Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tending the Garden

Saint Francis watches over the winter garden at the Malibu Post. All photos @ 2016 S. Guldimann

“Neither need you tell me,” said Candide, “that we must take care of our garden.” 

“You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it: and this proves that man was not born to be idle.” 

“Work then without disputing,” said Martin; “it is the only way to render life supportable.”

Voltaire, Candide 

While much of the country is gripped in the icy embrace of the polar vortex, the first rains of winter have already brought Malibu temporary relief from the blight of drought, and the first green flames of winter grass are kindling the barren earth. There is the tantalizing sense that Eden is somehow in reach here, no matter how long the exile from paradise. 

A buckeye butterfly rests on a strawflower in a Point Dume garden. 

All the bleak and dire news in the world can't diminish the hope that comes with the rain, and in our gardens we have a small but real opportunity for conservation and grassroots activism by providing safe earth-friendly habitat for wildlife, birds, butterflies, bees, and humans. 

Planting a butterfly garden now will ensure it is in bloom during peak butterfly season in the spring but will also help year-round pollinator species, including bees, make it through the winter.

Bees gather on a matillija poppy flower. Re-wilding gardens with native necter-producing flowers may be key to the survival of many species, including wild bees, honeybees, and the rapidly vanishing monarch butterfly, which depends entirely on milkweed for survival. The Malibu Monarch Project offers info on butterfly plants for the garden, so does the Xerces Society.

Many birds overwinter in Malibu. Providing a safe harbor with water and shelter for these seasonal residents is an easy and rewarding way to help conserve wildlife.

Supplying clean, safe water for birds is one of the most rewarding ways to help backyard birds. We have dozens of visitors to our birdbath, including this wrentit. Most birds prefer a wide, shallow basin. Here are some suggestions from the Cornell Bird Lab website. Some species are attracted to dripping water—easy to supply by poking a small hole in a bucket or even a plastic water bottle and suspending it over the bird bath. Here's some practical advice on how to do this from the San Francisco Gate.  

A large birdbath may attack bigger birds, like this mourning dove. We've had hawks stop by for a bath—water flies in all directions. A friend with a beach house regularly has sea gulls stop by to bathe. "We had to get a sturdier base," she told The Post. "They used to knock the old one over." All birds appreciate fresh, clean water. Regular draining and scrubbing can help prevent the spread of parasites or illness. Rocks or gravel can be used to raise the level of a deeper vessel, or to provide a "shallow end" for wildlife in a garden water feature. A "lizard ladder" is helpful for preventing accidental wildlife drownings. A piece of bamboo or just a fallen branch from a tree placed at an angle in the water is all that is needed.

Early winter is the best time to plant wildflower seeds, bare root trees, cool weather veggies like lettuce, as well as many native garden plants. It's also the safest time to trim trees—a window of opportunity that is relatively small, since owls, hawks, and ever squirrels begin nesting in late winter.

Winter is the safest time to trim trees in Malibu, but nesting season begins early here. I photographed this cozy tree-top nest and its gray squirrel architect last February.

Here at the Malibu Post we encounter at least ten species of raptors throughout the year, including 
white-tailed kites and on one memorable occasion a peregrine falcon. Red-tailed hawks like this one routinely nest in the neighborhood, so do red-shouldered hawks, American kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, and western screech owls.

Barn owls are happy to set up shop in outbuildings or even attics, and great horned owls are opportunists who recycle the old nests of other raptors or crows in any tree, even sometimes palm trees, but western screech owls depend on native oaks for shelter. Property owners with room for oaks in their gardens have the opportunity to create habitat for a wide range of species.

Property owners who have room to plant oaks can help encourage oak-dependent native species like this acorn woodpecker.

Gardeners who would like to grow oaks can try their luck sprouting acorns. Native live oaks are easy to start this way, but all types of native oaks, even valley oaks, are easy to start in pots, as are California black walnuts and bay laurel. Just don't leave them in their pots too long. All three species depend on a deep taproot and won't thrive if that root doesn't have room to grow.

