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LETTER: Sacrifice of Charmlee Wilderness Park

Walt Keller of Malibu outlines his concerns about a proposal for a land swap of the city's ownership of Charmlee Wilderness Park for all 93 acres of Bluffs Park.

Dear Editor,

News of a January 14 City Council Agenda Item proposing the sacrifice of the hundreds of acres of Charmlee Wilderness Park in exchange for a few acres of BluffPark came as a shock to me.

I have several concerns.

Councilmembers House and La Monte are proposing to give away the city's premier park - a birthright of our city's first years of incorporation. I was a member of that first City Council which accepted the Park from L.A. County.

The present Council has no ethical right to undo this action. The city should demand better use of the conservancy's portion of Bluff Park, not bargain away a jewel. How many coastal communities can boast of a wilderness park in their midst?

Have any of this increasingly urban oriented (e.g. lighted football field) council even visited the park or are aware of its beauty? This 82-year-old man will be happy to take them on a hike (or anyone else, for that matter).

The deed restrictions may slow Joe Edmiston, czar of the conservancy, up, but he proposes to allow camping on the portion of the park not in the city limits (but probably will use the Charmlee  Park access road).  

Overnight camping anywhere up there will present a very real fire hazard for the homes below. The fire that destroyed my home in 1978 first swept through Charmlee.

Last of ll, I am a Docent at Charmlee and enjoy helping lead chiidren from urban, low income schools on hikes. 

With two votes already, I'm afraid it will take a tremendous outcry from the residents of Malibu to stop it.

