June 2021 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
July 16, 2021
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June Hearing Description

The Coastal Commission’s June meeting took place virtually on Wednesday, June 9 through Friday, June 11. The meeting featured several important items including a permit amendment for improvements to public access at Bayside Beach in Newport Beach, a permit for a new seawall in Solana Beach, and the reconfiguration and improvements to Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. Notably, the City of Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program update for sea level rise was withdrawn two days before the scheduled hearing based on a vote by the City Council. The meeting did not result in any vote charts.

Del Mar Local Coastal Program

Del Mar's Local Coastal Program Amendment (LCPA) was set to be heard at the June meeting until the City decided to formally withdraw their plan two days before the meeting. This is the second time the City has withdrawn their plan from review, which was first submitted as a draft in 2018. The City has passed a resolution rejecting the concept of managed retreat and stated — in a press release and city council meeting — an inability to move forward with the Coastal Commission's staff recommendations, which included denial of the submitted plan and 22 suggested modifications.

Surfrider continues to urge the City to proceed with Coastal Commission review of their LCPA. The City has been studying its vulnerabilities and adaptation options since 2014, and has an extensive volume of information regarding its sea level rise risks. Del Mar's last LCP was approved in 2001. Since then, sea level rise science has advanced considerably. Del Mar in particular is aware of severe impending threats to a 1.7 mile section of railroad, riverine flooding, and beach loss — all of which would benefit from an updated LCP.

Bayside Beach Public Access Improvements

On Wednesday, the Coastal Commission approved an after-the-fact permit amendment by Orange County Parks for the reconfiguration and increase in availability of public surface parking spaces, a canoe storage area, public access program, formalization of a shared visitor dock, and ADA pathway on the sandy beach as well as other components, in Newport Beach at Bayside Beach.

This particular location is important because it is near the harbor entrance, along the bay and adjacent to yacht clubs and private residences that are not open to the public. Residents of and visitors to Orange County should all be able to benefit from this unique beach and coastal access site. Surfrider Foundation and others strongly supported the public access program that will provide free monthly participation in the canoe clubs for the public with targeted outreach and marketing to environmental justice communities.

Surfrider asked for additional mitigation for the ADA accessible public walkway proposed on the sandy beach. Occupation of sandy beach space must be mitigated with the creation of new beach space elsewhere nearby. As sea levels rise and coastal erosion increases, we cannot sacrifice our public beaches with only public access improvements as mitigation – such short-sighted action will lead to the disappearance of our beaches. Ultimately, the Coastal Commission approved the permit without additional mitigation.

245 Pacific Avenue

After two previous denials of seawall permits, the Coastal Commission granted the construction of a seawall at 245 Pacific Avenue in Solana Beach on Thursday. Construction of the seawall will fill in a “gap” of what will now be a quarter-mile long contiguous seawall in Solana Beach. The property had previously been denied a seawall because of a deed restriction explicitly waiving the right to shoreline armoring. A recent settlement agreement between the Coastal Commission and a group of properties (including 245 Pacific Avenue) in Solana Beach was premised on the lack of stability at the properties surrounding the “gap house.” The permit was conditioned with a $200,000 fee for 20 years (after which time the fee will progressively increase), and the condition that 50% redevelopment would trigger its removal.

Surfrider San Diego had asked the Coastal Commission to deny the seawall permit at 245 Pacific Avenue based on the fact that the property owners had redeveloped their home in 1996 and, in exchange for rights to build with very limited setbacks, had accepted a deed restriction specifically prohibiting them from all future rights to shoreline armoring. Further, their deed restriction outlined two thresholds that would precede removal of threatened portions of the home. Surfrider argued that removal should be considered because the home has been studied to be unsafe, because such an overwriting of a deed restriction severely weakens the effectiveness of this regulatory tool for saving the coastline, and because numerous other properties in Solana Beach are benefitting from seawalls when they are not legally entitled to armoring.

Fiesta Island Amendment

The City of San Diego's Mission Bay Park Master Plan Amendment, addressing the 470-acre Fiesta Island segment of the park, was approved at the June meeting. The Commission went against staff recommendations in order to certify a specific version of the plan which keeps the 100-acre dog park entirely undeveloped. More than 500 comment letters were submitted by supporters of the coastal dog park who spoke to its uniqueness. Surfrider San Diego, as a member of the ReWild Mission Bay Coalition, supported a different option for the 100-acre subsection, where approximately 6 acres would be shared with other coastal dependent uses (largely a storage and launch area for outrigger canoes and other paddlecraft.) Without designating spaces for this community, their launch sites will be threatened by long-term planning in Mission Bay, including by the ReWild initiative which Surfrider supports and which seeks to restore more than 150 acres of wetland in this coastal ecosystem.