It's also a good time to try rooting cuttings or growing root divisions from local native plants. At the Malibu Post we've successfully rooted cuttings of mugwort, black and purple sage, buckwheat, ceanothus, penstemon, golden current, and toyon berry, and failed dismally at white sage; sagebrush; and Mexican elder.

A black sage sprig ready for planting, with the bottom two rows of leaves carefully removed. Black sage is a great garden plant, with aromatic leaves and blue flowers that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. It's also an interesting substitute for garden sage in the kitchen—a bit mintier and more pungent than the ordinary market variety. 

The cutting is planted in ordinary potting mix and gets lots of water—it is important to make sure the soil never dries out.

Once the cutting has taken root it can be transplanted into the ground, where if all goes well, it will grow into a plant like this.

Hummingbird sage, with its pineapple-scented leaves and beautiful purple flowers, grows well from root cuttings. So do corm-based blue-eyed grass, California native irises, and even some of our native ferns, like polypody and bracken.

Plant some wildflower seeds in an unused corner of the garden right now, and you may have a living tapestry there in the spring. This mix included poppies and owl clover.

Coyote brush, California bush sunflower, and laurel sumac—three critically important coastal sage scrub plants—readily grow from seed. So do many of our most beautiful wildflowers, including poppies, lupin and clarkia. 

Many rare and hard to propagate native species can be found at the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley or at Bob Sussman's Matilija Nursery in Moorpark. It's worth a winter pilgrimage to both nurseries.

Not all native plants are hard to find. This Cleveland sage has become a garden favorite and is readily available. This plant came from Cosentino's Nursery here in Malibu. Local nurseries an often offer expert advice on the best plants for the area. In the rush to replace lawns with drought tolerant options many Malibu residents have inadvetantly turned their gardens into deserts. Grass is not ideal from a drought perspective but the right kind of grass and the right watering schedule can greatly reduce the amount of water a lawn requires. And unlike artificial grass or gravel, grass sequesters carbon, and if it isn't treated with pesticides provides habitat for a surprising number of invertebrates as well as the birds that feed on them. There's also been an alarming rush towards ripping out mature landscaping and replacing it was succulents, many of which are surprisingly toxic. You can read more here. Plants like pencil cactus, agave, and sego palm are popular because they are strikingly beautiful, but they can cause serious allergic reactions in humans and pets. A single sego palm seed can kill a large dog or a child.  

One of the most important contributions to the environment we can all make is eliminating toxic pesticides from our homes and gardens. Poison Free Malibu is working tirelessly to eliminate the deadliest wildlife-killing rodenticides—unfortunately found all over Malibu in bait boxes, but we can all help by excluding rodents, instead of poisoning them and making sure accidental food sources like garbage cans and pet food are cleaned up and secure. 

Eliminating herbicides like Roundup and toxic insecticides also helps every part of the local ecosystem, from soil organisms to bees and butterflies to humans and pets. Visit Poison Free Malibu's website for information and practical advice.

Birds depend on insects—especially caterpillars—as high-protein food for their young. If humans are willing to put up with a few creepy crawlers they can help hundreds of backyard species thrive.

The pocket gopher is probably the number one reason Malibu homeowners resort to outdoor use of rodenticides. And because this small rodent is the bottom of the food chain, poisoning this wee beastie causes secondary poisoning to every species that depends on rodents for prey, including owls, hawks, bobcats, raccoons, weasels, badgers, coyotes, mountain lions and domestic cats and dogs.

In a healthy ecosystem gophers are kept in check by all the species currently being poisoned by rodenticide overuse, like this benign gopher snake. 

Topanga recently became a National Wildlife Federation certified Wildlife Friendly Community. That's something Malibu could do, too. Leaving or creating  "wild" areas, and providing water and bird and butterfly friendly plants help create islands of habitat is even in the urban areas.

