West Coast
Malibu vineyards, Flicker

Vintners Lose Challenge to Local Coastal Program Ban on New Vineyards

A California Court of Appeal upheld denial of a petition by vintners challenging the prohibition on new vineyards within the Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone in deference to the California Coastal Commission’s finding that viticulture adversely impacts sensitive habitats, water quality, water supply, and scenic resources.

The California Coastal Act requires the California Coastal Commission to review and certify local coastal programs (LCP) developed by local authorities that control land use planning within their respective areas of the coastal zone. Los Angeles County proposed to amend the LCP for the Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone in a manner that would ban new agricultural uses. Commission staff recommended approval of the LCP with modifications that lightened restrictions on some new agriculture but retained the ban on new vineyards. Commission staff reasoned that the majority of land within the LCP area was “unsuitable” for agriculture, and new vineyards should “remain prohibited due to a number of identified adverse impacts attributed specifically to those operations, including increased erosion from removal of all vegetation, use of pesticides, large amounts of water required, their invasive nature, and their adverse impact to scenic views.”

The Commission unanimously voted to approve the LCP as modified and certified the LCP in October 2014. Landowners within the LCP area sued, contending principally that the Commission erred in failing to heed policies favoring the preservation of agricultural lands within the coastal zone and that there was insufficient evidence to justify its ban on new vineyards.

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Case Law: .Mountainlands Conservancy, LLC v. California Coastal Commission, No. B287079 (2d Dist., Apr. 1, 2020).