Lagoon Opponents File for Stay
• Organizers Say Grassroots Movement Continues to Grow
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The Wetlands Defense Fund, the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network, and Access for All have filed an emergency stay petition in an effort to postpone the June 1 start date of State Parks' Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project until the project opponents' appeal can be heard.
The appeal filed by the three environmental groups opposing the project will be heard by Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline, California Appellate Court, First Appellate District Division Two, in San Francisco.
"A stay is necessary to protect the court's ability to order effective relief in this case," the document states. "The agencies (respondent and real party in interest) have not persuasively refuted the severe and definite harm this project would inflict if construction commences prior to a decision on the merits. Existing wildlife would literally be dredged over and a popular public trail to the sea permanently removed by construction. If Environmental Groups (appellants) prevail on the merits, the destruction from project construction will have already occurred and will be irreparable."
"The agencies have not effectively refuted that there are substantial questions for this Court to decide," the document continues. "What is striking in their opposition is the agencies' mischaracterization of the administrative proceedings with post hoc findings and rationalizations. Neither these post hoc findings, nor the arguments the agencies construct thereon, can erase the failures to comply with the law at the time of the Commission's decision.
"Equally striking is the agencies' heavy reliance on approvals by other government agencies. The protections of the Coastal Act are not discounted, however, merely because a project may have approvals from other government bodies. Petitioners are challenging only the Coastal Commission's actions, not decisions from other agencies."
The project opponents have added the argument that the bridge trail path scheduled to be removed appears to predate the 1983 lagoon restoration, when the bridges were installed.
"There is evidence that land portions of the wooden-bridges trail have been in existence and used by the public long before the 1983 restoration," the opponents state. "The agencies' assertion that the trail and path to the sea came into existence when DPR first built the bridges in 1983 is not entirely accurate." "The writing by our lawyers in their document submitted yesterday, along with the case law they have cited, simply and clearly shows how the Coastal Commission has violated the law by approving this project," Wetlands Defense Fund executive director Marcia Hanscom told the Malibu Surfside News.
In a response to the City of Malibu's amicus brief, Christina Tiedemann, supervising deputy attorney general for the State of California, has requested that the court "disregard the city's brief."
"The city's brief contains nothing of relevance to these appellate proceedings, and nothing of relevance to whether the appellants have met the standard for issuance of a writ of supersedeas or other stay order in this case."
Hanscom described the DA's procedural arguments as "incorrect, but the usual ones that are argued against amicus briefs."
A decision on the stay is anticipated by Friday, after The News goes to press. Opponents of the lagoon construction project say they will continue to protest the project regardless of the outcome.
The Surfers Coalition is holding a Memorial Day BBQ at Surfrider Beach at noon on Monday, May 28, followed by a second "Hands Across the Lagoon" protest at 1 p.m. Coalition spokesperson Monique Kehoe told The News that the group is gathering letters to deliver to Malibu City Hall on Tuesday. Members have also been gathering petition signatures at surfing events throughout Southern California. The group continues to encourage project opponents to write to the governor.
A silent prayer vigil is planned for Sunday at 2 p.m. at the corner of PCH and Cross Creek. Participants are encouraged to wear white as a symbol of solidarity, event organizers said.
Representatives from State Parks reportedly met last week with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to discuss crowd control options if the project begins as scheduled on June 1.