Rio Del Mar Appeal


March 15, 2024

The Coastal Commission denied a request for a retaining wall on a coastal bluff in Santa Cruz, which is a rare occurrence. The proposed retaining wall violated numerous clear policies on armoring in the LCP; including 1) The retaining wall is not necessary to protect existing structures from a significant threat, 2)The retaining wall will not protect 'existing' structures and 3) the retaining wall is not the least environmentally damaging option. The Coastal Commission staff geologist weighed in to say that debris management options and a net in particular would potentially be more likely approvable options in the area. This project is not approvable because the LCP does not allow armoring for new development and there is a less environmentally damaging alternative landslide mitigation measure that would intercept landslide materials.

Why You Should Care

The interpretation of Santa Cruz's LCP is important — if we do not adhere to regulations and land use plans on shoreline armoring, we may lose our coast as seas rise.

Santa Cruz is in the process of updating its LCP and has significant waves and coastal resources at risk of sea level rise and at risk of impacts from proposed shoreline armoring as well as from the current pattern of armoring.

A more limited project could reduce coastal impacts and abate any landslide risk. The proposed CDP is inconsistent with the LCP.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Justin Cummings pointed out that this has been a highly controversial application at the local level as it is not consistent with the LCP. He pointed out that we need to both protect people’s homes, and find a way to do so that is consistent with the LCP.  Alternative options for mitigation landslide such as catchment structures would be a comprehensive solution for this slope. 

Commissioner Caryl Hart noted that the Commission is extremely concerned about the safety risk but this project would not significantly address those risks.

Organizations Opposed

Surfrider Foundation

Decision Type

De Novo Appeal

Staff Recommendation


Coastal Act Policy