Encinitas Blufftop Setback


August 1, 2018

W20a, Martin Blufftop Home Redevelopment SetbackApplication 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.

Why You Should Care

The Coastal Act protects “existing” structures because they were built before we knew better – now we know better. These hazardous areas can only be developed very carefully, if at all. Approving this application without the appropriate setbacks would be opposite of the type of precedent we should be setting in light of sea level rise and Climate Change. We cannot perpetuate non-conforming bluff top development in areas we know to be hazardous and expect our coastline to be resilient to sea level rise.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Steve Padilla motioned to approve staff’s recommendation. He noted that new development on a vacant lot should be subject to the conditions proposed by staff, which are reasonably based on data in the record.

Organizations Opposed

Surfrider Foundation

Decision Type

De Novo CDP

Staff Recommendation

Approval with modifications

Coastal Act Policy