On Tuesday the LA County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on a massive local use plan to protect the coast and Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.
You may or may not realize that there are several dozen small vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains. If the wide-ranging coastal use plan is approved a part of it would prohibit future vineyards that have popped up in the mountains around Malibu. Although, already permitted ones would be allowed to remain.
One of those who will be voting is Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. He's led the charge for the plan over the last decade. He'll be the first to tell you “I love wine,” but, he doesn't love the vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains. He'll also tell you he likes drinking local "legally" produced wines, but doesn't want to see an increase in vintners producing them.
Why? It's because the mountains are majestic and so is nature. Says Yaroslavsky, “You can't build the Santa Monica mountains again. God only did it once. And, shame on us if we don't protect them.”
He's trying to protect plants, animals, trees, nature and future hillsides from being turned into vineyards.
Pointing to a poster-sized picture he's placed on a easel in his conference room, he shows us a sizeable hillside vineyard and says to make it “They had to saw off the side of a mountain. That's what that brown area represents. That used to be a mountainside and now it's a terranced commercial agricultural production facility.”
For 30 years there's been a battle to come up with just the right land use plan to protect the coast and the Santa Monica Mountains. The one now before the board of supervisors allows all current permitted vineyards to stay, but no future ones. Yaroslavsky says “We don't want this kind of desecration to take place in every canyon and every nook and cranny in the area.”
Don Schmitz is a Malibu grape grower. His terraced hillside vineyard is one acre. It has about 1200 vines and can make 300 to 350 cases of wine. He thinks Malibu vintners are being unfairly targeted. He describes the grapes grown along the oceanside hills as special. He bottles cabernet. And, disagrees with Yaroslavsky that the land is being destroyed.
“The facts are that modern viticulture can be done in extremely environmentally sensitive fashion"
I asked "You think that's what's being done?" Absolutely.”
What does he want the Santa Monica mountains to be? He says “We want it to be a showcase scattering of environmentally sensitive boutique wineries. It's unique. It suits Santa Monica Mountains, fits the Santa Monica mountains and it's sensitive to the environment.”
But, to Yaroslavsky, this is a showcase of majestic mountains. Vineyards, he says, "Are a mortal threat to the natural terrain of the Santa Monica Mountains”