MRCA Plans Staircase To Pocket Beach Near PCH/Encinal Canyon, But No Parking Lot, No City Permit, And No CEQA Study

Written by on July 29, 2022

The MRCA has plans to open another pocket beach west of Broad Beach to the public.  And this may set up yet another legal battle with Malibu. 

At issue …  El Sol Beach … which the Mountains Resource Conservation Authority describes as one of the last so-called private coves in Malibu.

El Sol Beach is just west of Encinal Canyon Road.  You may know its curving driveway that presents a view of the ocean from PCH … a break in the row of mega mansions with hedges that block the ocean view in western Malibu.  It’s near the big blue whale address sign.

It’s owned by a private company called “180 PCH LLC” … which public records indicate is owned by Malibu real estate developer Richard Weintraub.  Weintraub has in years past run into opposition at the Planning Commission in applications to build a house at this site.

Weintraub’s company has offered the MRCA what the agency calls “a generous offer”  … free vertical public access from PCH to the beach.  Plus, they offer to build a walkway down the cliff …. to the publicly owned beach.  It will also install an auto-locked gate for daylight pedestrian entry at Pacific Coast Highway … 

MRCA would put in beach access signs … garbage cans … portable toilets and a hand-washing station.  But no parking lot … cars would have to be parked along the 55 mph-traffic, in what has become a de facto bike lane.

The beach would not be staffed … the MRCA promises only “daily MRCA stewardship.”  Translation: drive-by MRCA ranger visits.

There is no quid pro quo in the MRCA deal … it’s unclear what Weintraub would get out of the deal.  Other than a possible tax deduction.

The MRCA staff report does not mention anything about getting Coastal Development Permits from the City of Malibu.  And it makes a highly-doubtful legal claim … that building a public beach accessed from a busy highway does not require any CEQA environmental report. 

CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act .. which plainly requires at least a formal Initial Study to determine if the project will require a more-extensive environmental study to determine the impact of each and every project built by the government.  If there is a suggestion of such a negative impact on traffic, public safety, marine life or land use, the alternatives must be presented – including a “no build” alternative.

There is no requirement that the lead agency choose the least-damaging alternative.  But the city could argue that the process was not folllowed.

It appears that MRCA has failed to file an Initial Study that meets CEQA requirements, which is a requirement of state law.

In a report issued last week… MRCA claims that building the stairway … placing portapotties … and adding pedestrian crossings to a 55 mile an hour section of state highway is not a project.   Says the MRCA … it is exempt from CEQA “because it is a minor temporary use of land with no negligible or permanent effects on the environment.”

The MRCA staff also claims temporary items like portable restrooms, signage and trashcans do not require CEQA studies.  And the MRCA staff says “the proposed project does not result in a serious disturbance to an environmental resource.”

Again, no required substantiation for that conclusion is provided.   The MRCA is apparently claiming that the overuse … garbage … theft of tidepool creatures and other impacts of overuse of several other pocket beaches in the area will not happen at the new public access point.

Just last month, the city apparently stopped MRCA crews as they were in the midst of laying a cement stairway on a beach accessway at Escondido Beach.   Neighbors complained about a lack of a city Coastal Development Permit, although neither the city nor the MRCA have commented on it.

MRCA wants to open the beach this summer.  The MRCA board meeting will discuss the matter at its Zoom board meeting at 10 Wednesday morning.

MRCA has an apparent policy of not responding to inquiries from KBUU.

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