By Amanda Winchell | Published 2016/04/27
April Coastal Commission Hearing: a summary
Mistrust further flamed
Last month we reported that events of the March hearing did nothing to repair the damaged relationship the Commission and Commissioners have with the public. The April hearing also offered no help.
The April 13 hearing of the Coastal Commission was electric with anticipation. A crowd of approximately 500 people gathered that first day of the three-day hearing to show their support for commission staff in recommending a “No” vote for the Dept of Parks and Recreation’s proposal to charge fees at historically free beaches in Sonoma County. After seven-plus hours of presentation and public comment, Commissioners voted to continue the item. Public comment lasted over four hours and was filled with a broad spectrum of stakeholder voices- local officials, tribal representatives, nonprofits, and community members. A clip of one such stakeholder, the Sonoma Chapter of Surfrider, can be viewed here .
Staff attempts responsible seawall permit conditions
Other items heard later in the week included an after-the-fact permit for an Encinitas seawall and other bluff modifications. This item had the beginnings of setting a good precedent; staff called for the application of mitigation fees for the loss of public access and recreation area due to the seawall’s installation. This seawall not only performs as other seawalls do – inhibiting sand replenishment to maintain beach area – but is also a case where high tide already reaches all the way up to the bluff. Factored into the public access and mitigation fee was the fact that the applicant had repeatedly disregarded permitting requirements and ignored staff’s attempts to bring him into compliance for years. Unfortunately, Commissioners thought the fee unwarranted and called for it to be removed and the permit to be granted.
Long awaited public access victory
On a more positive note was the approval of a settlement agreement and cease and desist order. This agreement was years in the making, with initial issue stemming from 2009 when the City of Dana Point adopted ordinances (later followed by gates) that heavily restricted beach access to Strands Beach. This was a significant item – it’s successful close reaffirmed the Commission’s authority and the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder involvement and cooperation.
Next month’s Commission hearing will take place in Newport Beach Wednesday, May 11 through Friday, May 13. The agenda can be found here. A large crowd is expected to be in attendance on Thursday, May 12 for the hearing of the Newport Banning Ranch project, which is a multilayered project covering issues of oil contamination, remediation and potential development of sensitive habitat. This is a case in which the strength of the definition of environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA) and the protection thereof will be brought into question.
Also to be heard at this hearing is yet another round of appeals for development in the Venice area granted exemptions by the City of Los Angeles for which Commission Staff have recommended be denied.