Walt Keller, Malibu

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Terry January 07, 2013 at 02:16 PM
the current city counsel needs to be recalled. they have destroyed surfrider beach. they have not listened to the residents in malibu park with there 70 foot lights and they are about to destroy the surf at zuma beach with the sand replinishment project at broad beach. mr keller brings up the next issue. from right to left. from east to west this city counsel will have done more damage to malibu than the county ever could have. please support charmlee park as a natural area within our city without camping and trash
JBB January 07, 2013 at 02:47 PM
I haven't always agreed with Mr. Keller, but on this I certainly do. Having lived in Malibu since before it was a 'city', sometimes I think we may have been better off staying with the county. Can't say I'm fond of the changes that have taken place. I know there will always be 'progress', but Beverly-Bu doesn't have the appeal that old Malibu of the early 80's when I moved here. Luckily I left Malibu park befor the lights and am technically out of the city limits.
Susan Kraus January 07, 2013 at 03:42 PM
My youngest son grew up at Charmlee. It's a beautiful park and should be left alone.
Debra McDermott January 07, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Charmlee is indeed a jewel. It is an amazing Malibu park from it's docent programs for school field trips to native plant seed collection and propagation, not to mention the perfect place to watch the sunset. How do we fight to keep this park as it is?
Judi Hutchinson January 07, 2013 at 04:54 PM
I just posted some of the photos I have taken in Charmlee. There is always something new to find in this beautiful park, like the time we were treated, by Sandy, to see the Fairy Shrimp or discovering the many different mushrooms, that I posted above. Take one of the moonlight hikes and meet children, with their parents, enjoying nature. This is our treasure, that we need to hang on to. We should not be swapping out nature for skate board parks.
Cece Stein January 07, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Charmlee is indeed an exquisite treasure, especially at sunrise or sunset. Are you convinced that The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will destroy this "natural area within our city" if a deal is made to swap lands? If you have evidence that Charmlee will be "destroyed", please bring those facts forward so we can better understand the situation. We can not let that happen. BTW how did the "city council" destroy "surfrider beach" and how does sand replenishment at a sandy beach break "destroy the surf at zuma beach"? Sea you at Charmlee.
Betty Lucas January 07, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Agree with Walt Keller! What do we have to do to get the Council to listen to us? Parents should be taking their children to Charmlee and teachers should have trips there from Malibu. It would be a crime to swap this lovely wildlife park!
Hans Laetz January 07, 2013 at 07:52 PM
I think we owe it to ourselves and our community to find out what will be lost, and what will be gained, when and if this goes through. We have before the council a request from the city attorney to pursue negotiations. That's all. I can understand why some automatically assume that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has plans to "wreck" Charmlee. Their plans to have camping at Bluffs Park and amidst houses in the Ramirez Canyon area were indeed terrible. The courts ruled that Joe Edmiston used the wrong part of the Coastal Act to strongarm that plan past Coastal. But it did -not- rule against camping in Malibu. Indeed, the city has legalized camping within the city limits. The Conservancy could shove another camping plan into central Malibu neighborhoods if it votes to. It looks here like the city and Edmiston are acting like adults. The city has a need for more control over the parkland in the center of Malibu. The residents near the high school have a need to transfer as much little league, AYSO and other city park uses away from that neighborhood. Parents can still take kids to Charmlee if it is an MRCA park. Field trips could still go there. MRCA is not planning to close the park to Malibu users. Walt is right. There must be adequate fire protections if more camping is to occur near Malibu.
Cece Stein January 07, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Our biggest concern is the camping / firedanger possibilities. Nobody wants to be downwind of campfires especially during Santa Ana conditions. Having campers in any of the canyons or Bluffs Park is not wise. If Joe has no plans for camping at Charmlee Park, Malibu should consider the swap and the multitude of options it could pursue closer to our City Center.
Laurel Airica January 07, 2013 at 08:43 PM
As a Santa Monica resident who discovered Charmlee by chance in 1982 – and has held 'citizenship papers' to this enchanted realm (aka an annual parking pass) for quite some time – I cannot fathom anyone suggesting that Charmlee be traded or adulterated in any way for any reason. This is sacred ground, which should be held in sacred trust for all who seek refreshment in the beauty and respite that only such an extraordinary landscape can provide. There is so much for all to contemplate simply by walking the paths and observing the sculpted majesty of the trees in enigmatic relationship to the stones, the unexpected visitations of hummingbirds with humans, the mists rising up from the sea, the Full Moon rising in the sky, the distant vistas of islands in the ocean like wisps of dreams. For those with the sense(s) to experience the many mysteries of this magical wilderness -- Charmlee is unsurpassed in the gifts it bestows on all its reverential visitors. Let those who seek to ‘improve upon’ such a natural miracle find ways, instead, to improve upon their sense of wonder.
