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.
The October Coastal Commission hearing, held at the Long Beach Convention Center, was a particularly lengthy and enthralling hearing. Running a span of 4 days with the longest session lasting 12.5 hours, there was impressive community turnout but this was not unexpected considering the agenda.
Items heard included development of the orca tanks at Sea World, storage action for nuclear waste at San Onofre, development of Newport Banning Ranch, remaking of a space once held by Newport’s City Hall, and a coastal development permit for the Broad Beach community.
Sea World submitted a coastal development permit application to build larger orca tanks in its San Diego facility. The turnout was substantial, including community, concerned citizens, organizational representatives, and even a few celebrities some of which were for and against the project. Animal rights activists opposed increasing orca tank size, arguing that a bettering the standard of living for the far-roaming turned captive mammals, would result in breeding of captive orcas. Others were understandably concerned about the energy and, significantly, the water use that would be required not only for the building of the tanks but for the general maintenance, considering especially the water-scare climate and drought status the region faces. After substantial debate and discussion, the Commission voted to approve the project with conditions; most controversial being the prohibiting the further breeding of orcas. While the condition pleased many, this is not a regulation that the Commission has authority to enforce.
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) project that went before the Commission is a necessary interim storage project to support the radioactive material located onsite while Southern California Edison (SCE; site operator) awaits approval of a final resting place from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Currently, handing over of the material to Federal hands (to the NRC) and offsite relocation is slated for 2049. This year is dependent upon the NRC’s queue as it is also working with other sites throughout the United States undergoing decommissioning. In the meantime, more secure storage was required for the materials. Based on current information, the project is prudent considering local conditions that the site will face while spent nuclear material from the facility cools (as it must cool before it can even be moved) and while the NRC prepares to make resources available for the final, offsite, resting place of the spent nuclear material.
The Newport Banning Ranch development was a very vocal item, hearing numerous comments from both advocates for and against the project. This project touts community benefits of abandonment and remediation of oil and gas production (currently in operation on the site), development of 1375 residential units, a 75 room resort hotel with 8-10 bed hostel, 7,500 sq.ft. of commercial space, parks, and a nature preserve. What is of great concern is the considerable extent of ESHA (environmentally sensitive habitat area) that is not only located within the ranch, but would also be lost due to the extent and placement of the development. In addition, the current plans for mitigation and storm water are questionable considering the issues of contaminated soils, leaching, and the neighboring Santa Ana river as well as the ocean (the beach is only 1000 feet southwest of the site). After hours of discussion, the item was continued and will be heard again in January 2016.
The site of the former Newport Beach City Hall is the location of the proposed Lido House Hotel. This project would turn the former government building into a 4 story, 130 room high-cost hotel with retail and parking space. General practice has been for the developer to provide an in-lieu fee to mitigate the addition of further high-cost overnight accommodations; however, in this case the applicant had worked with Commission Staff to propose the option of supporting a 3-day camp for 350 disadvantaged youth from Title 1 schools at a nearby beach campsite for the period of 10 years. The number of students and years of funding were figured from the amount of the in-lieu fee ($1.4 million). What was debated was the possibility of a perpetual program as there was great appreciation for the proposed program to give the students a chance to experience and build appreciation for the coast. This possibility was proposed as an amending motion. However, the vote resulted in a tie (6:6), which, by default meant the amending motion was denied. The project as proposed in the Staff report was then voted on and approved.
Also on the agenda was the long struggle for Broad Beach. The Broad Beach Geologic Hazard Abatement District applied for authorization of a 4,150 ft revetment, moving a portion of the revetment landward, an attempt at dune restoration using the revetment as the dune-base, and a beach nourishment program (bringing in 300,000 cubic yards of inland sand every 5 years and 75,000 cubic yards each year in between if needed). This is an improvement as it cuts the amount of sand that was initially proposed to be dumped on the beach from 600,000 cubic yards to 300,000 cubic yards, thus helping to protect Broad Beach’s Marine Protected Area. Additionally, the project includes requiring homeowners to move their septic systems to a combined waste treatment plant, which will hopefully prevent sewage from polluting the beach area. However, the approved project compromises public access. Coastal Commission Staff had recommended that if, in the future, the beach eroded within 10 feet of the revetment (on the seaward side), a pedestrian path on the landward side of the revetment should be automatically opened for the public to ensured continued access to the beach. This recommendation reflected a reasonable compromise that would have protected both private property and public beach access. However, the Broad Beach property owners refused to enter into a proper easement and the Commission ultimately backed down and approved a project that does not include a “back up” pathway. Public access in the future is only guaranteed if the Executive Director of the Commission determines that the beach has eroded 10 feet or more seaward side of the revetment in three out of “any five-year period.”
In this report card, we grade actions on the Broad Beach and Lido House Hotel items.
|Under New Law, California Should Engage Key Experts and Stakeholders to Assess Oil Transportation Risks Using Best Available Science||20 November 2015|
|SONGS: A hot topic||18 November 2015|
|Public Beach Poached for Private Privilege?||23 October 2015|
|Ex Parte: Critical Public Involvement in a Public Process||16 October 2015|
|Wet Sand is Public Sand||15 September 2015|
|... further results|