The Commission approved a joint seawall application for three neighboring properties along Pleasure Point Drive in Santa Cruz. The seawall would span all three properties as one contiguous structure and include vertical piles, soil nail walls, concrete seawall and concrete seacave plugs. As mitigation, the homeowners will construct a public accessway across the seawall with a stairway to the beach. The walkway would connect with the County’s sewer peak stairway. While two of the homes are entitled to shoreline armoring as pre-Coastal Act structures, one, at 3020 Pleasure Point Drive, is not. Enamored with the public accessway, staff invented a creative workaround and recommended finding project consistency based on the fact that the access trail could be considered a coastal dependent use and historically used access trail; and therefore legally entitled to armoring. Commissioners attempted to clarify that this decision is not meant to be precedent setting and is case-specific, but the result is an extremely dangerous direction for the Commission. Afterall, it would be devastating to the coast if anyone who wanted to justify a seawall could do so by constructing a sidewalk on top of it.
Why You Should Care
Permitting shoreline armoring to protect private blufftop houses based on the approval ability and Coastal Act consistency of the project’s mitigation component is wrong. It creates a loophole for shoreline armoring in situations where it might not otherwise be legal. It circumvents a plethora of Coastal Act policies including 30253 all designed to protect the coast from erosion and rising seas for public benefit. This decision puts private interests above all and threatens the adjacent and nearby surf breaks over the long term as seas rise.
Negative Conservation Vote
Commissioner Matt O'Malley expressed strong concerns about the project. Commissioner Linda Escalante voiced concern that the concrete walkway proposed with the project does not truly compensate even a fraction of the loss to the public from the seawall impacts. Several Commissioners expressed discomfort with the decision, citing sea level rise and the unfortunate reality of the California Coast. Commissioner Mike Wilson stated for the record that no one is proposing this as a precedent and alternative path forward for shoreline armoring.