A Letter to the City of Malibu – Intelligently Expediting Fire Rebuilds

Re: Coastal Development Permit Exemption and Emergency Coastal Development Permit

Dear Ms. Blue:

I want to thank you for providing valuable assistance to the wildfire victims and the community outreach you have facilitated. I would also like to express my grave concerns with potential time delays in fire rebuilds[1]. Given the recent statements by Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby in the Malibu Times, and as reaffirmed at the community meeting at Pepperdine, homeowners impacted by the Woolsey Fire cannot expect to move expeditiously forward in rebuilding their homes should it be required to upgrade their driveways to current fire department standards. The criteria to obtain a coastal development permit exemption (CDPE) is that no new development be proposed, only the replacement of legally established development lost in a natural disaster.  If new development (such as grading for fire department access), is required, it constitutes new “development”[2] and hence, the requisite coastal development permit subject to the requirements of the City of Malibu LCP LIP Section 13.3 (A).

In the Malibu Times article, the Fire Chief states the following: new rebuilds will have to conform to all county fire codes” and “rebuilding in some communities is going to be tough. They are going to have to meet current code—that means water and access.  If the fire department is going to require 20-foot driveway widths and upgrades to meet fire flow, there will be big impacts to homeowners, especially in the canyon areas where driveways are 15-foot (or less) in width. The widening of existing driveways may require significant cuts in adjacent slopes and copious amounts of grading. Furthermore, upgrading fire flows may require extending water lines or installation of water tanks with the inherent permitting delays.

Having given the matter considerable thought and understanding the time it takes to amend the LCP[3] to change regulations, I suggest we utilize existing mechanisms to provide relief to homeowners and expediate processing of qualified rebuilds. I propose that Coastal Development Permit Exemptions (CDPEs) be issued for the structure rebuilds[4], and that fire department upgrades be processed via Emergency Coastal Development Permits (ECDPs)[5]. Utilizing the ECDP’s provisions will allow homeowners to rebuild (and recover) faster and not subject them to further hardship by delay. The ECDP’s would by necessity be based upon an engineered grading plan approved in concept by the Fire Department to ensure consistency with the fire code. However, that should be a process that can be significantly expedited as opposed to the protracted CDP permit process, which requires said grading plans and Fire Department review anyway.

Subsequent to the issuance of the ECDP in a proscribed and short time frame, the complete and permanent CDP application must be processed by the property owner, as required by law, to legalize the development approved in an ECDP.  This will allow the County to process the requisite CDP applications for the driveway improvements in a studied and methodical fashion, concurrent with the property owner rebuilding their home with the appropriate Fire Department access upgrades.

Thank you for your time in reviewing my suggestion. As always, my team is here to assist you and the community should you request it, and please don’t hesitate to contact us directly should you require any additional information or materials regarding this matter.



Donald W. Schmitz II, AICP

cc:       Malibu City Council
Planning Commission
City Attorney
City Manager

[1] Fire Code May Block Rebuilds in Woolsey Wake. (12/12/18) Malibu Times.) Retrieved from malibutimes.com/news/article_0229bd64


DEVELOPMENT – means, on land, in or under water, the placement or erection of a solid material or structure…change in the intensity of use of water; or access thereto; construction, reconstruction, demolition, or alteration of the size of any structure.

[3] COM LIP Section 19.3 (Local Coastal Program Amendments)

[4] COM LIP Section 13.4.6 (Exemptions, Structures Destroyed by Natural Disaster). 

[5] COM LIP Section 13.14 (Emergency Permits)