2 Historic Trails and 424 Acres of Open Space

October 13, 2006:  Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s Trail Easements Recorded – forever protecting public access to these historic trails. 

The realignment of Canyonback Trail is depicted in Exhibits B and to the Canyonback Trail Easement in relation to single-family residences to be constructed on Lot Nos. 23-29.  Note that Lot No. 31, depicted (in part) on Exhibit B, is subject to the simultaneously-recorded Open Space Easement.

The Mount St. Mary’s Trail will be connected to Canyonback Trail via a natural, scenic trail that is being constructed to avoid existing and future development along Stoney Hill Road, which is the original alignment of the MSM Trail.  The new trail alignment is depicted as “Scenic Trail Alignment” on Exhibits and D to the MSM Trail Easement.  Note here too that Lot Nos. 31 and 32, through which the new trail will pass, is subject to the Open Space Easement.

The Open Space Easement will forever protect the natural scenic beauty of the Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s trails.  Lot Nos. 30-32, depicted on Exhibit to the Open Space Easement, surround the trails and cannot be developed in the future.

September 2006: Brentwood News feature article “Mountain Trail Dispute Resolved,” by Billy Goulston, describing settlement preserving open public access on Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s trails.

Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s Trails Saved!

On August 2, 2006, the City of Los Angeles approved the Mountaingate Development Project – as modified by the settlement reached last month. 

The City approved the revised plans, which will forever protect public access on the public trails. 

(1) The Mount St. Mary’s Trail will survive – and it will be better than before because it will completely bypass the Stoney Hill residential enclave, passing through a natural canyon environment instead; and

(2) The Canyonback Trail will be wholly outside the planned residential enclave, hewing to the western-most alignment along Canyonback Ridge, with scenic views of the unspoiled hillsides.

Canyon Back Alliance is greatly indebted to the Brentwood Hills Homeowners Association and the Upper Mandeville Canyon Property Owners Association for bearing the out-of-pocket costs necessary to fight this battle. 

July 27, 2006 — Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s Trails To Be Saved!:

Canyon Back Alliance is pleased to announce that the City of Los Angeles’ Planning and Land Use Management Committee unanimously (3-0) approved the Mountaingate Development Project, as modified by the agreement to provide unobstructed public recreational use of the Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s trails.  Councilman Bill Rosendahl made a special appearance at the PLUM Hearing to support this remarkable resolution.   

Canyon Back Alliance, the Center for Law in the Public Interest, the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association, and trail supporters spoke in favor of the revised plan and praised those who made this resolution possible, especially Councilman Rosendahl  and his Deputy Norman Kulla, former Mayor Richard Riordan, Joe Edmiston and Paul Edelman of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, developer Castle & Cooke, and the Stoney Hill community in Mountaingate . The City Council is expected to provide final project approval next week.   

And thank you for your support. 

From the Los Angeles Times 

Link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mountain26jul26,1,817594.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Developers and Hikers Settle Access Dispute

By Jessica Garrison, Times Staff Writer

July 26, 2006 — A long fight over multimillion-dollar homes blocking access to hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains was resolved with a compromise Tuesday.

Under a deal approved by the Los Angeles City Council’s planning committee, developer Castle & Cooke has agreed to build a trail around its new Stoney Hill neighborhood, according to city officials.

In exchange, several organizations, including the Center for the Law in the Public Interest and a hikers’ group, will drop the lawsuit they filed seeking access to the trail.

Resolving a related fight, the developer also agreed to move another trail outside another development planned for the area.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who helped to negotiate the deal along with former Mayor Richard Riordan, called it “a major moment.” He said the fight had been going on for seven years.

As homes went up in the mountains, homeowners objected to long-standing but unofficial trails on privately held land and sometimes blocked access.

Robert Garcia, a lawyer with the Center for the Law in the Public Interest, released a letter in support of the plan.

The Canyon Back Alliance, another party in the lawsuit, issued an e-mail saying that the deal went “far beyond our expectations.”