Hans Laetz January 07, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Good points, but consider this: -- Malibu currently allows tent and RV camping at the one large private site inside city limits. Fires are permitted there. Has there ever been an accidental fire? -- Hundreds of campsites exist upwind of Malibu, in Malibu Canyon and other nearby parks. Has there ever been an accidental fire? -- Outdoor barbeques, hibachis, fire rings and fire pits are not regulated at the private residences of Malibu. Has there ever been an accidental fire? -- The last MRCA camping proposal -- while wholly inappropriate in many, many ways -- banned any open flame of any sort, had fire hoses at every campground, closed the campgrounds during fire season, and required direct paid ranger supervision of campers. In my recollection, we've had brushfires caused by drunken vandals tossing logs off a cliff, car crashes, power line failures, power pole failures, construction mishaps, even an ultralight crash. But I cannot recall a camper starting a fire. If the new MRCA camping proposal is similar to the old one in terms of safety requirements, just exactly how can Malibu say to the state that its proposal for camping outside the city limits, but near Malibu, is unsafe, when the city itself just granted a CUP extension to the private campground with virtually no city fire safety regulations?
John Mazza January 07, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Hans---What CUP extension ? There is one coming up in a year or so but I do not remember another one. The real question is what is Malibu going to do with the Bluffs Park land it gets ? The land it gets is zoned passive and is 100% ESHA which would preclude sports fields. I think all we get is to use the parking lot for a temporary skate park with no assurance that camp sites would not be placed in other areas such as Winding Way. I am not even sure if Joe is going to deed restrict Ramirez and we sure can't just take his promise to be a good boy. Are we going to deed restrict Charmlee for no camping or just leave it up to Joe to interpret the current vague language? Joe vs House and LaMonte in negotiations ?
Susan Tellem January 08, 2013 at 02:37 AM
There is no other reason for this that is remotely possible other than a former councilwoman lives directly below Bluff's Park on Malibu Road. Council members House and LaMonte owe their elections to said former councilwoman so it's payback time. Overnight camping is a thumb in her eye and she has found a way to get rid of it. Come on people - open your eyes or go on Google maps.
Andy Lyon January 08, 2013 at 02:56 AM
All it takes is ONE fire to ruin your life. The beach is downwind (santana wind) of the RV park, so what would burn?
Susan Tellem January 08, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Further, the 2010 public draft of Community Fire Safety Action Plans states, ”The entire Santa Monica Mountains region is designated by CAL FIRE as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. The Decker Canyon–Encinal Canyon Planning Unit is within this zone. This area has been affected by large historic and increasingly frequent wildfires. The following wildfires are recorded for the planning unit: Potrero #42 (November 1930), 30,000-acre Malibu-Latigo complex (October 23, 1935), Sequit #54 (July 13, 1940), 16,400-acre Sherwood/Zuma/Newton complex (December 28, 1956), Trancas (September 23, 1978), 25,286-acre Kanan (October 23, 1978), Decker (October 14, 1985), Charmlee (July 1, 1996), Decker (April 21, 1997), Encinal (August 22, 1998), West PCH (April 10, 2002), Decker (November 13, 2002), and Pacific (January 6, 2003).7 The 1978 Kanan fire destroyed nearly 200 homes and there were two fatalities.” Charmlee Park was also identified as an “asset at risk.” You can read the report yourself at http://www.forevergreenforestry.comSMMCWPP_PUB_0710D_CommPlans.pdf.pdf
R Y A N January 08, 2013 at 03:16 AM
Hans, Malibu doesn't put out its own fires. Tons of MUTUAL AID rolls in to help do what they can, when they get here. In 1993, the Topanga/Malibu fire started AFTER the ALTADENA fire. Resources went to ALTADENA, leaving Malibu with diminished response (exhausted firefighters, etc.). It is Malibu's moral responsibilty to minimize all fire risks (including silly and stupid ones) because of the drain to all Mutual Aid entities and their budgets. In 1993, the ALTADENA fire was caused by a campfire. So, Hans, a campfire here could cause Laguna to burn, or Altadena to burn, or Bel Air to burn, due to limited mutual aid resources. Fire doesn't respect municipal boundaries, and your thinking should be broader and more conservative with respect to fire danger. I hope your yard doesn't burn up to your bedroom window as happened to me.
Marshall Thompson January 08, 2013 at 03:34 AM
Well, the RV park is on a dry rather barren slope with roads immediately above and below it so the are low fuel levels and plenty of first responder access. It fronts onto the public beach which presents even less of a fuel load. I personally like camping situated on or near beaches for these reasons - supervision and sane fire situation. Charmlee, on the other hand, is remote coastal woodland and grasslands - i have hiked there dozens of times - and it is a huge area. The historical fires that have raged through there are the stuff of legend. When I was talking to the docents a few years ago the SMMC plans were for pretty dense camping. It's a worry. The swap also seems a poor land deal in the imbalance of it's scale. The city of Malibu has HORRIBLE results in all the property deals I have observed from the purchase and renovation of City Hall, to Lunacy Park, the Malibu Lagoon and the Lumberyard, we get played as suckers by the pros EVERY TIME. I vote no on hte deal as it stands.
