May 2022 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
May 26, 2022
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May Meeting Report

The May Coastal Commission meeting took place in Costa Mesa on May 11-13. The meeting included the much anticipated vote on the proposed Brookfield-Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Plant as well as a critical enforcement issue in Pacific Palisades, an update on the state’s Sea Level Rise Action Plan and a vote on coastal armoring in San Clemente. This meeting resulted in one vote chart - the Brookfield-Poseidon desalination agenda item.

Temescal Ridge Trail - Enforcement

An enforcement and administrative penalty item was levied against a number of management entities of a Pacific Palisades development for egregious violations of its CDP permit in the Pacific Palisades Development in Santa Monica in 1989. Two thousand residential units were approved for construction in the sensitive Temescal Ridge Area, with the mitigation condition that a network of trails in the surrounding open space would be maintained for the public including via a trailhead property that would provide parking and restrooms. Even at the time, this mitigation was a 'modest exchange' for the developer as noted by Commissioner Brownsey. And yet the Trailhead Property was knowingly closed, with later attempts to avoid taxes on the property and transfer the ownership of this public property. Jack Ainsworth called the action "so egregious and outrageous [he] simply could not believe it." In this case, the violator tried to "play dumb, delay debate of the issue and hope nobody would take notice," Director Ainsworth said. "This is a very serious violation and the public has been deprived of this trail for many years." Caryl Hart, Mike Wilson, and Carole Groom chimed in with similar sentiments. Surfrider commented in support of enforcement staff and the administrative penalty was increased through discussion from $3 million to $5 million with commitments to maintain and facilitate transfer of the Trailhead Property. The Commission decision was unanimous.

Sea Level Rise Action Plan

The Ocean Protection Council provided an update of the Sea Level Rise Action Plan, which outlines 80 actions that various departments within state agencies are taking to address sea level rise. The plan was originally an ambition of the Commission, and now outlines 80 strategic commitments in line with seven sea level rise principles that have been agreed upon and adopted by 15 state departments. Surfrider commented in strong support of the plan and noted that the Commission should continue regular discussions to clarify wanted outcomes of these commitments. While the plan facilitates opportunities to implement a shared vision of the coast through things like adaptation planning and guidance for critical infrastructure, it has not yet determined what that vision looks like. Much of these outcomes will be determined locally, and Surfrider pointed out that the Commission needs to address LCP sticking points in order to speak to such a vision. "When it comes to planning, a conversation about outcomes is always going to be more visionary than a conversation about what government tools and processes are available to us today," Laura Walsh, California Policy Manager for Surfrider commented.

San Clemente - Montalvo Canyon armoring

The Coastal Commission reviewed an application by the City of San Clemente to realign and armor a portion of the public access trail situated within a flood control channel in Montalvo Canyon. Surfrider argued that the City needed more robust geotechnical information in order to show that the flood control channel itself was not safe and that an armoring (gabion system) was appropriate given the presence of private blufftop development that would also benefit. The Commission unanimously approved the project but added special conditions to open the trail, which had essentially been privatized, by requiring better signage.

Brookfield-Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Plant

On Thursday, the Coastal Commission voted in concurrence with the staff recommendation to deny the Brookfield-Poseidon Huntington Beach desalination plant. ActCoastal partners, along with the Stop Poseidon Coalition partners, are celebrating an epic victory in the decades-long fight against the massive proposed facility. The vote was a moving reminder of the power of activism and the importance of the California Coastal Act and the governing body that upholds the law. Hundreds of people came together to oppose Poseidon’s proposed desalination plant, which was described by Coastal Commission Executive Director Jack Ainsworth as “simply the wrong project, in the wrong location, at the wrong time.”

After five hours of public comment and two and a half hours of deliberations, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to deny a permit for a 50 million gallon per day seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach. This decision marks a hard won victory in a 20-year campaign to protect Huntington Beach’s coast from this disaster of a project. By denying this project, the Coastal Commission sent a clear message that future desalination projects must comply with state law by minimizing impacts to environmental justice communities, marine life, energy use and coastal hazards. This item resulted in a vote chart. For more information, check out the following: