|Description|| 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.
The meeting resulted in five vote charts. Notably, the Commission approved a precedential cease and desist order for removal of an illegal seawall in Laguna Beach and levied an associated administrative fine of $1 million
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|Encinitas Blufftop Setback|| W20a, Martin Blufftop Home Redevelopment Setback
Application No. A-6-ENC-16-0060 (Martin, Encinitas)
Two vacant unarmored blufftop lots in Encinitas were proposed for consolidation and construction of a new two-story, 3,000-plus square foot home and basement with a 40-foot setback from the bluff edge. The City’s original permit was appealed and substantial issue was found in 2016. Coastal Commission staff recommended that this project only be approved with a redesign requiring a 79-foot setback and no basement component.
The City of Encinitas LCP indicated that blufftop development must be sited to be safe from erosion and bluff failure over its expected lifetime. Standard state engineer guidelines indicate a factor of safety of 1.5 for 75 years is appropriate for blufftop development. However, if the home is sited at a location to achieve a factor of safety of 1.5 today and there is any erosion, the home will immediately be below the established industry standard for safety - let alone over the next 75 years.
Staff’s recommendation appropriately adds the expected bluff retreat of 75 years, determined to be 39 feet by Coastal Commission staff, therefore requiring a total setback of 79 feet from the bluff edge to ensure safety of the blufftop home. Further, the staff recommendation prohibits a basement on this property. Removal of the basement in the future could significantly alter the bluffs natural state, which is also inconsistent with the LCP.
Finally, special condition 3 requires the applicant to waive the right to future armoring. Any new development must be sited so that it will neither be subject to nor contribute to significant geological instability throughout the life of the project.
Ultimately, Commissioners approved the staff recommendation with a 75-foot setback and no basement.
|Gaviota Coast Plan|| F16a Gaviota Coast Plan
County of Santa Barbara LCP Amendment No. LCP-4-STB-18-0039-1 Part B (Gaviota Coast Plan)
The proposed Gaviota Coast Plan will function as a new stand-alone area plan in the County’s LCP. The plan covers several important topics including environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA), agriculture, principle permitted uses and public access and recreation.
The Environmental Defense Center participated in the development of the plan for many years to ensure maximum environmental protections. “Through the Coastal Commission process, the Gaviota Coast Plan has been improved to provide better protection for wildlife and habitats, agriculture, public access and recreation, and cultural resources,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center. “The Plan provides a vision to retain the unique scenic, rural nature of the Gaviota Coast for years to come. We will urge the County of Santa Barbara to accept the Commission’s recommended improvements when the matter is considered later this fall.”
The Plan, as proposed and modified by Coastal Commission staff, includes important modifications with relation to blufftop development and public access. The Surfrider Foundation strongly supported the policies that address bluff top development and ensure consistency with the Coastal Resiliency Project. Further, Surfrider supported the Plan’s public access policies. There is a great need for more vertical access opportunities and the plan as modified sets the intention toward that goal. Specifically, staff recommended modifications that new development does not interfere with the public’s right to beach access – and that without the “if feasible” loophole. The Plan also protects informal roadside parking. Such parking areas are integral to ensuring safe, equitable access to area beaches.
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.
|Illegal Seawall Laguna Beach|| Th 8 & 9 Illegal Seawall at 11 Lagunita - Cease and Desist Order
Cease and Desist Order CCC-18-CD-02 and Administrative Penalty CCC-18-AP-02 As documented in the staff report, the property owners have 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. Subsequently, and in violation of the conditions of the permit, the existing house was torn down to the barest frame (as clearly evidenced by the photos in Exhibit 1) and then rebuilt. As a result, it cannot be accurately described as a “remodel” by any stretch and thus no longer qualifies for a seawall.
The homeowners claimed that the construction was a minor remodel and does not constitute new development. However, Coastal Commission staff presented extensive evidence that prove the home underwent a nearly 100% remodel. Therefore, Coastal Commission staff recommended that the now-illegal seawall be removed and the owners of the unpermitted structure be required to comply with setback and coastal hazard requirements.
The Coastal Commission staff recommended levying an administrative fine of $500,000, much less than the $8 million maximum fine the Commission could levy and more than reasonable given the amount of public resources and staff time the homeowners have utilized in attempting to evade state law.
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.
|Resolution on Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Preservation|| Governor Brown is the co-chair of the 2018 Climate Action Summit. The purpose of the summit is to underscore the urgent need for action on climate change to avoid most devastating impacts and to call on governments to do more. The goal is to spur action in key areas and call on participants to make new commitments to increase climate resilience.
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. The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) passed a similar resolution, setting a clear vision to protect and enhance coastal habitats as sea levels rise.
A 2018 State Coastal Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy assessment on statewide coastal habitat vulnerability found that 55% of current coastal habitat is highly vulnerable to 5 feet of sea level rise, including 60% of California’s beaches, 58% of rocky intertidal habitat, 58% of coastal marshes, and 55% of tidal flats, that sea level rise will further stress populations of 39 rare, threatened, or endangered species, and that 41,000 acres of public conservation lands are projected to be drowned out by rising waters.
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.
Several representatives from the City of Pacifica gave comments in objection to the resolution, claiming it is too focused on protecting beaches and not enough on coastal communities. They also objected claiming that with the resolution, the Coastal Commission was locking in managed retreat as its preferred response to sea level rise and prohibit coastal armoring.
Commissioners unanimously approved the Resolution as proposed.
|Wave Resort Dana Point|| F23a Wave Resort Dana Point
Appeal No. A-5-DPT-17-0063 (Headlands Investments, LLC, Dana Point)
In October 2017, the Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter appealed a luxury hotel development approved by the City of Dana Point through Local Coastal Development Permit CDP17-0008. At its December 15, 2017 meeting, the Commission found substantial issue with the City of Dana Point’s approval of this project and ordered de novo review. 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).
The HDCP allows for development of one hotel and does not permit a second hotel in Planning Area 4. The prior owner of the property comprising Planning Area 4 knew this and did not attempt to construct a hotel when it entitled the property for retail/restaurant/office space in 2008. In 2014, the City of Dana Point, in its bond proposal for a Facilities Maintenance District repeatedly distinguished between the commercial/office lots of Planning Area 4 and the hotel/luxury inn lots of Planning Area 9. Clearly, the HDCP does not permit development of a second hotel in Planning Area 4.
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.