MALIBU — The California Coastal Commission has issued the second cease-and-desist order in its history, this time against a Malibu developer who commissioners said carved off the top of a mountain ridge and has balked at restoring it.
At a Wednesday session, the commission ruled that Hagrop Najarian and his wife cannot build on their five-acre site at 23244 Paloma Blanca Drive unless they return it to its original state.
The sanction represents an uncommon show of power for the commission, whose land-use restrictions are often flouted by developers.
Last year the panel issued a similar order to halt the sale of illegally subdivided parcels in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Commissioner Madelyn Glickfeld, a Malibu resident, said the panel was left with no other option in the Najarians' case.
"We went through three years of trying to work out something with him and it didn't work," she said. "Our staff recommended a cease-and-desist order and we agreed with them."
According to Coastal Commission staff, the Najarians illegally cut off part of a mountain ridge four years ago, graded two large building pads and cleared an acre of vegetation.
Subsequently, the Najarians filed two building permits with the agency, one for a 10,000-square-foot house with a four-car garage, a guest cottage and a swimming pool.
The commission rejected the requests, and on Wednesday let it be known that none would be granted unless the site, located between Las Flores and Carbon canyons, is restored.
Ralph Faust, chief counsel for the commission, said Thursday that any development plans submitted by the Najarians that include restoration of the land would most likely be approved.
He said the order against Najarian is the result of a month-old tactical change by commission staff. Instead of first reporting violators to the state attorney general to start the cease-and-desist process, the staff will now go directly to the commission to obtain the orders.
The hope, said Faust, is to force the commission to take a stand early and present a unified front. That in turn might persuade developers to "get off the dime" and take corrective action, he added.
Najarian said in an interview Thursday that the commission had never clearly told him what it wanted him to do with the property. He said he removed some brush from the land as a fire prevention measure and also cleared an existing roadway so a geological testing truck could get onto the site. But he insisted he never did any grading.
"I don't want to have problems," he said. "I'm not a problem maker."