on Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) property.
A Coastal Commission staff report on the issue states that the family who owned the three parcels was notified that they were in violation of the Coastal Act in 2004, but that the owers and the coastal agency “failed to reach a consensual resolution.” However, the staff report notes that the “respondents remained willing to work towards an amicable resolution, and have now agreed to a resolution that benefits coastal resources, the public, and MRCA.”
As part of that consensual resolution, the property owners have agreed to remove the unpermitted development and restore the native vegetation. They also agreed to restore several other areas that are not associated with the unpermitted development, including a large area of non-native grasses and a concrete koi pond built before the Coastal Act was adopted.
The restoration work includes removing “62 large, non-native, invasive, and fire-prone pepper trees plus approximately 13 other non-native trees, as well as other non-native plants that have supplanted native vegetation, and replace most of these trees with native trees on a 1:1 basis for a total of approximately 75 new native trees.”
The agreement also includes a “Livestock Waste Management Plan” for the remaining pre-Coastal Act horse facilities to ensure that water quality in Dark Canyon Creek is not impacted in the future.
In addition, the owners have agreed to deed restrict the entirety of two of their parcels—17 acres and 6 acres—for habitat conservation and open space, and have agreed to transfer ownership of almost all of both parcels.
“The small parts of the parcels retained will allow the [property owners] to continue to own their emergency fire road on the 17-acre parcel and part of the “meadow” on the six-acre parcel for their horses, and allow them to conduct any necessary brush clearance that is required by the Los Angeles County Fire Code,” the report states.
The two parcels “sit along the center of the northern border of the 2800-acre block of largely undisturbed wilderness,” defined by the LCP as H1 and H2, “areas of highest biological significance, rarity, and sensitivity,” making the habitat restoration a priority.
In 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law giving the Coastal agency the authority to levy formidable fines for Coastal Act violations. By agreeing to amicably settle the issue, the respondents will avoid paying fines that range from $1000-$15,000 a day for unresolved Coastal Act violations.
The hearing on the enforcement action agreement is scheduled for the Coastal Commission’s September meeting in Fort Bragg (in northern California) on September 13.
For more information, or to watch the hearing live-streamed, visit https://www.coastal.ca.gov/meetings/agenda/#/2018/9.