Santa Monica's 2-year-old attempt to build the final milelong link in a 19-mile beach bicycle path may be abandoned because of a dispute with the state Coastal Commission over the path's location.
The commission Tuesday issued a permit to the city to build the path but insisted that the path be located no more than 50 feet from the property lines of several lavish homes and private beach clubs on Santa Monica's Gold Coast.
The city had proposed locating the path between 400 feet and 600 feet from the properties to avoid opposition from the Palisades Beach Property Owners Assn., which is made up of the 26 properties along Pacific Coast Highway north of California Avenue. The association had agreed not to oppose the path outlined by the city.
Opposed to New Route
Robert A. Meyer, an attorney representing the property owners, said that they are opposed to the new route.
"They did not want the bike path in the first place," Meyer said. "They were willing to compromise and support it only because the city planned to build it further away from their property lines."
Santa Monica City Manager John Jalili said that he will submit the plan approved by the state Coastal Commission to the state Parks and Recreation Department before deciding whether the city should continue trying to build the path.
"If the state agrees with the commission," Jalili said, "we may attempt to go ahead with construction only because there is a dire need to complete the bike path."
Jalili said that if it looks like there is going to be two or three years of litigation before construction can proceed, then his recommendation to the City Council may be to drop the project.
Other Matters Pressing
"We have too many other vital projects to complete without being tied up in court," Jalili said.
Meyer refused to say if the group will sue to prevent construction of the path nearer their property than proposed by the city.
"I have not met with the property owners since the commission meeting," Meyer said. "What I can say now is that I have been authorized to oppose the commission recommended route for the path."
The 1.2 mile of the uncompleted section of the path is the only missing link in the 19-mile beach path between Torrance and Pacific Palisades.
The major reason the link was not completed resulted from a longtime legal dispute between the state and property owners over property lines and encroachments on state property.
Vivian Rothstein, a planner in the Santa Monica Park and Recreation Department, said that the owners of 6 of the 26 properties along the proposed path still have not resolved their legal dispute with the state.
"That is why we attempted to design a path with property owner approval," she said. "We saw no benefit in planning a path that would be the subject of a long, tedious lawsuit."