Resident's Decade-Plus Battle with Coastal Commission May Finally Conclude
BY BILL KOENEKER
A 14-year struggle between Grant Adamson, who heads the Mariposa Land Company and the California Coastal Commission over a rock rip-rap revetment on Malibu Creek may finally be coming to an end.
With a staff recommendation approving the permit, the Coastal Commission is expected to act on the request at its meeting next month in August when the coastal panel meets in Santa Cruz.
The matter began on February 20, 1998, when the coastal agency issued an Emergency Coastal Permit to place about 500 linear feet of rock rip-rap revetment along the west bank of lower Malibu Creek, about 300 feet upstream of the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, according to CCC officials.
The revetment consists of 1500 tons of half-to- eight-ton granite boulders placed on the slope 14-16 feet in height with a two-to-four-foot toe below the stream.
Adamson told coastal staff at the time the revetment was necessary to protect the subject property and an adjacent commercial development from further severe storm bank erosion in the face of potential continuing winter storms.
Prior to placement of the revetment, coastal officials maintain approximately 20 feet of lateral erosion occurred along the stretch of creek bank following a powerful storm that month.
As is the usual case, condition of approval required the applicant to apply for a regular coastal permit within 60 days in order to seek permanent authorization for the emergency work.
The permit application was to include an analysis of stream bank protection alternatives prepared by a qualified engineer, according to a CCC staff report.
In June, Mariposa Land Co. submitted a regular permit application.
However, the coastal staff maintained the application did not contain enough information to deem the application complete and told the applicant.
The commission staff insists follow-up letters were sent and a back and forth went on for another six or seven years.
"And in October 2007, the applicant revised the proposed project description to include planting of the rip-rap stream bank and top of bank with riparian and upland species and submitted a 'Vegetation Restoration Plan,' prepared by Impact Sciences. Inc." the commission staff report states.
On May, 21, 2008, the coastal permit application was finally deemed complete and commission staff tentatively scheduled the application for the CCC's November 2008 hearing.
The commission staff contends that several months before the hearing it was brought to the attention of the commission that the as-built project plans were not based on a detailed survey and therefore "were not reliable depictions of the actual configuration of the rip-rap slope."
Commission staff requested the applicant provide accurate, detailed surveyed plans of the proposal. The application was then scheduled for a February meeting in 2009. But before that happened, the applicant, according to the commission staff, withdrew plans and an April 2009 meeting was scheduled. At that meeting, the commission continued the item, directing the staff to provide additional analysis.
In August 2009, the commission approved the project with fifteen special conditions as per recommend by the staff.
The applicant then filed a lawsuit challenging the approved permit condition that required the rock slope project be re-engineered. The trial court ruled in the applicant's favor, finding that the evidence in the record did not establish that the re-engineered revetment would be feasible.
The court issued a writ of mandate remanding the permit back to the commission with directions to hold a new hearing on the permit. The commission has appealed the trial court's decision, but if it acts on the remanded permit, that action will render the appeal moot.
If the commission approves the permit with the conditions recommended by staff, the applicant has agreed to waive claims for attorneys fees and court costs. "The commission retains discretion to take an action different than the staff recommendation, so long as it complies with legal requirements and is supported by substantial evidence in the record," the CCC staff report states.
This time the staff is recommending approval of the proposed development with eleven conditions.
The project area is within the City of Malibu, but falls within the commission's area of retained original permit jurisdiction because the development is proposed on lands that are below the mean high tide line and/or on public trust lands.