Malibu-Area Winemakers Fighting New Land Use Rules for Santa Monica Mountains

Some Southern California winegrowers are crying foul over proposed changes in the California Coastal Commission’s Land Use Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains, claiming they could spell a death knell for the area’s burgeoning wine industry.

On Friday, winegrowers in the region released a statement objecting to the pending changes, which were introduced by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in April.

In addition to prohibiting new vineyard plantings in Malibu’s recently-classified American Viticultural Area (AVA), the changes call for dismantling many existing vineyards there that don’t possess permits. The impetus is preservation of the Santa Monica Mountains and its local wildlife. Conservationists have said a ban on vineyard plantings would prevent stream pollution and pesticide run-off.

“The scientific evidence presented at the Coastal Commission hearing was out of date and did not specifically address the effect of vineyards on the environment,” Friday’s letter read.

The region’s winegrowers say officials have ignored the vineyards’ many environmental benefits, claiming they act as vital fire buffers among other things.

Moreover, the winegrowers insist they are being unfairly targeted. They note that “organic farms” will be allowed, while organic wine vineyards will not. They also point to equestrian facilities, which will be able to obtain permits retroactively, unlike the vineyards.

The new rules come at a critical time for the region’s wine industry, which has been enjoying a recent ascent. The designation of the Malibu AVA earlier this summer, for instance, was heralded as a turning point for the region’s winemakers, lending them a new level of status and credibility

The new land use changes are set to go into effect pending a vote August 26.

Read more about the controversy here.