At the Malibu Post we have resident rabbits like this one, which lives in a brushy corner of the backyard, in addition to gray squirrels, dusky-footed wood rats, gophers, voles, and field mice. Wild visitors include a veracious gopher-eating short-tailed weasel, a family of bobcats, the entire east Point Dume coyote clan, and assorted raccoons, skunks, gray foxes and possums. We love all of our creatures, even the skunks, but realize that not everyone enjoys having backyard wildlife. Secure fencing that extends a couple of feet under ground is the best way to discourage visitors. Most species can fit through astonishingly small gaps in or under fencing. It's a good idea to check the fence line regularly, and make sure trees, bushes, or vines aren't creating a wildlife highway. One place no one wants wildlife is in the house. Sealing openings like the gaps around pipes and making sure all vents are screened with hardware cloth can help. 

Building or buying a bird box is a great way to help native birds We got this blue bird box last Christmas and were rewarded with not one but two successful batches of bluebirds during spring and summer. Location is extremely important for a bird box success story. This one was placed about six feet up the trunk of a liquidamber tree that offered the parent birds shelter and secure perching and vantage points as well as afternoon shade to keep the nestlings from overheating. If you're sure you live in a location where rodenticides aren't being used a raptor box can be a great addition to the garden.

Learning to live with wildlife, even the species we aren't always comfortable with, like coyotes, is a huge piece of the local environmental equation. Coyotes primarily prey on rodents like ground squirrels, gophers and wood rats and help control them. Learn more about coyote proof fencing and other coexistence techniques at coyoteproject.org. The Mountain Lion Foundation offers advice on dealing with Malibu's biggest urban predator.

You don't need a garden to tend to nature. All of the non- profits mentioned here depend on contributions. At Poison Free Malibu those donations help pay for ordinary but essential needs like printing and mailing. At Project Coyote  they help fund co-existance workshops and education outreach. Donations to the National Wildlife Federation can be earmarked to help save Malibu's mountain lions and build the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass.

All Malibu residents are stewards of our natural resources, and we are blessed to have a national park as our backyard and the ocean at our door. Every canyon, every creek, every road leads to the sea. Malibu has a tradition of valuing those resources and our newly installed city council has vowed to protect them, but it's up to all of us to work together towards that goal.

Malibu residents often have the mountains or the ocean as their backyard. It's an extra responsibility for all of us but also one the great joys of living here. This remarkable group of sea birds includes two California brown pelicans, an adult Western gull, a juvenile Western gull and two ring-billed gulled, and they aren't out in the middle of some lonely stretch of unspoiled seashore. Instead, they're right here:

The fact that we still do have so much wildlife is a testament to our passionate conservation activists, who will continue to fight for the environment no matter what the odds.

There is still time to plant the seeds of tomorrow. For now, let's just enjoy the coming of the rain and the season of peace and joy and hope.

In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Great Bell Chant, a Buddhist Prayer for the End of Suffering

The third annual Malibu Post calendar is now available for 2017. The calendars are 8.5 x 11 and feature 12 of our favorite Malibu Post photos from 2016 printed on heavy photo stock and spiral bound, for $14.95 plus sales tax. We will gladly accept cash or checks. Shipping is $4Free delivery to your door in the 90265 area code. Orders can be placed using the contact form in the right column.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Moment for Reflection

Even in an ordinary year it's easy to get bogged down in exhausting negativity of election season. This year, according to the Washington Post, 52 percent of U.S. adults find the presidential election "a very or significant source of stress." Considering the circumstances, the only surprise is that the number isn't higher. In addition, Californians face a monstrous ballot with 17 initiatives, and Malibu residents get an extra dose of stress from a local city council election that has turned brutal in its final days. Here at The Malibu Post we had as much as we could take on all fronts, so we slipped away for an hour to an island of tranquility in a hectic world. 

