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Opponents Question End Result of Malibu Lagoon Project

A California State Parks official says the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project has been constructed over the past six months according to plan.

Opponents of the Malibu Lagoon project are questioning why two contractors were digging with shovels in the main body of the lagoon late last week. The concerns are among many they have raised about the project in December.

"I think they need to fess up to the fact that it’s not going the way they said it was going to go," said Andy Lyon, who captured two separate videos of the work, which he uploaded to YouTube.

Lyon, who is one of several people who oppose the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project, said that he was disturbed by the work and the presence of a woman weeding on one of the bird islands on Friday.

Craig Sap of California State Parks said the recent work is part of planned maintenance.

"They are pulling out sand bags—it’s not a redoing," Sap said. "When they’re out there and it rains, they saw the burlap and there are six sand bags," he said, pointing out that the work took place in the middle of the day.

The sandbags were originally used to hold a turbidity curtain in place that protected an earthen berm that separated the main body of the lagoon from the channels while bulldozing and other work took place during the project. The berm was removed in late October, releasing water into the channels.

Malibu Lagoon Drainage

Another berm separating the Malibu Lagoon from the Pacific Ocean opened in late November, flushing most of the water out of the lagoon.

Officials from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation and California State Parks have both said the project has been built as it was designed.

However, Lyon and others believe the lagoon is not draining properly, and that State Parks needs to apply for an emergency permit to breach the lagoon "in the right place."

"There was still an hour-and-a-half of the tide going out, and you could see no water moving in the creek. The sand is so built up in there," Lyon said.

'Mud Pit'

Others have criticized the design of the lagoon, calling it a "mud pit" because most of the plants are too small to see from a distance. 

According to State Parks, more than 80,000 native plants are in the process of being reintroduced to the Malibu Lagoon. Most are small cuttings that are being watered through a temporary sprinkler system, which has cost State Parks up to $10,000 over the past three months.

Sap said some maintenance was being done at the lagoon, including the removal of non-native plants that have sprouted up. He said there were estimates of a 10 to 15 percent mortality rate for the native plants.

"Non-native plants tend to grow faster and can crowd out native plants," he said.

Wendi Werner, who has raised concerns about water quality at the project, called it a "disaster."

"Those plants are dead," Werner said. "The sediment is going into the channels. You can see it. The channels aren't functioning. It's not done properly. You can clearly hear the contractors talking to Mark Abramson about it while we're standing on the other side of the fence."

She encouraged Malibu city leaders to tour the lagoon to see for themselves.

Lyon also expressed concern about the state of the plants.

"The water is worse than it was before," Lyon said. "These guys have destroyed the lagoon. There are no plants there. Everything has been ripped out."

Hamish Patterson, a former Malibu City Council candidate, said he is also concerned about the "mud pit," which he called a black eye on the community.

"We all agreed that something needed to be done. All we were asking for was that the plans go under further examination," Patterson said.

Regional Water Quality Control Board

Late last week, a representative from the Regional Water Quality Control Board visited the site, and pointed out a few concerns with the project, according to Sap.

"He found some sand bags in the wrong location," Sap said, adding that the sandbags were not the ones dug up in the main body of the lagoon.

He said they were being used to secure coverings over dirt piles during the recent rain storms and that they have been removed.

"I don’t think there is anything that we’re going to be cited for violations, but there are things that we can correct," Sap said.

State Parks Emails

At a recent Malibu City Council meeting, John Davis read aloud quotes from a series of emails he unearthed from a public records request that showed correspondence before the project got underway. (The emails are attached in PDF document to the right.)

"One represents a disingenuous outreach to Councilman [Skylar] Peak," Davis said.

In the email sent to former Heal the Bay President Mark Gold and former State Parks Director Ruth Coleman, Sap wrote, "When I spoke to Suzanne [Goode] earlier today about this, we both agreed that Skylar would probably ask to be accompanied by other opponents and thus make the meeting more likely. Our objective is to appear open, but knowing that he will not want to meet on our terms. In the end, we can say that we reached out to him."

