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Welcome to ActCoastal, the California Coast Accountability Project. ActCoastal is a campaign to protect California’s coast by bringing transparency and accountability to the actions of the California Coastal Commission.

September 2020 Coastal Commission Meeting Report

The September California Coastal Commission meeting took place virtually from Wednesday, Sept. 9 to Friday, Sept. 11. The Commission deliberated on several important items with coastal resource implications including a tricky seawall application in Solana Beach and an appeal regarding a major Santa Cruz residential construction project. The meeting resulted in one vote chart.

Solana Beach property owners try to get around prior denial

Last year, three homeowners in Solana Beach applied jointly for a 150-foot seawall. One of the homeowners was denied a seawall due to his property being post-Coastal Act and having deed restrictions. Seawalls for the adjacent homes were approved and are now constructed, but the resultant gap in the armoring presents a structural issue. This issue was predicted and the applicants were instructed to explore a retainer wall strategy to mitigate this. That strategy has been explored and is now rendered unsafe, and the two applicants who gained approval last year returned requesting to fill in the gap with a seawall. However, the property that was denied the seawall (the “gap house”) was no longer on the application, and instead another neighbor was added to the application based on an argument that this third neighbor is also affected by the structural instability posed by the gap.

Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter objected to this, arguing first that the “gap house” owner at 245 Pacific Ave. should have been again included on the application. In fact, Commission staff noted in their report:

"The subject project is essentially a resubmittal of a project that was partially approved by the Commission in March 2019 (CDP #6-18-0288/DeSimone, Schrager, & Jokipii). That project proposed construction of a 150 ft. long seawall fronting three adjacent existing single-family residences located at 235, 241, and 245 Pacific Avenue, and construction of a geogrid bluff retention device below all three homes.”

This led Surfrider to point out that if this project was essentially a resubmittal of the original project that included 245 Pacific Ave, that property should still have been included as an applicant, saying, “It fundamentally defies logic that a seawall be proposed where it will result in the primary protection of a threatened property that is not listed as an applicant, especially given that the property at 245 Pacific Ave was included in the project and explicitly denied a seawall as originally submitted to the city of Solana Beach (the city) and the Commission.”

Surfrider went on to note that the more appropriate response would be requiring removal of the endangered portions of 245 Pacific Ave. to abate the current emergency per the agreed-upon deed restrictions placed on the property by the Coastal Commission.

Commissioners discussed the conundrum at length, ultimately denying the seawall in a 7-5 vote. Commissioner Dayna Bochco voted to approve, saying she was “reluctant and unhappy” to do so, but believed “staff did everything they could” and “seawalls continue to be a terrible problem and I hope more people become aware [of that].”

Commissioner Roberto Uranga voted to deny the seawall, saying it would be “dangerous to approve” the application, emphasizing the need to encourage managed retreat.

Outsized Opal Cliffs residential project appealed

Property owners in Opal Cliffs, a wealthy neighborhood in Santa Cruz, seek to demolish their existing 6,000 square-foot single-story residence and garage, and build a new two-story 6,700 square-foot residence with an additional 1,500 square feet in two garages (creating a 8,200 square-foot residential development), plus a 25-yard lap pool and related development, which would all rely on shoreline armoring for site and structural stability.

Surfrider Foundation, along with Commissioners Linda Escalante and Erik Howell, appealed the project after the County of Santa Cruz approved it. (Friday’s hearing was for substantial issue only.)

In their appeal, Surfrider’s Santa Cruz chapter argued that the proposed house must be sited to be safe for its expected lifetime; the Coastal Act allows shoreline armoring to protect “existing” structures because they were built before the destructive impacts of shoreline armoring were understood. The coastal armoring at 4660 Opal Cliff Dr. is an example of a lack of forethought; it has worsened to severity erosion on either side and already extends so far into the beach that it blocks access from either side. Approving this application without the appropriate setbacks would be contrary to all scientific and official guidance regarding sea level rise and climate change. Further, the project conflicts with the County’s own Land Use Policy (LUP).

The Commission staff and Commissioners agreed substantial issue exists and the project will return to the Commission for a de novo hearing at a later date.

2019 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card

No other agency or legislative body holds as much responsibility for California’s beloved beaches as does the Coastal Commission; the Commission’s decisions, month after month, permit by permit, shape the use of our coast and, in the face of sea level rise, the future of our beaches. The California Coastal Commission Report Card strives to ensure that this responsibility is being met by offering a summary and analysis of the commission’s voting record throughout the year based on key high-priority, high-stakes coastal development projects and issues.

Find the 2019 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card here.

New Sea Level Rise Visualization Will Knock Your Socks Off

Coastal experts constantly postulate (and downright argue with one another) about how future sea level rise will physically manifest in local communities. Accurately envisaging climate change impacts, including future sea level rise and storms, is like pushing a boulder uphill—it’s an elusive concept. Until now! Recently, artistic geniuses from Invisible Thread and Thundercloud produced a video, named “Rise Up,” that synthesizes data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to illustrate the effects of future sea level rise in Capitola, California.

Read on and check out the new video in the Surfrider Foundation’s recent blog post, New Virtual Reality Video Shows Future Sea Level Rise.

Offshore Oil Drilling Expansion Announced

In early January, the Trump administration released a proposal to expand oil drilling in 90% of the Outer Continental Shelf States and environmental groups have been quick to respond with outrage. Visit Protect the Pacific for details and ways to take action now!

You can follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, too! As ever, thanks for your support and dedication to access, open space protection and coastal preservation! Please let us know of your coastal concerns – we must all work together to #SaveOurCoast!

ActCoastal Blog

September 2020 Hearing Report21 September 2020
July 2020 Hearing Report18 August 2020
August 2020 Meeting Report17 August 2020
June 2020 Hearing Report20 July 2020
May 2020 Hearing Report19 June 2020
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