Los Angeles County Supervisors have an opportunity to make history next week. Before them will be a motion to grant final approval to the Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Program, a painstakingly negotiated and carefully balanced plan that would protect the area and guide future development. The supervisors should approve it with gusto.
The plan is the result of decades of work by hundreds of people — residents of the area, environmentalists, equestrians, vintners and representatives of various government agencies — led by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the mountains above Malibu. Yaroslavsky's patient commitment to the process has produced an extraordinarily broad consensus in support of the plan. Of the nearly 500 letters received by the California Coastal Commission regarding the proposal, fewer than 70 opposed it. That's especially remarkable because of the document's scope: It sets out development rules for an area that covers more than 80 square miles and includes nearly 8,000 separate parcels.
All sides have had to make some concessions to reach the compromise now before the supervisors, but all sides also have achieved their principal objectives. If it passes, environmentalists would secure thousands of acres of protected habitat and safeguards for the area's water quality; homeowners would have the certainty of building rules and would, in the future, take their permitting requests to the county instead of the Coastal Commission. That is expected to produce clearer, faster decisions while remaining faithful to the commission's high standard for coastal protection. Vintners would be able to keep their operations, and people with horses would be required to obey reasonable rules for protecting the environment and, in cases in which they need to make improvements, would be given time to do so.
There are still pockets of opposition. Some vintners, for instance, object to a proposed ban on new vineyards and to the suggestion that their business is environmentally hazardous.
But no existing vineyard would be closed by the plan, and those complaints, hashed out years ago, should not derail the package, which already has received preliminary approval from the supervisors and which the Coastal Commission unanimously approved in April.
The supervisors' vote next week is the last stop in the long and often contentious debate over some of Southern California's most stunning land. If the board approves it, broad swaths of oak groves, canyons and ridgelines will be given the shelter of this important document. That would represent a fitting tribute to Yaroslavsky's diligence; more importantly, it would create a lasting natural resource for generations of Californians to enjoy.
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