December 2022 Hearing Report
The Coastal Commission’s December meeting took place in Long Beach on December 14-16. The agenda featured several important items. On Wednesday, the Commission held interviews for the Executive Director position after Jack Ainsworth announced his retirement in November. By Thursday, the Commission announced its selection of Dr. Kate Huckelbridge to lead the agency. Kate will be the first woman to lead the agency in its 50-year history. Dr. Huckelbridge currently serves as the Commission’s Senior Deputy Director and has worked for the agency since 2009.
On Wednesday, the Commission heard an informational update from Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) regarding the state of the railroad in San Clemente. The tracks are currently closed between Dana Point and Oceanside and are expected to remain so through February. Since 2021, OCTA has been issued 4 emergency permits, totaling over 26,500 tons of rock and an extensive bluff tie back mechanism along the Cyrus Shores HOA in San Clemente to do beach erosion and bluff destabilization. If this weren’t evidence enough that it’s time to start planning to relocate the tracks off our beaches then we don’t know what will be! The Commission is planning to bring the follow up coastal development permit(s)in early 2023. As part of the permit process, OCTA should commit to relocation planning and substantial mitigation for the mountain of riprap boulders now sitting on our beach and public trust lands.
On Thursday, the Commission’s enforcement report recounted historic wins for the coast! Staff reported on a public access interference by a private security guard at El Matador State Beach in Malibu who threatened beach goers with arrest for recreating at the beach. Enforcement staff notified the homeowner who hired the security guard and law enforcement that the beach was part of a public access easement and that all beach below the mean high tide land open for public access. The interference was resolved! Commission staff also reported on implementation of an enforcement order from June 2020 regarding encroachments on over a mile of public beach space in Newport Beach. Over 60 homes had built private yards on the public beach and dunes. Since the Commission’s enforcement order, these encroachments have been removed and 25 acres of beach and critical dune habitat - home to endangered snowy plovers - is finally restored! Finally, enforcement staff reported on the restoration of public access at Campland RV park in Mission Bay.
In November, Commissioners approved another request for timeline extension on the Broad Beach Restoration Project, marking the sixth extension since the project was permitted in 2015. On Thursday, Commission staff responded to Surfrider and others’ objections to the extension. Surfrider urged the Commission to require the applicant to report out on the project progress publicly within 6 months so that the Commission could consider whether circumstances have changed that affect coastal access and recreation policies of the Coastal Act. The Broad Beach Restoration Project involves the movement of almost an acre of revetment that sits on public land, as well as beach fill and the development of a ‘springing access’ on top of the moved revetment that will improve beach access in the area. The project has been held up in litigation amongst the property owners, and now that it has not been even started for seven years Surfrider is concerned about the ultimate ability of the project to provide secure access and to compensate the public for many years of destroyed access and special dune habitat.
On Friday, the Commission also said farewell to Commissioner Carole Groom and Steve Padilla. Commissioner Groom will be retiring from public service after serving on the San Mateo Board of Supervisors since 2010 and on the Coastal Commission since 2012. Commissioner Steve Padilla won his election as state senator and will be moving on to Sacramento. We thank them for their many years of service to the coast!
Finally, the Commission approved an amendment to the 2023 meeting schedule to help reduce cost and save green house gas emissions. The Commission will hold two meetings in person, March and May. The February, April and June meetings will be held virtually to save around $120,000.