Not that it is exactly always sane. A famous musician doing an interview adds an element of the surreal, but I've also encountered wedding parties, movie crews, nudists, picnicking Goth girls, scuba divers, rock climbers, helicopters rescuing rock climbers, and once even a giraffe (it was there for a European TV commercial shoot, and not a hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation or sunstroke).

Even with all the human activity there is still space for wild things at Point Dume Nature Reserve. Right now, the giant coreopsis is just beginning to sprout. Thanks to the first rain of the season, emerald green emerging from seemingly dead stalks overnight. Within a month or so the first golden flowers will appear. It reminds me of the magician's trick involving sticks bursting into bloom with silk flowers.  

The coyote brush is already in bloom. Its thistledown flowers seem to glow with their own light as they the catch the late sun.

The sandy path reveals the passage of many feet, but I meet no one.

Sea lions laze in the sun o
n the rocks below the trail.

Their contentment is contagious.

From here, the path winds around the edge of the Point.

Past Pirate's Cove...

Where dolphins swim in water as blue as Kashmir sapphires...

And up to the top of the southernmost point in Malibu, where 
the Chumash people once watched the sea and the Pacific Ocean stretches all the way to Antartica.

Beachgoers gather on the shore as the sun begins to set.

The wind makes patterns on the sand.

A surfer catches a wave.

And the sun sets. The world didn't end today. It probably won't end November 8, no matter what the outcome of the elections. And here in Malibu it will still be another day in paradise. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Walk in the Park

Bluffs Park Open Space is currently at the center of the 2016 Malibu City Council election debate, but not for the reasons one might think. All Photos © 2016 S. Guldimann

October in Malibu Bluffs Open Space Park offers vistas of dusty golden fields and wind-swept blue sea and sky. The meadowlarks arrived this week, from wherever they spend their summers. Cold air collects at the bottom of the ravines over night and lingers into the morning hours, offering early walkers a taste of winter and the concentrated fragrance of laurel sumac, sagebrush, and skunk musk—a sort of distillation of autumn in Malibu.

The open space is a small park—just 83 acres. One rarely encounters more than a few other visitors. You might meet a wedding party taking photos, or neighbors walking their dogs. If you are there early enough or late enough you might see a family of coyotes hunting mice in the meadow, or the shy elusive bobcat that lives in the canyon. There are almost always raptors in the dead eucalyptus trees by the highway, and in a wet year the park is full of flowers, some of them common, some rare. So how did this small, quiet place end up being at the center of a maelstrom of campaign accusations during the 2016 city council race? Let's take a look.

A field of Catalina mariposas dance in the wind at Malibu Bluffs Park Open Space. This flower, which can lie dormant for years until conditions are right and then burst into bloom resembling the butterfly it is named for, is a California species of special concern.

Although Malibu Bluffs Park is a small area, it was a top priority on the Coastal Commission's first acquisitions list in 1976, together with the Point Dume Headlands. Nearly 100 acres on the bluff were purchased by the state in 1979 with the first bond money available for coastal conservation.

The city was able to buy 10 of those acres from the state as a permanent home for our community's ball fields, after the local Little League was forced to move out of Malibu Lagoon. Through a complex deal that money was used to purchase King Gillette Ranch in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, the ball fields got to stay on the bluff, Malibu was able to build the Michael Landon Community Center, and the remaining 83 acres of open space were transferred from State Parks to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to manage, which it did by mostly leaving the property alone, until the plan for placing campsites on the site emerged, kicking off a massive battle.

The California Coastal Commission was extremely reluctant to allow the existing ballfields to be placed in their current location, it seems unlikely that they are going to let them be doubled and placed here, no matter what they city wants:

 In the aftermath of that battle, and with a different city council at the helm in Malibu, the City of Malibu traded its 590-acre Charmlee Wilderness Park to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for Bluffs Open Space. The swap is still not complete. Both parties agreed to a five-year exchange to determine if the properties could be developed in the way desired.

