Santa Cruz County LCP Update


October 1, 2022

Santa Cruz County’s local coastal program update for coastal hazards came before the Commission despite never having completed a vulnerability assessment or technical review of the sea level rise threats facing the County’s 32 miles of coastline. Commission staff recommended denial of the update, in part due to the County’s plan for an overreliance on shoreline armoring. Notably, the plan would have created a “shoreline armoring exception area (SPEA)” along Opal Cliffs, protecting high priced residential development, almost all of which post-dates the Coastal Act. The SPEA would have protected private development from coastal hazards at the expense of the public’s beach, waves and ocean resources, and without any significant mitigation. The Coastal Act prohibits shoreline armoring except to protect pre-Coastal Act structures that meet certain criteria for erosion risk. The Commission upheld the foundational Coastal Act policies on shoreline armoring and protecting public resources by denying the County’s plan in a unanimous vote for denial.

Why You Should Care

Allowing a local jurisdiction to predetermine/circumvent whether Coastal Act section 30235 and 30253 criteria for shoreline armoring have been met through implementing blanket seawall approval provisions in their LCP undermines the language and spirit of the Coastal Act.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

While the Commission voted to deny the County’s LCP update, some Commissioner remarks seemed to support future compromises on basic Coastal Act provisions, which is highly concerning after decades of work to uphold the Coastal Act and protect the coast. Commissioner Mike Wilson, member of the Local Government Sea Level Rise Working Group, stated that the Group appreciates the neighborhood scale adaptation approach and that parcel by parcel permitting is burdensome. Commissioner Donne Brownsey also spoke to the importance of a regional approach. It’s hard to imagine what this might be other than neighborhood level seawalls or neighborhood level living shoreline or managed retreat - the former highly inconsistent with the Coastal Act and the latter a massive step in the right direction but not likely what local governments or homeowners have in mind when they discuss neighborhood scale adaptation.

Organizations Opposed

California Coastal Protection Network, Inland Empire Waterkeeper, Orange County Coastkeeper, Save Our Shores, Heal the Bay, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Eco Center of San Diego, CLEAN South Bay, Brown Girl Surf, Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Preserve Rural Sonoma County, Azul, Black Surf Santa Cruz, California Coastkeeper Alliance, Coachella Valley Waterkeeper

Decision Type

Local Coastal Program Update for Coastal Hazards

Staff Recommendation


Coastal Act Policy