Meeting Overview

Santa Cruz
December 2023

The Coastal Commission meeting took place on December 13-15 in Santa Cruz. The Commission's agenda was busy with a well attended Informational Briefing on Affordable Housing, a somewhat contentious enforcement item and the approval of a seawall along 17 Mile Drive. The meeting resulted in one vote chart, on the enforcement item. In general public comment, Surfrider raised concerns about erosion in San Clemente and the Ocean Beach coastal resiliency project.

Issues voted on at this meeting:


Other Discussions

Informational Briefing on Housing

On Thursday, the Commission organized an informational hearing briefing on Housing in the Coastal Zone. A number of academic and government-led presentations focused on trends contributing to the housing crisis in California, with a notable emphasis on the rise of short term rentals as a driving factor towards unaffordability.

Commission staff put together their own briefing on the slate of affordable housing bills introduced in the Legislature over the past year, many of which were categorized as bills that undermine the Coastal Act in order to streamline housing development.

The dramatic moment of the day was when Senator Wiener zoomed into the meeting and his comments captured the 'blame' that Legislators have placed on the Coastal Commission for affordable housing issues in the coastal zone. 

Watch the below video to hear Senator Wiener's comments, as well as follow-up response & related public comments from Susan Jordan (California Coastal Protection Network), Commissioner Justin Cummings, Commissioner Dayna Bochco, Celia Solis (Azul), Adriana Guerrero Nardone (Salted Roots) and Laura Walsh (Surfrider.) 

Of note, Susan Jordan made the point that the Legislature took away the Commission’s authority to require affordable housing in the Coastal Zone, and recommended it be restored. 

Laura Walsh with Surfrider noted the importance of the Commission’s thoughtful oversight of affordable housing as a way to move the state away from the false narrative that we must choose between affordable housing and safely sited development.

Executive Director Adriana Guerrero Nardone from Salted Roots, formerly known as Brown Girl Surf, also comment on the importance of affordable housing in the coastal zone. "We know the legacies of redlining, restrictive deeds, eminent domain and restrictive policies that have kept communities of color from living near and accessing our beloved California coast. A lack of affordable housing in the coastal zone is our society's moderns reincarnation of racist and exclusionary housing policies [...] That said, we must distinguish between truly affordable housing and the luxury developer agenda. we do not need to increase profit for market rate and luxury developers that have been fighting environmental and access protections for decades."

17 Mile Drive Seawall Approval

On Friday, the Commission approved a CDP for 1,272 feet of armoring, including approximately 500 feet of new armoring, at the small pocket beach stretching from Seal Rock Beach to Fanshell Beach in 17 Mile Drive in Monterey County.

The armoring is intended to protect the road stretching through 17 Mile Drive, which is a major public accessway that is used to view the uniquely scenic resources of this stretch of the Monterey Coastline. 

Surfrider was dismayed at the prospect of this armoring because the significant amount of armoring on such a small pocket beach that is already gone at high tide can be expected to erode the beach within just a few decades. The beach is enjoyed by the many visitors to 17 Mile Drive, and is a seal pupping beach at the largest national marine sanctuary in the country - the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

This permit was approved by with conditions including a mitigation package that included restoration of two stairways on the affected stretch of beach, a lateral pathway running adjacent to 17 Mile Drive restoration of 8.4 acres of dune and coastal bluff top habitat, and beach nourishment on a part of Fanshell Beach. 

The sentiment from most Commissioners was that the mitigation package was strong given the access provisions of the area. No specific marine mammal mitigations were provided due to the expected impact on seals. Presumably due to this concern, only Commissioner Escalante voted not to approve this permit.