For Charmlee, that means overnight camping facilities to accomodate hikers traveling the Coastal Slope Trail and also campsites for disabled parkgoers.

At Malibu Bluff Parks Open Space, the City of Malibu is seeking four baseball fields, an aquatic center, a skatepark, a dog park, an amphitheater, basketball courts, a tot lot, lawn areas, a community/visitor center and all of the necessary infrastructure to make that a reality, including ancillary structures like pool pumps, restrooms, batting cages, storage sheds, parking areas, driveways and at least one new entrance from Pacific Coast Highway.

This is the city's proposed plan for Bluffs Park Open Space. The orange dotted line indicates the ESHA—Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area—boundary. Almost all of the proposed development goes right up to that line. If the Coastal Commission required the project to meet the ESHA buffer requirement mandated by the City of Malibu's Local Coastal Program, some of the facilities planned will have to be scaled back. Here's a link to the city's ESHA designations. And here's what the city's laws say about ESHA buffer for coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitat: "New development shall provide a buffer of sufficient width to ensure that no required fuel modification area will extend into the ESHA and that no structures will be within 100 feet of the outer edge of the plants that comprise the [ESHA] plant community." 

Here's the same map with red used to mark a rough approximation of the areas the city would be limited to build in if they are required to meet the 100 feet of ESHA buffer requirement. Both entrances to the 83-acre park are either fully in ESHA or in the buffer zone. So is most of the central parking lot and the entire skatepark. 
A master plan has been developed that reconfigures the city's existing 10-acre Bluffs Park and incorporates a nearly two-acre parcel that will be donated by the developer of the adjacent five-house subdivision, as well as mapping out the amenities the city is seeking to construct in the open space portion of the park. 

The riparian habitat on the edge of the current Bluffs Park parking lot is problematic. It would become the driveway for the central mesa's athletic complex in the city's plan, but is 100 percent ESHA, which means it can't be developed under the city's own Local Coastal Program. It seems unlikely that the Parks and Recreation Commission is going to get everything on its wish list without a struggle. Even if the Coastal Commission approves the plan as is, the Sierra Club has already gone on record opposing the city's plan. Their argument is that the park was purchased by the people of the state of California with bond money earmarked expressly for open space and that a municipal recreation complex does not meet that definition. Appeals and lawsuits appear inevitable.

The plan includes relocating and replacing the Michael Landon Center with a new, larger visitor/community center, moving the two existing baseball diamonds to the central section of the open space park and adding  a Pony League field and a softball field, and rearranging the current field area to accommodate three soccer or mixed use fields.

You can see that the city's plan follows the outlines of the Conservancy's camping proposal areas fairly closely, but with one major difference. Campsites don't require the same ESHA and fire setbacks that other types of development do. Further complicating the issue are those little blue, yellow and green squares, which represent the location of special concern species that require extra protections. The blue dots represent the mariposa lilies that are a special concern species and the tot lot and lawn area proposed by the city are practically on top of them. The tot lot is also on top of a Chumash cultural resource. Somebody didn't bother to look at the records before plunking down amenities. 

The problem with this plan is that when the Conservancy wanted to place campsites at Bluffs Park, the city went through great lengths to argue that the whole park was Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, where nothing can be built. The city attorney has stated that the park is ESHA on the record to the Coastal Commission and the city's official overlay map showing ESHA supports that.

This is the official ESHA overlay map for the section of Malibu from Corral Canyon to the Malibu Pier. Bluffs Park is the green blob under the word "Coast." The only parts that aren't mapped as ESHA are the current ballfields and the portion of the western mesa where the aquatic facility is proposed. 

Update: A reader pointed out that a much stricter 200-foot ESHA buffer is required for mapped ESHA, according to section 4.4.2 of the city's Local Implementation Zone

Now that the city wants to build amenities on the park the argument is that there isn't that much ESHA after all. However, ESHA isn't the only concern. Bluffs Park Open Space has plenty of interesting geologic features, including numerous landslide areas and a large section of the Malibu Coast Fault. 

