Sierra Club Victorious in Appeal to Stop Development Next to Malibu’s Sweetwater Mesa

Area Known for Endangered California Habitat, Wildlife, and Popular Hiking Trails

Los Angeles — The Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club prevailed in legal action to stop residential development on a parcel adjacent to Sweetwater Mesa in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, one of the country’s largest urban parklands.  The development would have destroyed a 3,000 foot ridgeline above the Malibu Lagoon and disrupted the environmentally-sensitive habitat in the undeveloped Sweetwater Mesa area.  Poetically, the ruling came down on Wednesday, March 20 — the first day of spring.

The ruling by the Second Appellate District of the Court of Appeal of the State of California reversed an earlier judgment by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and nullified development permits issued by the California Coastal Commission. The Court of Appeal found the Coastal Commission had no jurisdiction to issue permits because the area, part of the Malibu Coastal Zone, is covered under the Los Angeles Local Coastal Plan.

“This ruling puts an end to destructive development in a sensitive natural area, and is good news for the preservation of endangered California habitat, for the wildlife that lives there, and for the countless people who the Santa Monica Mountains to get outdoors,” said Eric Edmonds, chair of the Sierra Club Santa Monica Mountains Task Force. “Outdoor recreation accessible to a dense urban area like Los Angeles is priceless, and the interests of the people and the environment should not be sacrificed for a few luxury houses.”

Sierra Club activists worked over the last ten years to protect Sweetwater Mesa, testifying at numerous Coastal Commission hearings. The Commission denied the project in 2011, but reversed its decision after it was sued by real estate developers. The Sierra Club lawsuit argued that the Coastal Commission violated both state and local laws in approving the project.    

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter and its Santa Monica Mountains Task Force (SMMTF) was represented by Dean Wallraff from the firm Advocates for the Environment in both the original lawsuit and this successful appeal.

“The Sierra Club worked hard to stop this ill-conceived development,” said Wallraff, a past member of the Sierra Club’s national board of directors. “The Sierra Club organized grassroots opposition, got folks out on the streets and into the chambers of government, and we ended up in the courtroom — and we won a victory to preserve this beautiful land for future generations.”

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