The Broad Beach Geologic Hazard Abatement District (GHAD) is now contending with another set of lawsuits over a project originally estimated to cost about $20 million, which is now estimated to cost $55 to $60 million every 10 years. The project will involve bringing in megatons of sand every few years to restore the disappearing beach and dunes in front of a pricey mile of real estate that includes 131 properties.
Due to mounting costs since the project first began in 2010, last month the GHAD voted to raise the assessment cost to each Broad Beach property—making some owners unhappy. According to GHAD attorney Ken Ehrlich, the previous property assessment, enacted in 2015 and still in place, was about $615 per foot per year for most of the homeowners and about $154 per foot per year for the 22 west end parcels.
The new assessment, enacted in September 2017 but not yet levied by the GHAD Board, more than doubles the assessments to $1,375 per foot per year for homes from Trancas Creek to 31138 Broad Beach Road; $1,031 per foot per year from 31202 to 31380 Broad Beach Road; and about $344 for homes west of 31380 Broad Beach Road.
Within three weeks after the change, several property owners filed lawsuits against the GHAD.
“A few dissident members of GHAD have challenged it,” said David Reznick, president of Malibu Bay Co., which owns property there. “It was a significant increase in the assessment, and some of the shareholders felt the allocations were not done properly.”
Ehrlich verified that there are currently two lawsuits pending. In the first lawsuit, two property owners at the west end of Broad Beach are suing because they “want refunds of some of the monies they paid in,” he said. That lawsuit is currently pending in the LA County Superior Court.
The second lawsuit was filed by four property owners who “claim the assessment isn’t legally proper, and who also allege damages,” Ehrlich said. That lawsuit is also currently pending in the LA County Superior Court.
“The GHAD will file responsive pleadings and have the cases adjudicated ... GHAD believes its rights will be vindicated, and that the court will rule that the engineer’s report (upon which the assessments were based) is fully legal,” Ehrlich said in response.
The sand replenishment project plans to move ahead in September 2018, Erhlich added. The six properties filing lawsuits make up a small percentage of GHAD owners.
Broad Beach is proposing a complex project that involves importing as much as 600,000 cubic yards of sand—beginning with 300,000 cubic yards—and placing it on top of the existing 4,150-foot-long rock revetment in order to restore the beach and sand dunes. The sand will continue to wash away over time and the need for replenishment will be ongoing in the future.
The wide beach that gave Broad Beach its name has disappeared over the past 20 years or so, leaving the beachfront properties at risk from storm damage and high tides. The issue of public beach access is now a moot point, since there is no longer any beach for the public to access.
The emergency rock revetment was built in 2010 after a major storm, but the California Coastal Commission insisted it could only be temporary.
The plan spent years tied up with the onerous approval process of the Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and Army Corps of Engineers, and is subject to numerous conditions and limitations.
The project was delayed at the start of this year because of the El Niño forecast. In addition, the Coastal Commission postponed sand replenishment for a year because the project area is located within a Marine Protected Area and a designated Area of Special Biological Significance, and the body didn’t approve a monitoring plan for lab sampling in time.
The source of the sand has also been a point of contention with the Coastal Commission over the years. When it seemed there might be agreement on a source, the GHAD found itself in a lawsuit over the transport route. After an agreement to use sand from a quarry in Ventura County, Ventura County and Fillmore then sued the City of Moorpark and the GHAD over their agreement to route hundreds of sand trucks a day through Fillmore to avoid Moorpark. In March of this year, a judge upheld that agreement.