That big black line is the Malibu Coast Fault. It's the reason GE, which owned the property in the 1960s, was never able to build a facility on the site, and why plans for an Alcoa tract development were scraped. The orange lines are landslides. The arrows show the direction of the slides. The notation Tm refers to the Monterey Formation that is poking up through the alluvial soil. The mark that looks like an upside-down teeter-totter in the middle of the circle around the Monterey Formation indicates the direction and angle of the upright bedding—80 degrees in this location. The presence of Tv—Conejo Volcanics, and Tr—Trancas Formation (mostly marine shales) intruding through the alluvial soils hints at a turbulent past caused by ancient floods and deformation from the earthquake fault. This image is from the SMMC's Environmental Impact Report for the site and shows the proposed campsites. The city has not yet completed its EIR.

Here are a couple of photos of the bluff-side landslide areas for a visual reference. No arrows or dotted lines needed.

Now let's take a look at this quote from a letter to the editor that ran in a recent issue of the Malibu Times:

"...If the slate is elected, they will constitute a majority vote of council and, as promised, will kill any community-supported plans for Bluffs Park for the next four years. By then, the swap with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will have expired and the conservancy will once again have ownership and control of Bluffs Park.

Most residents are unaware that in 2010, the Coastal Commission approved the conservancy’s plans to add 35 campsites to Bluffs Park. Therefore, by “stopping the swap” the “Band of Three,” commonly referred to as the slate, will have succeeded in eliminating much-needed sports fields and other recreational amenities for all Malibu and, instead, provided us with a regional campground in the heart of our beloved town. What a horrible thought."

The slate refers to City Council candidates Skylar Peak, Rick Mullen and Jefferson Wagner.  The author of this letter appears to be unaware that the Coastal Commission, not the city council, will have the final say on what can built at Bluffs Park. He also appears unaware that the city, not the Conservancy, has the final say on whether the park can be used for campsites. 

Perhaps he is also unaware that Rick Mullen played a major role in the incredibly difficult legal battle to ensure that the city retained the right to make that determination. You can read about it in Rick's own words here

Bluffs Park has become an increasingly popular destination for wedding parties. This couple and their photographer probably didn't pick this park for its recreational facilities.

The letter quoted above is just one of several spurious attacks on these three candidates over Bluffs Park. None of these letters mention the property's constraints, or that even if the ballfields and the skatepark are off the table because of the environmental constraints, the city council could still decide that the prospect of athletic facilities on the western mesas is worth pursuing. It's even possible that the city might keep the park as a—what a novel concept—open space, and seek a flatter, less controversial, less geologically active and less environmentally sensitive area to build the other athletic facilities.

You know what would happen if the swap were to fall apart? And no, the answer isn't "the end of the world" the way the letter writer and his friends seem to think. Instead, Malibu would take back Charmlee Wilderness Park, one of the most beautiful places in the Santa Monica Mountains, with 590 acres of ancient oak groves, spectacular ocean views, dramatic rock formations, and miles of trails. I can think of worse things. If the swap is made permanent, the Conservancy has plans to use Charmlee for a campground, but deed restrictions that run with the land ensure that the areas not used for camping will remain wilderness.

There is nothing wrong with recreational facilities. Every community needs places were residents of all ages can participate in activities like organized sports and art and enrichment classes, but the location for those amenities needs to be appropriate. It's great the city has taken the time to collect community input on Bluffs, and that they are currently going through the same process at our newly acquired Trancas Fields Park, but the land and the resources on it must ultimately dictate the use. At Bluffs, one could argue that we appear to have created a wish list full of wonderful things but forgot to start with the physical constraints of the site. It's like buying a fantastic piece of furniture at an estate sale and only realizing that it doesn't fit through the front door when you get it home. That's why an environmental impact report and the Coastal Commission approval process is so important. And it is also why electing the right city council to represent us is critical. 

