A month after an angry stampede by horse owners and stable users, a compromise is shaping up to control commercial land use in a rural Santa Monica Mountains area south of Agoura Hills.
To move forward with the compromise, the county Regional Planning Commission agreed Wednesday to drop the original zoning proposal, which would have added tighter restrictions on the presence of horses.
The commission's action was spurred by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. His original "light resort and recreation" zone was first proposed in 1998 after neighbors complained about a Triunfo Canyon home known as Fantasy Island, a frequent party palace rented out for noisy weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Yaroslavsky said that proposal was "hijacked" by the county Regional Planning Commission, which he said added tighter restrictions on keeping horses.
"It went far beyond anything contemplated by [the Board of Supervisors], and it became perceived as an assault on horse owners in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is the last thing we wanted to do," Yaroslavsky said.
Instead of a new zone--which would have paired recreational uses with environmental protection by adding conditional use permits for inns, campgrounds, riding academies and stables--Yaroslavsky wants new guidelines for the Triunfo Canyon and Mulholland Highway area west of Malibu Lake.
These guidelines, in the form of a community standards district, would require public hearings for commercial uses, but would not affect residential or commercial properties with horses, said Laura Shell, Yaroslavsky's planning deputy.
Current businesses, Shell said, would be protected for 20 years under a grandfather clause.
But Ruth Gerson, president of the Recreation and Equestrian Coalition, said many advocates are still wary of the county's actions.
"I do think he was sensitive to the community's concerns," Gerson said of Yaroslavsky's new concept. "However, this is really just the beginning to work things out."
Gerson, who keeps horses at her Agoura home, said she opposes any grandfather clause for businesses. Once a stable or riding academy closes, a new facility won't be able to replace it, she said.
Before the new community district proposal is drafted, Shell said a community meeting will probably be held in July. The draft concept may be back before the Regional Planning Commission in the fall.
One key element of the original proposed zone change addressed the possible pollution of water by horse properties.
The Triunfo Canyon and Mulholland Highway area, part of the Malibu Creek watershed, is under separate review by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Under a March 1999 consent decree with the environmental groups Heal the Bay and Santa Monica BayKeeper, the agency is studying the area to identify possible runoff contamination, said Melinda Merryfield-Becker, a unit chief for the water board.
Horse manure, she said, can be a source of nitrogen and pathogens that pollute the Malibu Creek watershed and ultimately run into the ocean. Runoff contamination can also come from irrigation and sewage treatment plants, Merryfield-Becker said. The water study should be completed by next summer.