Jul 29, 2014

LETTER: Wildfires Have No Political Boundaries

Former Malibu resident Paul Russell speaks out on the proposed land swap between the city of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

LETTER: Wildfires Have No Political Boundaries

As I am no longer a resident of Malibu, I will leave it to others to argue whether the land swap is a “good deal” for the city. But I see some mischief afoot in the plans for Charmlee. The passive recreation deed restriction resulted from settlement of litigation involving the county, the La Chusa Highlands Property Owners Association, and the developers of the so-called and still un-built Rancho Malibu project across Encinal Canyon to the east. Although the city was involved in earlier litigation over the project, they were not a party to this case. I was a party to the settlement, and negotiated on behalf of La Chusa.

Among the terms of the settlement, the county would turn over ownership of Charmlee to the city, which had already been operating it for many years. La Chusa insisted on the deed restriction, which was fine with the county, and approved and accepted by the city as a condition of transfer in a 5-0 City Council vote. This was included to prevent additional development and potential fire risk such as that proposed by a former City Parks Director and others, just the kind of development that Edmiston is now proposing.

The city attorney report correctly states that: “This deed restriction runs with the land and is in full force and effect regardless of which public entity owns the land.” But the restriction runs with ALL the land, not just the portion within the City Limits. The history of Ramirez Canyon litigation shows just how creative and aggressive the SMMC/MRCA can be when thy want something. Don’t like the law? No problem. Just get the legislature to amend it.

By putting the campsites outside the city limits, they will be beyond the reach of the city’s jurisdiction and ordinances. But how does Edmiston plan to deal with the deed restriction? Just ignore it? Or do they have another strategy in mind?

If a land swap is approved, the city and its citizens would do well to insist that the SMMC/MRCA explicitly accept and abide by the deed restriction on all the land in Charmlee, both within and outside the City limits. Wildfires have no regard for political boundaries.

Paul Russell, Santa Barbara

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