|Description|| The February hearing in Newport Beach lasted two days instead of the usual 3. Thursday was a busy day for coastal advocates as several important items were discussed. Notably, there were several San Diego County seawall decisions made and Commissioners approved staff’s revised findings on the denial of the Newport Banning Ranch permit application.
On Friday, Commissioners went into closed session to conduct interviews for the unfilled Executive Director position. At the end of day Commissioners announced that Interim Executive Director, Jack Ainsworth was selected for the permanent position. Over the past year, Ainsworth has shown himself to be committed to the Coastal Act, the protection of California' s coast and to keeping the public informed about the issues at hand. We're pleased to see the Commission making this choice.
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|Newport Banning Ranch Revised Findings|| California Coastal Commission staff submitted item Th12a, revised findings for application No. 5-15-2097 Newport Banning Ranch, LLC in Newport Beach. The purpose of reviewing the revised findings is solely to address whether they accurately reflect the Commission’s decision for the proposed development at the September 2016 hearing.
The project applicant testified, requesting that the Commission deny the revised findings as submitted - claiming that they do not accurately reflect the basis of their action. The applicant requested that the findings be rewritten to emphasize that the purpose of the project denial was due to unresolved issues and the need for more information, thereby leaving the door open for a revised project. As written, the applicant claims, the findings would preempt any future consideration for development.
Coastal Commission Attorney, Chris Pederson disagreed with the applicant that the findings would preempt consideration of any new or updated information regarding the project. He stated that nothing would prevent the applicant from bringing forth new information or working with Coastal Commission staff to create a new project.
Commissioner Mary Shallenberger motioned to approve the revised findings as written, highlighting that the appended quotes from the September 2016 hearing substantiate the findings. The Commissioners voted 7-1 to approve staff’s revised findings.
Commissioner Mark Vargas voted against the revised findings as written by staff. He emphasized that he voted against the project in September, not to deny it completely but rather to encourage the applicant to find a workable project under the Coastal Act and wished that this to be more clearly reflected in the findings.
|O'Neal Solana Beach Seawall|| The proposed permit amendment seeks to revise the special conditions for a previously approved 256 ft. shoreline protection device in Solana Beach. The device was originally permitted in 2010 for 20 years to protect pre-Coastal Act development. The amendment would authorize the seawall and concrete backfill for the life of the bluff top structures. The seawall is located on a public bluff fronting five single-family residences. The existing seawall is currently authorized for a period of twenty years from the date of Commission approval of CDP #6-09-033 (October 14, 2010). This CDP amendment proposes to remove the twenty-year permit term, and instead tie the authorization of the seawall to the life of the existing threatened structures the armoring is required to protect. The applicant claims that this amendment will reduce the burden of the 20-year deed restriction for current homeowners without resulting in any additional coastal impacts.
The Surfrider Foundation testified in opposition to the amendment, raising concern that without the 20 year permit trigger we may not have the opportunity to reevaluate this seawall, especially as circumstances change. Sea level rise and increased beach erosion are likely to increase over time, resulting in significant impacts to coastal access at locations fronting shoreline protection devices. In addition, one of the blufftop homes was recently permitted for redevelopment and has not yet begun construction – under the amendment this should trigger the requirement for reevaluation of the seawall. Despite these objections, Commissioners approved the amendment in a 7-1 vote.
|Solana Beach Tennis Club Seawall Revised Findings|| The Solana Beach and Tennis Club shoreline armoring project was reviewed at the January 2016 Coastal Commission hearing and would have involved maintaining and expanding five existing sea cave infills with an additional 75-foot long “erodible” concrete notch in the coastal bluff. According to the applicant, the action was not currently critical to the structures on the coastal bluff, but was intended to protect beachgoers.
Commissioner Dayna Bochco asked the applicant to withdraw the application and resubmit a scaled-down test project version in order to ensure the material was truly erodible as proposed. The applicant opted not to withdraw and thus the application was denied in a vote of 9:2. Commissioners made it clear they do not want a large concrete experiment on the beach. The revised findings reflect the Commissioners’ direction that the applicant must test the erodibility of the proposed “erodible concrete” infill before it can be implemented in a larger scale project.
Commissioner Kinsey moved to adopt the revised findings and the motion passed unanimously.