On Friday, the Commission heard an application for a new 3,000 sq.ft. home, septic system protected by buried piers, fronted by un-permitted armoring, on vacant bluff-face property in Muir Beach, Marin County.
The site slopes steeply down from Sunset Way to the beach and ocean, and staff determined that the proposed development would lie seaward of the blufftop edge. As a result, it is impossible to meet LCP blufftop setback requirements because essentially the entire site is a bluff face and does not have blufftop space to accommodate the LCP-required development setback from the blufftop edge. The base of the bluff at the site contains un-permitted riprap and concrete/grouted rock retaining walls that also function as coastal armoring.
The Applicant's proposal relies on the presence of shoreline armoring, which is prohibited by the LCP for new development. In short, although fundamentally LCP and Coastal Act inconsistent, staff recommended approval with conditions in this case to avoid a potential legal takings case. The applicant refuted the Commission’s bluff edge and setback determination, however, Commission staff geologist clearly substantiated the findings. Commissioners debated the reasonable building envelope and ultimately made a small amendment to the staff recommendation to allow for minor deviations beyond the seaward “sting line” with immediate neighboring houses at the discretion of the executive director. The application was approved according to the staff recommendation with a minor change.
Why You Should Care
As sea levels rise, shoreline development cannot be considered indefinite, especially since some of this development will rely on armoring. However we define the bluff edge, the design relies on pilings that will become defacto armoring. Ultimately, development must move or be removed if public trust lands and the mandates of the Coastal Act are to be protected and our coast protected from the threat of rising seas.
Negative Conservation Vote
Commissioners debated the reasonable building envelope and ultimately made a small amendment to the staff recommendation to allow for minor deviations beyond the seaward “sting line” with immediate neighboring houses at the discretion of the executive director. Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh pointed out that the home would rely on a septic leach field that may result in water quality impacts but the applicant and staff agreed it was the only option for this location.
Approval with Conditions