Santa Monica Mountains land use plan OKd over vineyard objections

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County supervisors approve a plan that bars new vineyards on a swath of the Santa Monica Mountains

Source of this article: The Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2014

Los Angeles County supervisors approved a far-reaching land use plan for the Santa Monica Mountains Tuesday, over the objections of a group of vineyard owners but with support from a broad coalition of environmentalists, equestrians and homeowners.

The passage of the plan, known as a local coastal program, consolidates land use authority with the county and sets rules for future development in the coastal area near Malibu. Among the limits on future development is a ban on new vineyards. Permitted, existing vineyards would be allowed to remain.

Vineyard owners complained that the plan unfairly singles out their crop from other forms of agriculture.

Don Schmitz, owner of the Malibu Solstice vineyard, argued that grapes use less water than many other crops and would have to be grown organically under the coastal plan. He pointed out that the region just became a federally recognized American Viticultural Area.

“It is an ironic tragedy that you are contemplating destroying this at this very moment,” he said.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose office was heavily involved in developing the coastal plan, said the vineyard ban is a tiny piece of a plan that had been carefully negotiated with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Yaroslavsky held up an aerial picture of a large, clear cut and graded vineyard on Kanan Road in Malibu, as an example of what the plans seeks to avoid.

“These are among the most beautiful mountains anywhere,” he said. “…Nobody’s ripping out anybody’s vineyards, but going forward we don’t want the chaparral and the canyons and the ridgelines and the majesty of those mountains to be replaced with this.”

Dozens of other property owners urged the supervisors to approve the plan. For decades, residents of the area had to seek approval from both the county and the California Coastal Commission to build on their land, and many said the rules were poorly defined.

The Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation, representing about 10,000 homeowners in the mountains, wrote to board members that passage of the plan would mean “our homeowners will no longer be compelled to go to the Coastal Commission every time they want to make a home addition, renovate, or build a horse corral. Finally, we will be able to work with our local County representatives instead of a far-off bureaucracy.”

Environmental groups praised the plan’s restrictions on building in sensitive habitat and protections for waterways.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich voted against the plan, arguing that the vineyard ban infringes on private property rights. Supervisors Gloria Molina and Don Knabe joined Yaroslavsky in voting for it, with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas absent.

The plan was approved by the California Coastal Commission in July.


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