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.

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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Hans Laetz January 09, 2013 at 05:43 PM
"Under terms of the settlement." Just exactly what are the settlement? There are no terms. THE CITY ATTORNEY IS ASKING TO ENTER INTO NEGOTIATIONS. Preliminary talks have indicated that the city and the MRCA are going to stop acting like children, with silly tit for tat battles over the use of public parkland that we the public own. Is it too much to ask to see what we get out of the deal? Clearly, Charmlee is a precious asset. If the city can get control of the huge chunk of MRCA land in downtown Malibu, where two damaging brushfires have broken out in recent years, that would be very very good for all of us. AND AS A CONDITION OF THE DEAL. the city could demand meaningful deed restrictions thwarting camping plans elsewhere in the city, The fact of the matter is that hundreds of legal NPS and State Parks campsites ring Malibu. Hundreds of thousands of people have used those campsites, and ZERO wildfires have resulted. We need to see what the city and MRCA come up with. Then run that past fire department and other experts. This lynch mob mentality is just nuts, Worse, it will result in Joe Edmiston once again saying (not without justification) that Malibu is being unreasonable and churlish. Then, he will use that to shove acts of retribution against us. He's done that before.
Cindy Vandor January 09, 2013 at 07:04 PM
There is no comparison between beachside campsites regularly observed by rangers, lifeguards, and other beachgoers and campfires in canyons where there is little or no supervision over big swaths of land, no water, and treacherous conditions to fight fires. Let me repeat: no water. Treacherous conditions for fire fighting. No deal is worth a loss of life and property, the loss of precious parkland, and the loss of control over use of a city asset. Joan House is a proven poor negotiator and a proven failed forecaster of what's best for Malibu. It's a waste of residents' money and city staff time to even consider giving away Charmlee. It will prove to be a disastrous deal...literally, causing a disaster.


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