Stinson Beach Appeal


February 9, 2024

The Commission denied an appeal of a Marin County permit that approved a new 1,300 sq.ft. house with a septic system on a house with coastal dunes on Stinson Beach. The County’s LCP prohibits development in coastal dunes and ESHA. The project itself is entirely within a high-risk flood zone and on top of coastal dunes, and its septic system places clear risk to water quality impacts adjacent to a marine reserve and popular recreation area. The appellants, representatives of the Environmental Action Committee of Marin, pointed out that a smaller, less impactful development is feasible because the previous house on this lot was smaller. The Commission ultimately decided to err on the side of caution with regards to a takings accusation and voted ‘no substantial issue’.

Why You Should Care

Surfrider Marin has opposed this project for nearly a decade.The Commission should have endeavored to answer the question as to whether coastal resources have been maximized in the locally approved permit by finding substantial issue with this project which significantly impacts sensitive habitats, safe development and public access in Marin. The Commission should do more to ensure that the project is pushed back as far as possible, as small as possible and that the septic tank will be safe from wave uprush. 


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Katie Rice pointed out that the property and proposal underwent substantial scrutiny at the local level. It is surrounded by other homes and elevated a little higher, yet still subject to rising seas. Ultimately, she believes that the project must be approved to avoid a takings. 

Commissioner Justin Cummings  said that, “I think that as we are moving forward and having conversations about managed retreat,  we need to determine how we will operationalize managed retreat. If we are continuing to build houses on these types of parcels in the direct line of sea level rise but at the same time saying people need to move away from the coast, how are we going to actually balance that and operationalize managed retreat,” adding “I think it's a bad idea to build there.” 

Commissioner Caryl Hart said that this should be a substantial issue due to sea level rise and ESHA impacts.  She added that Marin County has not completed its sea level rise vulnerability analysis and we should wait for that. 

Commissioner O’Malley questioned the size of the house and asked whether or not a smaller project could be approved that would avoid a takings lawsuit.

Organizations Opposed

Surfrider Foundation

Decision Type


Staff Recommendation


Coastal Act Policy