L.A. County judge rules against Malibu homeowners and two taxpayer groups

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled against a group of Malibu homeowners and two taxpayer groups that had sought to prevent the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy from using studies funded by state bond money to prepare a plan to increase public access to parks.

The conservancy has for years sought to increase the public’s use of Ramirez, Escondido and Corral Canyon parks (including overnight camping in some locations) and to make trail connections among those parks and National Park Service parkland at Zuma / Trancas and Solstice Canyon. Citing residents’ concerns about fire, the Malibu City Council voted to ban overnight camping on both private and public land.

When the conservancy decided to take its plan directly to the California Coastal Commission, the residents and taxpayer groups sued.

Judge Richard B. Wolfe said last week that the conservancy properly awarded $585,000 in Proposition 50 bond money to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to conduct the necessary studies for the access plan. The conservancy is scheduled to present its case to the Coastal Commission in June.

“We have done numerous studies to make sure there will not be any fire danger,” said Laurie C. Collins, an attorney for the conservancy and the authority. Collins said that there would be no open pits and that monitors would watch over the camping areas. She added that the monitors would help watch for squatters, who, she said, pose a greater danger.

Opponents vow to continue their battle against overnight camping.