There are currently two baseball fields and a multi-use/soccer field at Malibu Bluffs Park. The desire for more recreational facilities goes all the way back to the 1960s, when Malibu (it wasn't a city yet) was promised Little League fields next to the proposed nuclear power plant in Corral Canyon, and a swimming pool heated with the sea water that would be pumped in to cool the reactor, too (what could possibly have gone wrong?). 

The author of the letter is correct when he states that the "Band of Three" would ensure a council majority. From the perspective of conservationists and keepers of Malibu's history, this would be a good thing, because Peak, Mullen, and Wagner have not only vowed to uphold the Mission Statement, they all have a documented history of actually doing so that has been chronicled in the local media.

This beautiful vista includes many of the elements that make turning Bluffs Parks into a recreation center a problem: landslides, erosion, the protected mariposa lilies, precarious cliffs, and the earthquake fault. It also reveals another major problem. That green field in the left corner is the western mesa. It's completely isolated from the rest of the park by Marie Canyon. To build the proposed aquatic center there would require a new entrance off of Pacific Coast Highway at John Tyler Way. An entrance located right on the edge of ESHA, within the 100-foot ESHA buffer. There was a time when the Valley of Yosemite National Park had tennis courts and other recreational facilities. The culture has changed as the park service has realized the focus needs to be on nature. Perhaps its time Malibu grows up, too.

Regardless of who is elected in November, the Malibu City Council, not the Conservancy, has the final say on camping at Malibu Bluffs Park. Even if the swap doesn't come to pass and the city reclaims Charmlee and hands Bluffs back to the Conservancy, any camping facilities that the SMMC proposes for Bluffs Park would have to be approved by the city. 

In both scenarios, the California Coastal Commission has a key role in determining what can be built, and because the proposed development falls under the designation of "public works project" it can be appealed to the Coastal Commission if residents or environmental organizations have concerns that they feel were not adequately addressed by the city. 

We've talked a lot about the Malibu Mission Statement this election cycle, but this is exactly the kind of situation that document is intended to address. Does the proposed development meet the goals of the Mission Statement? If it doesn't, can it be rethought, redesigned, scaled back? For too long, the city has relied on variances to make things fit, and it has fallen to residents and environmental organizations to appeal these patched together projects to the Coastal Commission. 

City officials discuss their plans for the park shortly after the swap was announced. They are standing in the middle of California perennial grassland habitat, on top of the hill created by the earthquake fault out of stone from the Monterey Formation. This group was comprised entirely of well-meaning city officials with an enthusiasm for sports. No one thought to include scientists in the discussion. Taking the environmental and geologic constraints of the park more seriously might have helped prevent headaches with the Coastal Commission and the environmental community later. 

Camping may not belong on Bluffs Park, but it's time we stopped thinking of it as "horrible." It's especially discouraging when appointed officials cling to this mindset. A city-owned campground would be a good way to ensure low cost visitor serving amenities are available in Malibu on our terms, with no fires and a year-round live in camp host to keep an eye on things. In other coastal communities this has been a successful way to meet the needs of visitors and even raise revenue. Maybe we aren't there yet, but it would be nice if this was a conversation we could eventually have. 

The statement about "eliminating much-needed sports fields and other recreational amenities for all Malibu and, instead, provided us with a regional campground in the heart of our beloved town" isn't based in fact. It's just election scare mongering. That's why its so important to listen to what the candidates say, and more importantly what they have actually done, not what's said about them.

Here's a reminder of what makes Bluffs Park such an incredibly special place for residents and visitors, and why the City of Malibu's Mission Statement proclaims Malibu 
"a unique land and marine environment and residential community whose citizens have historically evidenced a commitment to sacrifice urban and suburban conveniences in order to protect that environment and lifestyle, and to preserve unaltered natural resources and rural characteristics."