The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to deny a zoning application by the Elysium Fields nudist camp in Topanga Canyon, the most recent twist in the longest and costliest zoning battle in Los Angeles County history.
The board has been trying to close the facility for the past 16 years, but has been thwarted by court rulings in favor of the camp, which is a clothing-optional facility.
Led by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the board voted to deny the facility a nonconforming-use permit that would allow it to continue operations in the rural Topanga neighborhood. The vote was 4 to 0. Supervisor Ed Edelman was absent.
‘A Complete Surprise’
Ed Lange, the founder of the facility, said that if the board’s vote “means we have exhausted all our administrative remedies, we will have to go to court” to remain at the location. “The vote came as a complete surprise,” he said. “We thought it would be referred to the Planning Commission, where it could get a nonpolitical review.”
In early 1985, Antonovich had also asked the board to deny the permit, saying that weak geological formations prevented the facility’s owners from safely widening the camp’s entry road, and that the camp and its narrow roadway were a fire hazard. However, Elysium’s operators challenged that decision in Los Angeles Superior Court. The court ordered the board to review independent geological studies that found the area to be free of major geological problems.
In his motion Tuesday, Antonovich said that despite additional evidence that showed that the entrance to Elysium could be safely widened, “I cannot condone the continued threats to public health, safety and welfare caused by the regular visits of hundreds of people to this residential location.” He cited fire hazards and noise, and said the camp is a commercial intrusion in the area.
Topanga residents last year rallied to Elysium’s side, saying that the facility is considered an important part of the community. Elysium’s operators sponsor community events and open their parklike grounds to non-members for fully clothed visiting days each summer.
Lange, the founder, is considered a community leader in Topanga, an unincorporated county area. In the past he has publicly challenged the view of some county officials that nudism promotes illicit sexual behavior. Elysium has been used by several noted psychologists and therapists, as well as therapy-oriented organizations, for seminars and classes dealing with personal and body-image problems.
‘We have always had this dichotomy between our view and his,” Lange said of Antonovich. “I don’t really know what’s underneath it all.”
Last year, both sides estimated they had spent a total of more than $150,000 fighting the battle.