San Luis Obispo - On Monday, July 9, 2007, the California Coastal Commission approved Malibu Valley Farm's Coastal Development Permit (CDP) #4-06-163. The 7-5 decision in favor of the Malibu Valley Farms CDP was a direct rebuke to the staff recommendation of denial.
Both Commissioner Steve Blank and ex-officio (non-voting) Commissioner Brian Baird, Assistant Secretary for The California Resources Agency, chided the commission staff for not accurately reporting the Commission's past positions on horse farms and the number of equestrian facilities approved by the staff and commission. After being grilled by Commissioner Blank, executive director Peter Douglas was forced to admit that staff had not recommended nor had the commission approved a private commercial equestrian facility since the mid 1980's.
Commissioners Rebuke staff recommendation and faulty report
Commissioner Baird chided the staff for not analyzing the studies and reports Malibu Valley Farms had submitted as part of their application as well as the permits Malibu Valley Farms had received prior to their CDP application. Malibu Valley Farms had received approval from every governmental agency with jurisdiction for the project, including the LA County Environmental Review Board (ERB), State Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Fish and Game.
The Commissioners all expressed their commitment to water quality. Malibu Valley Farms had submitted water quality studies to the Staff as part of their application. These reports all showed that Malibu Valley Farms was not polluting the water and that the groundwater at the farm was clean. The Coastal Staff did not analyze or mention any of the reports in their Staff report. This omission led some Commissioners to believe that Malibu Valley Farms did pollute, although all scientific studies proved otherwise.
Malibu Valley Farms owner Brian Boudreau, whose family has operated the farm since 1974, was elated at the precedent setting decision. "This was not just a victory for our farm. It was a victory for California's equestrian and agricultural community over a commission staff that has a history of hostility towards horses and farming and has openly sought to shut down facilities up and down our state" stated Boudreau.
Over 40 speaker slips in support of the Malibu Valley application were submitted to the chair of the Commission, Pat Kruer. Included was Mayisha Akbar, executive director of the Compton Jr. Posse, a non-profit children's charity that seeks to keep inner city children out of gangs and off drugs by teaching them the joy and responsibility of the equestrian arts. Brian and Mia Boudreau open their farm to the Compton Jr. Posse regularly so that Ms. Akbar can introduce the children to the National Recreation Area.
Ms. Akbar's testimony was so moving that Commissioner Dr. William Burke felt compelled to open up about growing up as an angry young boy and how getting involved in tennis changed his life. Dr. Burke equated his experience to the Compton Jr. Posse's program and how critical it was that if for no other reason, Malibu Valley Farms should be approved so this program can continue.
Other moving testimony was given by workers at Malibu Valley Farms, each of whom had been with the farm for more than 20 years and spoke about how the farm had changed their lives. Angelica Cardiel, 16, is the daughter of Juana and Mark Cardiel, the farm's managers. Angelica grew up on the farm and told Commissioners that she plans to attend college to be veterinarian as a direct result of being around the animals on the farm.
Commissioner Burke moved that the CDP be approved, and his motion was instantly seconded by Commissioners Blank and Potter.
Commissioner Potter, speaking on behalf of the motion, spoke of the extensive improvements the Boudreaus had made to the property, including the planting of over 1,000 trees along the once denuded Stokes Creek. "The applicant is a victim of his own good deeds," stated Potter "I don't want to set the precedent of punishing someone for improving his property."
Vice-Chair Bonnie Neely reminded the Commission that the 100-foot setback demanded by Staff was only a recommendation and that the Commissioners had the discretion to approve a lower setback if the circumstances warranted it. Don Schmitz, who made the presentation for Malibu Valley Farms, reiterated this point over and over in his rebuttal to the Staff's incorrect statements to the Commission that a 100-foot setback was mandatory.
Malibu Valley Farm's application included a four-tiered mitigation plan described as state-of-the-art. The plan puts in place the best management practices (BMPs) for manure clean-up and recycling, as recognized by Los Angeles County; removes all pipe corrals and replaces them with covered barns that have gutters and downspouts collecting rain run-off; installs an additional riparian buffer; and builds a 1,000-foot long bio-swale that runs the full length of the creek within the farm.
Malibu Valley Farms is a 31-acre thoroughbred breeding and training facility at the corner of Stokes Canyon Road and Mulholland Highway in unincorporated Los Angeles County. Malibu Valley Farms is located within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). This farm provides a staging place for those who wish to access the SMMNRA's riding trails. The Coastal Act promotes access, recreation and agriculture in addition to the protection of environmental resources and with the adoption of the state of the art management plan, Malibu Valley Farms is the model for the promotion of all of these things.
Voting in favor of the CDP were Commissioners: Khatchik Achadjian, Dr. William Burke, Steve Blank, Pat Kruer (chairman) Bonnie Neely (vice-chair) Dave Potter, and Dr. Dan Secord (alternate for Commissioner Steve Kram). Voting against the project were Commissioners: Steve Kinsey (alternate for Mike Reily), Suja Lowenthal (alternate for Larry Clark), Lorena Gonzalez (alternate for Ben Hueso), Mary Shallenberger and Sara Wan.
|Photos courtesy of Steve and Carol Ford