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The Hoof Beat May 2007

Malibu Valley Farms Targeted by Coastal Commission
Introduction by the Editor:

Photos courtesy of Carol and Steve Ford

The following reprinted email from Beth Palmer describes the current situation facing Malibu Valley Farms in the Santa Monica Mountains and the assistance they are requesting from fellow equestrians. Malibu Valley Farms has been targeted by the Coastal Commission for shut down on the alleged pretext horses are not livestock, but pets and so fall under the Coastal Commission jurisdiction to regulate. The Coastal Commission has moved the next important hearing on the Farm to San Luis Obispo, a 160 miles away from the ranch’s location in Calabasas and the hundreds of supporters of the Farm. Does this fit the definition of a fair hearing?

Over the years, members of the Valley Horse Owners Association have participated in several rides hosted by Malibu Valley Farms. This is a state of the art, modern horse breeding ranch and stables located on agricultural land. Please take the time to offer them what assistance you can--letters of support, etc.

Email: Malibu Valley Farms from Beth Palmer

As you know, the Coastal Commission is trying to shut Malibu Valley Farms down and we are literally fighting for our life in July. Our hearing is set for sometime during the week of July 9-13, although the exact date will not be set until June 15th. The hearing will take place at the Embassy Suites Hotel on Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo. We are asking the equestrian community to come out in force and show the Coastal Commission that the equestrian community is strong. To do this we need to flood the Coastal Commission with letters of support. I am asking everyone to try and obtain 10 letters. If we all get our 10, we will be able to make an impact [for a copy of the sample letter contact Beth at beth@malibuvalley.com]. People simply need to sign the letter, add their name and address and send it in.

In this email, I will summarize our situation to pass along to people, but the California State Horsemen Association has been kind enough to post everything on their website for us so it may be easier for people to go there for all of the information. The CSHA website is http://www.californiastatehorsemen.com/trails.htm.

To summarize, Malibu Valley Farms has been an agricultural farm since it was a part of Gillette Ranch in the 1920s. The Boudreau Family purchased the property in the mid-1970s, formed Malibu Valley Farms, and has owned the farm ever since. The Boudreau Family offers its equestrian facilities to local ETI Corrals for children’s play days, staging areas for REC (Recreation and Equestrian Coalition) rides through public trails and is a recognized evacuation center for horses in cases of fires, floods and earthquakes.

In 1996, a fire ravaged the area and Malibu Valley Farms took in over 100 horses in addition to its own. The Boudreau Family is proud to say that they, with the help of their farm manager and his family, were able to save every single horse even though the fire came right through the farm. However, in order to do this, they had to allow the fire to destroy the structures -- they could not save both. In fact, as the farm manager was saving the horses, he and his wife watched their own house, which was located on the farm, burn down with all of their possessions.

Malibu Valley Farms began the process of re-building over the next couple of years and in 1998 was cited by the Coastal Commission for violating the Coastal Act by not seeking a permit to rebuild the farm. Malibu Valley Farms applied for and received an exemption from the Coastal Commission to rebuild as they were replacing existing structures. A few months later, after receiving an anonymous call that the structures were not all in place before the Coastal Act was adopted, the Coastal Commission revoked the exemption and again cited the farm for violating the Coastal Act. After years of trying to work with the Commission Staff, we are finally going in front of the Coastal Commission for a Coastal Development Permit in July.

The controversy with our application involves the distance between our structures and a creek. The Coastal Commission generally requires a 100-foot setback from any creek but we do not have that much land. 100-feet would put our barns, arenas and horses into the street. As a solution, we are seeking a permit to have our structures approximately 50-feet from the creek and implement various measures to ensure that run-off does not enter the creek. These measures include having vegetated buffers between the structures and the creek, having a vegetative bio-swale that runs the entire length of the creek, and installing gutters and downspouts on our roofed structures to collect rainwater and direct it to the creek via underground pipes so that it never comes into contact with the bare ground. We also have a best management practices plan in place for the daily maintenance of the farm and our farm even won the award for the best farm in waste management for all of LA County. We believe that with all of these measures in place, and there is published scientific research proving these methods work, we have addressed and resolved any concerns the Coastal Commission may have regarding run-off into the creek. The Commission is not satisfied though and wants a 100-foot setback regardless of whatever else we do. They have no science to back up this arbitrary setback, while we have offered studies, published reports and a fully engineered plan on our side. The Coastal Commission staff is recommending denial of our permit. They have already issued Cease and Desist and Restoration Orders against Malibu Valley Farms so if we are not issued a permit in July, we will be shut down immediately.

We believe the Coastal Commission’s desire to keep horses off trails is the reason the Coastal Commission Staff is so against Malibu Valley Farms. State parks no longer allow people to park their horse trailers and access trails. People cannot use their parks to "stage" their horses. But Malibu Valley Farms is a private facility that they cannot control. So they are trying to shut it down. Additionally, the Coastal Commission is taking the position that horses no longer qualify as agriculture because they are not "food or fiber." Thus, the Commission believes that horses no longer are exempt under the Coastal Act and are using this to shut down farms. This issue was raised by the Commissioners at our first hearing in November and we have a videotape of those statements if people would like to view them.

Malibu Valley Farms is very important to the community because Malibu Valley Farms has opened its property to the community, free of charge. Any person may park their trailer and access the horse trails from Malibu Valley Farms. Malibu Valley Farms hosts children’s events throughout the year and is home to several pony clubs, princess riding clubs, and ETI chapters. Their arenas are open to the public. Additionally, Malibu Valley Farms hosts the Compton Jr. Posse, a riding group from the east side of Los Angeles, where underprivileged kids from the poorest part of town, come to Malibu Valley Farms to ride. We have letters from the leader of this group in which she tells us that the kids love coming to our farm because they can play and ride without the fear of being shot. Malibu Valley Farms hosts an annual ride through the Santa Monica Mountains where over 100 riders come out to support the equestrian community. As stated above, Malibu Valley Farms is a recognized evacuation site for horses during natural disasters. Malibu Valley Farms is an invaluable asset to the equestrian community and if the Coastal Commission shuts it down, the community will truly suffer. At our first hearing in November, over 40 members of the community got on a bus and spent the day at the hearing to give their support to the farm. This may be a small farm owned by the Boudreau Family, but it is important.

The Coastal Commission moved our second hearing to San Luis Obispo, 200 miles from our farm. We believe this was a strategic move on the part of the Coastal Commission in an attempt to keep our supporters from being able to attend. Thus, we are looking for a flood of letters of support on our behalf. We are certainly not the only horse owner in this situation and know that if we all stand together, we are much stronger than any owner alone. Any suggestions or additional support would be incredible and greatly appreciated. People can go to the website above to find a full history on our situation, a copy of our management plan and sample letters to send in in support of our application. We also need people to attend our hearing if at all possible.

Thank you again for your email and please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or if there is any other information I can provide. My phone number is (818) 880-5139 and my email is beth@malibuvalley.com

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