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Building Projects Along the Coast

June 17, 1988

The City of Los Angeles, which is throttling down on its own growth due to inadequate sewer lines and treatment plants, acted on May 10 to impose similar controls on surrounding cities. These slow-growth measures will drastically and wisely reduce the amount of development allowed in Los Angeles and surrounding cities and head off a great surge of sewage flowing into the already swamped city and county sewer lines and sewage treatment plants.

In view of this much-needed rationing of new construction in our area, it is difficult to understand how the City of Rancho Palos Verdes can proceed with its mushrooming plans for development of the bluffs along the Rancho Palos Verdes coastline. Here is a partial list of projects under way:

-- The Monaghan development at Marineland (now Long Point) is nearing completion of the demolition work, and executives have shown tentative plans to the City Council for a vast hotel complex and surrounding "casita" units. The original Monaghan plans stressed a modest 500-room hotel. Guess how many units we now have proposed for the site? You guessed it . . . 1,070 units . . . an increase of more than 100%.

-- Developer Barry Hon is pushing very hard to get approval for a 450-room Ritz-Carlton resort hotel, a 27-hole golf course and an additional 130 housing units all on nearly 500 acres of prime bluff-top coastline near the San Pedro boundary.

-- Just south of Monaghan's Long Point, another new project . . . the Sea Bluffs . . . is nearing final construction of 60 large, spacious home sites, some of which are already occupied.

-- Just below the Sea Bluffs development, a smaller project, the Sea Cove, is also in construction of 10 home sites along the bluff top. These units are not cottages, running from 5,700 to 7,700 square feet of opulent living space.

-- A fifth coastline project, Lunada Point, near the Palos Verdes Estates boundary, is also well under construction and will provide "21 magnificent ocean-view home sites."

Clearly no one expects that the City Council will keep the coastline clear of development. Projects and home sites will be built there. But we are now looking at 1,741 units, either proposed or under construction, going in on pristine coastline from Palos Verdes Estates to San Pedro. By the time that the proposals are finalized, they will probably grow exponentially (as did the Monaghan proposal) to double or triple this number.

These coastal bluffs are famous the world over for their fantastic overlook of sea and sky and sea birds and whales and dolphins. For many years peninsula people and Los Angeles visitors reveled in these bluffs and beaches and rocky shorelines. Bird watchers and whale watchers strolled along the bluff-top trails, joggers jogged there, radio-controlled mini-sailplanes and their controllers gathered there and surfers, swimmers, picnickers and nature lovers wandered there. In some (very restricted) areas, it is still possible to do this.

But now the Barry Hon developers in preliminary plans make no provision whatsoever for public access to coastal bluffs and trails. The design shows a 27-hole golf course blanketing these southerly bluffs that will rule out any possibility of nature lovers or trail walkers strolling along the bluff top. Out of fear that walkers may get hit by flying golf balls, Hon has routed a hiking trail down along the shoreline below the bluffs. This is clearly unsuitable and almost unusable by most visitors.

Monaghan at the Marineland site does seem to have included some space for public access and trails into his hotel site. A key question is whether public access is restricted to hotel residents only, or is it open to all visitors coming in off the street?

The concept of running a 27-hole golf course along the coastline is so bizarre and wasteful that it does not even merit consideration. I like tennis myself, but to install 100 tennis courts on some of the most beautiful and commanding coastal bluffs in the United States would be a sacrilege. A golf course, available only to golfers, is equally unsuitable. Surely a good portion of those bluff tops must be left open for public access.

Finally, how on earth will the very limited roads on the Peninsula ever handle an additional 1,741 dwellings, with concomitant families, autos, shopping and school needs . . . not to mention the already overloaded sewer lines and treatment plants? The waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula are now heavily contaminated with toxic waste and sewage. The 1,741 additional "magnificent home and hotel sites" will be a heavy additional load for the environment. Further, a 27-hole championship golf course, with the regular and ritualized use of pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides and other chemicals is the very last thing in the world we should be installing along our polluted coastline.

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