Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

$3.9 Million Is Awarded to Coastal Commission for Illegal Trailer Park

• Major Coastal Act Violations Cited

BY BILL KOENEKER


A Superior Court judge sided with the California Coastal Commission and awarded the state agency $3.9 million in civil fines from two Malibu property owners in the Santa Monica Mountains where they operated an allegedly illegal mobile home park.
The executive director of the Coastal Commission Peter Douglas told the Malibu Surfside News it is one of the worst Coastal Act violations he has witnessed during his tenure with the coastal agency.
“They kept continuing the violations as if the law did not apply to them,” said Douglas. “We have been working on this for the last 15 to 20 years.”
The court found that Madalon Witter and Douglas Richardson, the owners of record, had illegally developed the 40-acre mountaintop property with unpermitted trailers, residential structures, roads, storage sheds, pipelines, tanks and abandoned vehicles with at some times the park swelling to 25 units that the couple were collecting rent on.
The pair argued they had the proper permits and the zoning for the trailer park, but that the state agency always worked against them.
However, Douglas recalled how time and again, since at least 1992, the pair would face off with the commission or its staff, offer a plan or settlement then do just the opposite. “They agreed each time, but never did anything,” he said.
The commission successfully argued the unpermitted development caused damage to the habitat and environmentally sensitive areas with some graded areas eroding and other hillside areas polluted by raw sewage and other toxic agents including the contamination of a number of abandoned vehicles that were left on the site.
Douglas characterized the judge’s decision as “seeing through [Witter and Richardson].”
The fines and penalties awarded to the state recognized not only the seriousness of the violations but the duration as well as the cost of so many years associated with enforcement proceedings.
“We tried to work with them” added Douglas. “We tried to be accommodating.”
Asked if the state will ever collect the award, Douglas said if the state did not collect the money, it might end up with the property.
Extensive work will reportedly be required to restore the environmental damage outlined in the lawsuit

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