August 2018 Hearing Report

From ActCoastal

By Mandy Sackett | Published 2018/09/19

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Commentary is provided by ActCoastal partners.


This blog represents the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the positions of ActCoastal and its partner organizations.

August Hearing Recap

The California Coastal Commission met at the Redondo Beach Public Library in Redondo Beach on Wednesday, August 8 through Friday, August 10. The hearing was extremely busy with many high-profile and controversial items on the agenda, including the Redondo Beach LCP Amendment known as Measure C, or the “King Harbor Coastal Access, Revitalization and Enhancement Act” which was approved as submitted. Additionally, the Commission heard several coastal armoring and sea level rise related items, the Gaviota Coast Plan LCP amendment and finalized a Tribal Consultation Policy.

Tribal Consultation Policy

The Coastal Commission held a third and final public hearing on a draft Tribal Consultation Policy on Wednesday. The Policy intends to strengthen the Commission’s relationships with Native American Tribes, encouraging outreach and collaboration. The San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians and the Tongva Ancestral Territorial Tribal Nation supported the Policy as proposed. The Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians Kizh Nation expressed concern about the definition of tribal sovereignty. The Coastal Commission agreed to remove the definition and work with tribes to find more amenable language. The definition will be proposed before the Coastal Commission for inclusion in the Policy at a future hearing.

Gaviota Coast Plan

Last week, the Coastal Commission heard the proposed Gaviota Coast Plan, which has been in the works since 2009. The Plan will function as a new stand-alone area plan in the County’s LCP and will determine the preservation and development on this portion of California for the coming decades. The Plan, with Coastal Commission staff’s modifications includes enhanced protections for environmentally sensitive habitats, agriculture, public access, views, and cultural resources. The Gaviota Coast is the largest remaining rural coastland in Southern California - home to 1,400 species and their habitats, working ranches, and farms.

A few discrepancies remained between the County of Santa Barbara and Coastal Commission staff at the time of the hearing. Specifically, the County wanted to retain autonomy over determining ESHA buzzer zones for new development. Commissioners unanimously approved the Gaviota Coast Plan with one small caveat that facilities at El Capitan Campground can be repaired and maintained without an increase in ESHA buffer zone. Read the full meeting report, here.

Martin Setback in Encinitas

On Wednesday, the Coastal Commission heard a proposal for construction of a new two-story home and basement with a 40-foot setback from the bluff edge. Coastal Commission staff recommended that this project be redesigned requiring a 79-foot setback and no basement component. Staff’s recommendation increased the setback by 39 feet in order to account for bluff retreat over the life of the project. Removal of the basement in the future could significantly alter the bluffs natural state, which is also inconsistent with the LCP.

Ultimately, Commissioners approved the staff recommendation with a 75-foot setback and no basement. The Coastal Act protects “existing” structures because they were built before we knew better – now we know better. These hazardous areas can only be developed very carefully, if at all. For more information, see the full meeting report, here.

Resolution on Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Preservation

The Coastal Commission's Resolution on Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Preservation aims to fulfill the Governor’s call for commitments to increase climate resilience. As such, the Resolution supports implementation of adaptation strategies that seek to increase resilience of at-risk habitats such as beaches, dunes, salt marshes, and estuaries, including living shorelines, coastal restoration projects, and approaches that allow habitats to migrate inland as sea levels rise. It also commits to a vision of avoiding coastal armoring whenever possible and more. For more information, see the meeting report, here.

11 Lagunita Cease and Desist Orders

On Thursday, the Coastal Commission heard a landmark enforcement decision, described by the Los Angeles Times in their recent article: “Seaside mansion or public beach: Which will the California Coastal Commission save?”. The property owners at 11 Lagunita Drive, Laguna Beach engaged in extensive unpermitted rebuilding of their private residence. The extent of building is such that it constitutes new development, which means it is no longer entitled to a seawall under the California Coastal Act according to section 30235. The existing seawall was only permitted to protect the then-existing, Pre-Coastal Act structure based in the owners’ assertion that they would only proceed with a minor remodel.

The Coastal Commission ultimately approved the cease and desist orders which require the property owner to remove the seawall within 60 days and return for a coastal development permit for the extensive unpermitted redevelopment of the home. Further, they increased the administrative fine to $1 million citing the well documented willful disregard of the Coastal Act, the extensive use of public resources to resolve the violation and coastal resource impacts. For more information, please see the meeting report, here.

Wave Resort, Dana Point

On Friday, the Coastal Commission heard an appeal by Surfrider Foundation for a luxury hotel development approved by the City of Dana Point. One of the critical issues focused on by the appeal (and by the Commissioners during the hearing) was whether the certified Headlands Development and Conservation Plan (HDCP) permits construction of a hotel in addition to a hostel in Planning Area 4 (where the proposed project is located).

According to the appellant, the HDCP allows for development of one hotel and does not permit a second hotel in Planning Area 4. Anything other than this plain language interpretation of the HDCP would open up the door to other development inconsistent LCPs. Coastal Commission staff disagreed, stating that the HDCP is sufficiently ambiguous to allow the luxury hotel. As such, staff recommended approval of the development with conditions. Commissioners ultimately agreed with staff and approved the development with proposed conditions. For more information, read the full meeting report, here.

Sunset Beach Setbacks

Items F23b and F23c for application No. 5-17-0678 and 5-17-0680 (Bassaly #1, LLC, Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach) were heard together at the Coastal Commission hearing on Friday. The two coastal development applications by the same homeowner are for beachfront homes at Sunset Beach in Huntington Beach. Coastal Commission staff recommended the project be redesigned with a minimum five-foot setback from the seaward property lines and prohibition of future shoreline protective devices.

The Applicant resisted the proposed conditions, stating staff’s conditions will require additional expenditures and are arbitrary and capricious since the Commission has previously approved similar applications without setbacks as consistent with the local LCPs approved decades ago. Commissioners, sympathetic to the Applicant and not wanting to send them back to the drawing board, offered a compromise. The CDPs were approved with a five foot setback for the first floor, allowing the second story to overhang in its original configuration. Read the full meeting report, here.