For the past year, Canyon Back Alliance, joined by hundreds of supporters, has objected to the Mountaingate development project’s adverse impact on recreational use of the Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s trails.  Recently, however, Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Office, through the tireless efforts of Norman Kulla, brought the once-feuding parties together in order to achieve a remarkable resolution. For the past two weeks, Canyon Back Alliance has been working with Mountaingate developer Castle & Cooke, the City of Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and representatives of the Stoney Hill community in Mountaingate in a joint effort to protect public recreational use of the Canyonback and Mount St. Mary’s trails. 

We are thrilled to announce that these efforts have succeeded far beyond our expectations.  While the specifics are still being worked out, the parties have reached agreement on the critical terms:

(1) The Mount St. Mary’s Trail will survive – and it will be better than before because it will bypass the Stoney Hill neighborhood completely; and

(2) The Canyonback Trail will be wholly outside the planned residential enclave, hewing to the western-most alignment along Canyonback Ridge, with scenic views of the unspoiled hillsides.

Full details will be finalized by, and presented during, the July 25 PLUM Hearing.  We encourage everyone to attend this meeting to show their support.

L.A. Times  Article – May 11, 2006

Description: At Odds Over Trail

Robert Garcia right, and Tom Freeman are leading the fight to preserve access to recreational trails
in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Canyon Back Alliance Fights Back!  Canyon Back Alliance Joins Forces With Save Our Mountains, Inc. To Restore The Mount St. Mary’s Trail.

May 8, 2006 – Canyon Back Alliance & Save Our Mountains, Inc. (“SOMI”) filed suit today against developer Castle & Cooke and others to restore public access along the historic Mount St. Mary’s Trail, which the developer has severed from Canyonback Trail and the Big Wild network of public trails throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.  Canyon Back Alliance was joined by SOMI – which was founded in 1992 in a successful effort to oppose a developer’s attempt to obstruct the Westridge Trail, making possible the subsequent dedication of that trail as the Westridge-Canyon Back Wilderness Park.  Click here to see Complaint.

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Mount St. Mary’s Trail

Canyon Back Alliance Files Lawsuit Against City of LA Seeking To Restore Public Access Between Mount St. Mary’s Trail And Canyonback & Big Wild Trails Network!

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 23, 2006  —  Canyon Back Alliance (www.canyonback.org) filed a lawsuit yesterday against the City of Los Angeles, seeking a court order requiring the City to compel removal of the gates and fences that prevent the public from accessing Stoney Hill Road, a public street in the Mountaingate community in Brentwood.

Stoney Hill Road separates the Mount St. Mary’s Fire Road (“MSM”) Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains from the “Big Wild” network of public trails, which spans 21,000 acres of protected wilderness in the Santa Monica Mountains. Since the 1940s, the MSM Trail was freely used for recreational purposes until the City “withdrew” Stoney Hill Road from public use and then allowed restrictive gates to be installed.

“Mountaingate residents, with the City’s active assistance, have conferred upon themselves the right of exclusive access by gating-off Stoney Hill Road to the public — thereby severing the historical connection between the MSM Trail and the Big Wild,” said Canyon Back Alliance attorney Tom Freeman of the Bird, Marella Law Firm, “But Stoney Hill Road is a public street. Nobody has the right to erect gates and hire security guards to keep the public off a public street.”

In court papers filed Feb. 22 with Los Angeles County Superior Court, Canyon Back Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving public access to trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, charges that Stoney Hill Road is a public street and it is therefore illegal to block public access. The Alliance maintains that Mountaingate’s security guards, gates, intimidating signs, and newly-enhanced security fences make public access impossible to all but Stoney Hill residents, their invited guests and employees.

In 1994, the State Court of Appeal held that the City violated state law by allowing residents to erect gates on public streets in the Whitley Heights neighborhood because public streets must be open to all on an equal basis.

“The same clear rule applies to Stoney Hill Road in Mountaingate,” Freeman said. “The City’s refusal to restore public access, despite the Court of Appeal’s unambiguous ruling in the Whitley Heights matter, is simply lawless. We have been trying to get the City to comply with the law for nearly a year. But now, we are looking to the courts to force Mountaingate and the City of Los Angeles to comply with state law.”

Complaint filed in Canyon Back Alliance v. City of Los Angeles