Mowing Dangerous Weeds Or Decimating ESHA? City Says Old LCP Map Does Not Prohibit Fire Clearance

Written by on June 2, 2020

Controversy over the mowing of weeds on a vacant lot at the Civic Center.

A piece of land next to the condos on Civic Center Way … part of it was cleared of weeds by a tractor two weeks ago.

That happens every year … has been happening for decades.

This year … activists protested to the city …

They say that all … or part of the land is environmentally sensitive habitat area.

The said the number of birds in the area has decreased dramatically  … after what they called wetland was plowed.

They say that Malibu’s Mission Statement requirements the preservation of all vegetation on ESHA land. 

And they said the city’s official map of ESHA – environmentally sensitive habitat areas – shows the entire plot of land to be wetland.

The map is 18 years old and supposed to be updated every five years … to reflect actual conditions.

That hasn’t been … the old map apparently was drafted using aerial photos in 2002 …. according to city officials.

Planning commission chairman Jeff Jennings noted that the map as so inaccurate … that it marked his office parking lot as ESHA because there was a shade tree over it.

And the city’s planning director … Bonnie Blue … said at last night’s Planning Commission meeting … that the ESHA map is not necessarily controlling here.


“The updating of the ESHA maps really is not … does not effect whether … or how … a property is developed.

“It is a screening tool.

“It doesn’t … just because something is mapped ESHA …or not mapped ESHA … in the LCP maps does’t dictate what happens … or what the development standards … are for that property.

“It’s really a screening tool.”

Nevertheless ….

The planning director says the city halted the weed plowing operation … to determine if wetlands were plowed.

And if so … whether that was against the law. 

Owners of vacant land have plowed their land to prevent fires from spreading for decades.

But opponents say that just because it’s always been done that way … doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

And they say Malibu’s Mission Statement requires that all land that is marked ESHA be preserved.

And that cutting weeds with a tractor violates city ordinances.

Others … however … say removing invasive weeds from areas that have burned in recent wildfires … and could burn again … is a higher goal.


Malibu planning commissioners last night said they are getting worried about a backlog of important matters … waiting for the resumption of public meetings with the public at city hall.

Things like an ordinance regulating auxiliary dwelling units … or so-called granny flats.

The state legislature has already passed a law requiring cities like Malibu to allow homeowners to carve out Second dwelling units inside their houses.

And many homeowners are clamoring to build additional construction outside their houses … to rent out or have a kid or other relative reside inside.

The city has been grappling with an ADU ordinance for years … but the city council doesn’t want to act on an ordinance until it can hold public hearings with the public actually attending.

Same problem with the issue of overnight rentals … bed and breakfasts.

Some Malibu residents have been working for six years for a bed-and-breakfast ordinance.

And the city council is going on record in favor.

But the ordinance is still stuck at City Hall.

Also last night … the planning commission pushed off a requested lot split on Point Dume … on Larkspur Lane … until a future date.

The owner of a large lot wants to split it and build some big houses.

It’s become quite a controversy on the point.

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