The emails show that Gold responded that Peak would be leaving for a surfing trip in Indonesia shortly, and the meeting would have symbolism.

At the council meeting, Sap said there is more to the emails.

"You can take an email and you can paraphrase and you can take portions of it and in that particular case it is fully explainable. In that particular case, it was prior to the start of the Malibu Lagoon project and Skylar was the one who reached out to us," Sap said. He said there was a longer offline conversation that fills in the context.

Other Features

Construction on the observation deck, amphitheater and other features are near completion, according to State Parks.

The project is on schedule to wrap up by January.

R Y A N December 19, 2012 at 10:15 PM
A dedicated Right Trun lane from PCH onto Northbound Cross Creek Road will enhance throughput access of mutual-aid responders across the choke-width bridge during emergencies AND reduces rear-end collisions daily for existing conditions/existing development. This deficient turning movement into the established business district is an ongoing CALTRANS black-eye. It isn't about fostering further development; its about rotten traffic engineering inherited through multiple failed opportunities to correct it: developemenet/redevelopment of all 3 corners of this intersection over the last dozen years, the Cross Creek Redesign project, Green Machine PCH landscaped median delineation, La Paz development approval, proporsed Whole Foods shopping center, and Santa Monica College project. It's about reducing potential life-changing injuries and fatalities on PCH caused by increased pedestrian activity in the area, induced by State Parks "Disnefying" Malibu Lagoon, and this proposed Beach Esplanace linkage of recreational uses to retail/street parking on Cross Creek.
hellwood December 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM
let the developers deal with the private property owners and waste their own time and money acquiring the 12'. let them screw each other over back and forth for a solution. besides, the problem with traffic is adversely effected by these developments and businesses attracting tourists and shoppers from elsewhere rather than focusing on catering to the needs of the people that are already here.
R Y A N December 19, 2012 at 10:56 PM
The DATES & TIMES should not have been redacted from those inter-agency documents.
Hans Laetz December 20, 2012 at 07:18 PM
The only impetus to widen PCH at Cross Creek is to accommodate the 5 commercial developments at the Civic Center. There is no Caltrans or city plan to widen PCH there, for safety or capacity reasons. But there is an approved traffic plan (okayed by the city council) that includes private developers (La Paz) widening PCH to the south, and realigning the PCH lanes to squeeze in a right turn lane from westbound PCH to Cross Creek Road. This plan assumed (but has not proven) that the right turn lane will solve the westbound backup, and that CrossCreek can handle the traffic to Whole Foods, La Paz, the college, Sycamore offices, the Wave property, the new Urban Outfitters center PLUS existing traffic to the three shopping centers, the library etc. If course, no traffic studies have been conducted to prove capacity for that. But the city council in 2009 approved it. That, and a 6-lane Webb Way and dual left turn lanes with overhead directional signs at Webb/PCH.
Hans Laetz December 20, 2012 at 07:36 PM
And the five developers are sitting pretty knowing that they will not have to come up with a traffic plan of their own, but merely chip in to pay for the La Paz mitigation plan. Right now, La Paz is drafting plans for Caltrans to look at to squeeze in the turn lane - the growth-inducing shopping center access lane - at PCH at Cross Creek. Unless they widen the roadway, they cannot squeeze a sixth lane in at meet legal Caltrans specifications. The developers do not have eminent domain powers, so that's why they got the city council to OK widening to the south on 2009. The problem is, state parks owns the lagoon. There is no way the road can be widened without encroaching into the ESHA and buffer plants on both Caltrans and parks property on the south side of the road. State parks was not notified of the city's EIR that shifted Caltrans into their park to build a shopping center access lane. Plus, the "mall access lane" would also mean the removal of shoulders that are de facto bike lanes on the bridge. And to top it off, we would also loose some big trees and Surfrider free parking places west of Cross Creek, next to Perenchio's golf course. So, Ryan, you really want to see PCH widened there? As much as I love turn lanes, I don't.

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