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Bluffs Park Tour Focuses on Questions Over Land Swap [Video]

Under the proposed swap, the city of Malibu would gain ownership of 83 acres of Bluffs Park in exchange for Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy control over 532 acres at Charmlee Wilderness Park.

About 40 people, including several Malibu city officials, toured Malibu Bluffs Park Saturday to learn more about a proposed land swap.

Under the proposed swap, the city of Malibu would gain ownership of 83 acres of Bluffs Park in exchange for Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) control over 532 acres at Charmlee Wilderness Park.

Malibu council members Laura Zahn Rosenthal and John Sibert, as well as City Manager Jim Thorsen held a town hall-style meeting during the two-hour tour.

"I wanted people to take away a few different things: to hear some more information, to see the area and to understand the depth of it, the length of it, the expanse and to be able to hear what other people are saying and people's concerns," Rosenthal said.

Mainly, Rosenthal said she wanted to make sure residents understand that the council has yet to make a decision about the proposed swap.

"I also wanted to make sure they knew we hadn't made up our mind the way a number of people are telling other people there is a conspiracy," Rosenthal said.

Standing atop Malibu Bluffs Park overlooking the ocean and Point Dume, Diana Mullen said the walk reinforced her belief that the park should remain the same.

"It's a jewel. It's a beautiful jewel," the Malibu resident said.

Others also expressed concerns during the walk on whether the city would be able to build at Bluffs Park, which has several land slides around Marie Canyon. One woman called for new biology assessments and other studies. Others questioned if any proposed projects at Bluffs Park would be appealable to the California Coastal Commission.

Seth Jacobsen, a former candidate for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said the walk through Bluffs Park reinforced his belief that the city needs to do its due diligence before moving forward.

"I think it would be amazing to have this property," Jacobsen said.

Shelley O'Connor of Malibu, who came out with her 8-year-old daughter, said she is keeping an open mind about the proposed swap.

"I'm just here for fact gathering today," O'Connor said.

O'Connor, whose daughter plays softball at Bluffs Park, added that she does not yet know enough of the details to say whether she supports the swap or not.

"Just because I have a young daughter doesn't mean we should have ball fields and developed park lands," O'Connor said.

During the walk, the council members and Thorsen held up a map of Bluffs Park showing which areas could be developed. The entire walk and conversation with residents was filmed by Olivia Damavandi, the city's media information officer.

Originally, the city believed that only 10 acres of Bluff’s Park were developable and not considered Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA). A map provided by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy shows that nearly 25 more acres are not considered ESHA, meaning the city could potentially build more recreational facilities at Bluffs Park.

Rosenthal said she felt some residents brought up some interesting points.

"Some of it reinforced some issues I had concerns about and questions that we are already trying to get the answers to," Rosenthal said.

A second walk with Rosenthal and Sibert is planned for March 9 at Charmlee Wilderness Park.

Susan Tellem February 24, 2013 at 09:04 PM
I was most surprised yesterday by the fact that the city has never asked the state to be caretakers of the remainder of Bluff’s Park. It is a disaster there. Hire a camera crew and go on the walk city council as you did yesterday. Within one foot of the start on the path there was dead brush…further on piles of dead debris and leaves, sumac everywhere which is highly flammable, dead bushes and trees. SMMC is far from a caretaker to the land. They don’t give a damn about it. As we know they have neglected much of the property they are supposed care for allowing fires, marijuana farms, overgrown brush, dead and non-native plants and worse to happen. I ask on behalf of all the residents of Malibu that you investigate the possibility of taking over the care of the park. SMMC doesn’t own it so how can they speak on behalf of the land swap? LA County owns Charmlee if we give up ownership so how can we do the swap legally? Might as well quit while you’re ahead. It will end up as the lights at the school now in legal limbo.
Hans Laetz February 24, 2013 at 10:59 PM
The MRCA didn't even know that an ultralight charter company was using the middle of Bluffs Park as a nice, secluded take-off strip for its charter tours over the beach. They discovered that when a newspaper reporter (me) asked them if they knew that a brushfire had broken out when the ultralight crashed on takeoff. Then, the negligently allowed dead trees and brush accumulate west of the Malibu Canyon signal. That was a second MRCA fire, that one took out six homes on the beach and put Suzanne Somers back on TV. MRCA is well known for prohibiting the city from fixing the mudslides on the side of PCH west of Puerco, which were oozing onto the pavement after the big 96 fire. Malibu got FEMA money to fix that, but MRCA prohibited the remediation on its property. I think several wrecks occurred as cars spun out in the mud. MRCA out of Malibu! Susan, love you, but the MHS lights are NOT in limbo. They are legally-permitted structures. A lawsuit continues, but the judge denied a restraining order against the plaintiffs, and ruled that they do not have a legal leg to stand on. Of course, California law allows the plaintiffs to continue to waste the public's money all the way to the trial where the judge has already told them they do not have a case. That's not limbo, that's stupid.
Andy Lyon February 25, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Why was the first walk through with AYSO and Little League people being shown a map of the bluffs with fields drawn over it ( a reference sketch ??) instead of them walking with geologists and biologists and engineers and all the other people anyone that would want to build in Malibu would have to employ prior to starting a project in Malibu to see if it is even possible ?
Carolyn Wallace February 25, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Here's a line from another old song: "pave Paradise, put up a parking lot." Why acquire Bluffs for development? I thought we incorporated to stop developement.
Hans Laetz February 25, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Yeah, Andy, why bother talking to the people who would actually use the park? Who says the city hasn't been talking to geologists, biologists and engineers? This is the very real choice about Bluffs: either the city puts in a few fields and preserves the vast majority of it as wild canyons and trails, or Joe Edmiston puts in pavement and camping facilities. The MRCA has Plan B lined up and ready to file. The Supreme Court only told him he used the wrong part of the Coastal Act to pave Bluffs Park for camping. The court told Joe has has to go a different way, and he is ready to do that.

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