November 2020 Hearing Report

Mandy Sackett
November 13, 2020
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Hearing Description

The Coastal Commission’s November agenda took place virtually from Wednesday, November 4 to Friday, November 6. The Commission had a fairly dense agenda with several important coastal preservation items. The Commission approved two managed retreat projects in Goleta and Gleason Beach. The Commission also approved the California Coastal Commission Strategic Plan 2021-2025 as well as the Shared Principles For Adaptation Planning - a joint statement with the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities on guiding principles for sea level rise adaptation planning. The meeting resulted in one vote chart with the Ritz’ Carlton illegal seawall resolution and managed retreat project.

Shared Principles For Adaptation Planning

The Commission considered adopting a Joint Statement with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and the League of California Cities (LCC) relating to “guiding principles, opportunities and challenges associated with proactive and effective sea level rise adaptation for California’s coastal communities.” After receiving public feedback following the draft statement at the October meeting, Commission staff revised the language to more closely align with California’s Making California's Coast Resilient to Sea Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action and removed references to armoring.

Commission and representatives from local jurisdictions praised the statement as a step forward in what has often been rough relationship between Commission staff, who typically take a long-term approach to evaluating potential sea level rise impacts on development, and city and county planners, who tend to focus on the more immediate term.

Among other observations, Surfrider Foundation noted that one of the positive outcomes of adopting this statement should be a decrease in emergency permits since local governments are acknowledging SLR impacts are expected and need to be planned for now.

Agua Hedionda Lagoon Dredge Project

On Thursday, the Coastal Commission approved dredging of up to 500,000 cubic yards of sand from the outer basin of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and deposit it onto Middle and South Beaches in Carlsbad. The applicant, Poseidon Water, needs to dredge in order to maintain the tidal exchange in the lagoon in order to provide sufficient seawater for their desalination plant - which intakes a whopping 299 million gallons per day causing massive impacts to marine life. In recent history, dredge materials from the lagoon have been deposited on North Beach in Carlsbad. While beneficial reuse of dredge materials can be vital to protecting the coast from sea level rise and erosion issues, it is not without its impacts and must be carefully managed. Impacts to sensitive habitat are substantial, albeit temporary. Impacts to surfing resources can also be expected and staff included a surf monitoring condition in order to understand better the effect of sand placement on the waves and to better inform future decisions. Commissioner Shelley Luce pointed out that the surf monitoring duration was very short at only 30 days and was unlikely to pick up fluctuations in seasons. The applicant claimed the impacts to surf are expected to be negligible and no changes were made.

Lindstrom Seawall in Solana Beach

In November’s meeting, the Coastal Commission approved an amendment for a Coastal Development Permit that has been four years in the making.

James and Karla Lindstrom first applied for a Coastal Development Permit to construct a new two-story home within forty feet of Solana Beach’s bluff edge in Solana Beach in 2016, when the Commission approved the permit with seven special conditions that were intended to account for erosion and sea level rise hazards that the home was likely to face within its lifetime.

Those conditions were appealed by the homeowners in a lawsuit that eventually made its way to the Superior Court of California, where in 2019 the Court upheld all of the Commission’s conditions with the exception of Special Condition 3(b), which required the removal of the development in the situation of extreme hazards.

The Coastal Commission’s November approval of a revision to this condition marks an action to comply with this court finding. The Court found the original condition ‘overly broad,’ and November’s revision more explicitly ties removal of the structure to coastal hazards and ensures the legality of removal.

The permit that has been granted to the Lindstrom property now also utilizes an ‘additive’ methodology for calculating bluff setbacks which includes sea level rise-induced erosion and a factor of safety to ensure safety over the lifetime of the structure. The applicants are now required to submit plans for citing the foundation of the home 60-62 feet from the bluffs edge.

Applicants also waived the right to armor their property in the future — signaling some relief to the public bluffs and beaches of Solana Beach where the coastline is already heavily armored.

Gleason Beach Managed Retreat on Highway 1

On Friday, the Commission approved a CalTrans managed retreat project to realign one-half mile of Highway One inland at Gleason Beach, just north of Bodega Bay. The project includes a new bridge through Scotty Creek wetlands habitat as well as re-purposing the existing highway as a new California Coastal Trail segment. The project also includes cleanup of a debris field and prior emergency repair work on the bluff and beach at Gleason Beach. The Ocean Foundation as well as Coastwalk California raised concerns about the impact of constructing a substantially sized bridge through sensitive habitat at Scotty Creek and the associated visual impacts of the bridge. The Surfrider Foundation also raised concerns with a portion of new coastal armoring that would be constructed to protect the Coastal Trail. Commissioner Caryl Hart noted that the project will increase public access and “massively improve” the public’s experience at Gleason Beach. Commissioner Shelley Luce also noted that despite the impacts associated with construction, the new bridge is likely to improve tidal flow and habitat function at Scotty Creek. Ultimately, Commissioners agreed that a balance between the benefits of managed retreat and moving inland away from sea level rise are worth the impacts of constructing a substantial bridge over the wetland habitat and approved the staff recommendation.