City of Malibu v. California Coastal Commission
No. BS 121650, BS 12180 (2nd App. Dist.)
May 10, 2012
A state Conservancy sought approval from the city of Malibu for an amendment to the Local Coastal Program (LCP) that concerned trail access and camping issues on four non-contiguous properties. Instead of that, the city approved its own proposed amendments, which the California Coastal Commission (CCC) certified.
Unhappy with the results, the Conservancy asked the CCC to “override” Malibu with the Conservancy’s own amendments. The CCC agreed it had authority under the California Coastal Act (CCA) to override the city based upon CCA section 30515. Normally, the CCC only states whether a local agency’s LCP does or does not conform with the CCA and certifies it if it does. The Legislature made clear that local agencies should primarily address local land use concerns. Section 30515 of the CCA provides a limited opportunity for “Any person authorized to undertake a public works project or proposing an energy facility development” to ask a local agency to amend the LCP or seek an override by the CCC if unsuccessful at the local level. The Conservancy successfully argued that it merely had to be “any person authorized to undertake a public works project” while admitting it was not proposing an actual public works project. The CCC then approved and certified the Conservancy’s amendment.
Malibu sought a Petition for Writ of Mandate in Superior Court, claiming the CCC lacked authority to override the city because the Conservancy had only proposed a plan, not a project. The trial court agreed and ruled against the CCC.
On appeal by the Conservancy, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court decision regarding CCC’s lack of authority to override the city. The Court held the language in section 30515, when read as a whole, necessarily required an actual project to be proposed and rejected by a local agency before the override provision applied. The balance of the section also requires the project meet the public needs of an area greater than that encompassed in the LCP that was not anticipated at the time the LCP was certified. This case restricts the CCC assertion of authority in certain circumstances and restores some balance of local land use planning to local agencies.
Prepared by John Reaves