Santa Monica Mountains - Cease and Desist Orders


September 1, 2018

In 2004, the Coastal Commission staff discovered unpermitted development in the Santa Monica Mountains which was the subject of the consent cease and desist and restoration orders. The property where this occurred is part of a unique ecosystem that comprises the largest and most pristine example of Mediterranean habitat remaining in coastal Southern California, and is adjacent to over 2,700 acres of wilderness, including public parkland, and Dark Canyon Creek, a U.S.G.S. designated “blue line stream” that is part of the Malibu Creek watershed. The unpermitted development has likely impacted species – including mountain lions, mule deer, foxes, bobcats, badgers, lizards, snakes, and many species of raptors and owls – that rely on this habitat by further fragmentation habitat linkages.

The unpermitted development in the Santa Monica Mountains in question consisted of:

  • Construction of a sand-filled horseback riding ring and horse-related structures
  • Horseback riding trails, a tack shed, tractor overhang, hay shed, and fences;
  • Removal of major vegetation;
  • The destruction of 2.25 acres of an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area.

The property owners have worked with Coastal Commission staff to resolve the violations. Under this proposed agreement, they have agreed to:

  • Remove items of Unpermitted Development and restore areas impacted by these activities;
  • Address temporal losses of habitat and to address civil liabilities associated with the Unpermitted Development;
  • Remove approximately 62 large, fire-prone, invasive pepper trees plus 13 other invasive trees and replace them with approximately 75 new, native trees, such as oaks;
  • Restore additional areas on the properties;
  • Transfer nearly all of two undeveloped parcels, representing roughly 22 acres of land, and worth approximately $1 million, to MRCA, a significant benefit to coastal resources, the public, and MRCA.

The Coastal Commission unanimously approved the orders.

Why You Should Care

The unpermitted development has the potential to impact the Malibu Creek watershed, as well as the numerous species that inhabit the creeks and waterways, including the threatened species. As noted in the staff report, this property and “surrounding wildlands offer large, nearly pristine, un-fragmented areas of native habitat that support a wealth of native animals, including...mountain lions, bobcats, gray foxes, coyotes... the [threatened] Pacific Pond Turtle,... raptors, and owls.”


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Mark Vargas motioned to approve the cease and desist and restoration orders. The motion passed unanimously.

Organizations Opposed

Decision Type

Cease and Desist and Restoration Orders

Staff Recommendation

Issuance of Cease and Desist and Restoration Orders

Coastal Act Policy