Marshall Thompson January 08, 2013 at 03:37 AM
I do not trust the SMMC. They appear to be for sale: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2011/0/santa_monica_mountains_conservancy_backs_edges_malibu_development.php "In a surprising move, the Santa Monica Conservancy is reversing its position on U2 guitarist The Edge's controversial plan to put up five "eco-friendly homes" in the Malibu hills. What is the conservancy getting in return for its support? About $1 million."
Marshall Thompson January 08, 2013 at 03:44 AM
The other problem I have with the deal is that it is being offered by an unaccountable, unelected, apparently untouchable political Tzar Joe Edmiston: "The Santa Monica Mountains stretch from Elysian Park overlooking downtown Los Angeles west to the Oxnard Plain in Ventura County. A state commission in 1972 recommended establishing a planning and permit-issuing agency to help assure the region’s environmental security and by the end of the decade the Santa Monica Mountains Comprehensive Planning Commission was in place with 28-year-old, Governor Jerry Brown appointee, Joe Edmiston, as the youngest head of an agency in state government. As executive director of the commission he helped create the Santa Monica Mountains Comprehensive Plan, which fashioned land use policies for other local government entities to follow. As a result of the plan, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy was established in 1980 AND EDMISTON HAS BEEN ITS ONLY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR." (caps mine) (http://www.allgov.com/usa/ca/departments/natural-resources-agency/santa_monica_mountains_conservancy?agencyid=168) Kids, this is a one-man show. Only the Pope has a similar lifetime appointment that I know of. When Joe meets with the public, it is with his broad, meaty back turned towards them.
Hans Laetz January 08, 2013 at 06:01 AM
Joyce Parker Bozylinsky said, I believe at a recent planning commission meeting, that she had administratively extended the permit. There was no written report. I suggest we ask her. I agree with you, there are major questions. All of this is pure, wild speculation. We need to hear from our city negotiators before we start warming up the burning stakes for any witch trial.
Hans Laetz January 08, 2013 at 06:18 AM
Well, I for one want to see what the deal is before automatically rejecting it. I don't like the non accountability of the MRCA one bit. But that speaks in favor of getting the MRCA out of Bluffs Park. I don't know how much of the MRCA land is ESHA. I do know that MRCA just vetoed a temporary skate park in the Bluffs parking lot. I do know thatnthebpermanent skate park plan is also being vetoed by the MRCA. And I do know that Charmlee is a treasure, and will continue to be preserved if acquired by MRCA from the city. That sounds like a good idea. Many of the worries above are valid, and many of them are total BS. The "tired firefighter" and "campfire in Malibu coul burn Altadena "arguments are NOT in any way accurate, but are typical of the hysteria and fear mongering that often pass for logic in this city.
Hans Laetz January 08, 2013 at 06:25 AM
Bluffs Park, under MRCA ownership, has had TWO serious brushfires ignite on it, destroying SiX houses in the past eight years. It's time to get the unaccountable MRCA out iof Bluffs Park and do something about the fire trap conditions that have been allowed to develop there by the MRCA.
R Y A N January 08, 2013 at 07:10 PM
It is FACT, Hans, about the timing and cause of the 1993 Altadena fire, and its draw on fire-fighting resources in relation to the Malibu and Laguna fires. Logic should concur with comon sense, and history is the best predictor of future events if mitigations erode or improvements not implemented. The Santa-Anas are predictable and the topography won't change. 2007 proved that massive fire damage will occur from fires started locally (Malibu Road, Corral Canyon). Sometimes I think an alter-ego, or an angry person, has hacked your Patch account.
Hans Laetz January 08, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Wrong? You sure about that? LA Times, 12/23/93: "The mentally ill refugee from China who accidentally set the wildfire that destroyed 118 homes in Altadena has been sentenced to probation. Andres Huang, 35, who was living in the area as a transient, set a fire on Oct. 27 in the San Gabriel Mountains foothills to keep warm, but it got out of control and ultimately destroyed scores of homes." The official report from LA County fire on the '93 fire extensively discusses and critiques the response to the fire, and NOWHERE does it state that responding firefighters were tired or stretched. See: http://www.lafire.com/famous_fires/1993-1102_OldTopangaFire/1993-1102_OfficialReport_OldTopangaIncident.htm Blaming the Malibu fire of '93, which began as some sort of spark amidst houses on Old Topanga Road, on people camping is not accurate. Your inaccurate and revisionist blaming of campers for the 93 fire is as off base as your assessment of my posts as angry. I merely set the record straight, and prove that your blaming fires on perfectly-legal legal camping is not supported by the facts.

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