County plans to build two large restaurants on the beach along Pacific Coast Highway to raise revenue for beach maintenance may have been derailed by the state Park and Recreation Commission.
The commission last Friday flatly rejected plans for a 7,500-square-foot restaurant at Topanga State Beach near Topanga Canyon Boulevard and gave conditional approval to another restaurant at Will Rogers State Beach.
But Larry Charness, chief of planning for the county's Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the approved restaurant may not be economically or geographically workable because the commission ordered it placed on a new site.
"We will not know if the project is feasible until we conduct engineering and cost studies," Charness said. "Certainly, there are more problems connected with the new site."
As originally conceived by the county, the restaurant at Will Rogers State Beach, consisting of 5,000 square feet of dining space and an additional 5,000 square feet of beach concessions, would have been on the beach at Temescal Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway.
Taking note of united opposition from Pacific Palisades and Malibu residents' organizations, the commission suggested that the restaurant be placed on a beach maintenance yard about 200 yards north of the intersection.
The commission recommendation was not well received by the opponents of restaurants on the beach.
"Obviously, we were happy to see the commission reject totally county plans for the restaurant at Topanga Canyon Boulevard and also the first location of the second restaurant," said Ronald Dean, president of the Pacific Palisades Residents Assn.
"But we are opposed to the alternative site for the second restaurant. Our position is that the beach is for public recreation--and we do not think eating is defined as recreation. People do not come to the beach to eat a chef's salad. They come to the beach to sun and swim."
Philip Leacock, president of the Temescal Canyon Assn., said there already are enough restaurants on the beach between Santa Monica and the northern end of Malibu. And, he said, no one has yet come up with a plan to solve longstanding traffic problems on Pacific Coast Highway.
"Traffic on the highway already is saturated," Leacock said. "New restaurants would only add to the traffic."
Charness said the county proposed the new restaurants, to be operated by private entrepreneurs, partly to reduce a yearly $8.3-million beach operations deficit. He estimated that the two restaurants would produce a combined rental revenue of $500,000 annually for the county. "And that is a conservative figure," he added. "It could be much more than that."
Increase in Usage
Charness contended that restaurants were compatible with other activities on the beach and would increase beach usage in off-season months.
"What we are trying to do is strike a balance at the beach to achieve some year-round use of beach facilities," Charness said. "Without the restaurants, a large segment of the public is shut out from year-round use of the beach."
He conceded that traffic could increase on Pacific Coast Highway, however. A recent state Department of Transportation study at the intersection of the highway and Temescal Canyon Road showed a peak hourly use on weekdays of 6,600 cars. Restaurant traffic would add about 93 to the total, Charness said.
"We do not think a 1.5% increase in traffic is significant," he said.