December 2017 Hearing Report

From ActCoastal

By Mandy Sackett | Published 2018/02/16

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Commentary is provided by ActCoastal partners.

This blog represents the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the positions of ActCoastal and its partner organizations.

December Coastal Commission Hearing

The December hearing took place Wednesday, Dec. 13 through Friday, Dec. 15 at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. The agenda included several important topics such as seawater desalination, coastal access, shoreline armoring, low-cost accommodations and more. The meeting resulted in three vote charts, all with good results.

Seawater Desalination Briefing

Coastal Commission staff gave an informational briefing on coastal resource issues and regulatory requirements related to seawater desalination in California. This was an informational item only; no Commission action was taken. Coastal Commission Senior Environmental Scientist Tom Luster spoke on the impacts of desalination plants including entrainment impacts and significant loss of marine life productivity and recommended Coastal Act and Water Code policies that mandate minimizing impacts to the extent feasible and largely pointed to subsurface intake examples as the preferred option.

Natural Resource Defense Council, Orange County Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation, Azul, and Southern California Watershed Alliance provided comments, offering information on best practices and preferred alternatives to seawater desalination. Issues highlighted including impacts to marine life and the marine protected area network, compliance with new state law and policy and potential conflict with the state’s coastal hazard and sea level rise policy and regulations. Watch the full presentation here.

Commissioners expressed concern about the toxic content of brine discharge, the potential impacts to MPAs and marine life and asked how to evaluate the maximum amount of water conservation that should be required before resulting to seawater desalination.

Erodible Concrete in Solana Beach

Surfrider Foundation objected to a CDP application to install an erodible concrete seawall in Solana Beach. Surfrider rejects the notion that “erodible” concrete actually does erode at the same rate as the surrounding natural bluffs and thus, constitutes a seawall - which is not a permitted use as a preemptive measure. The staff report concedes that historically, erodible concrete has not eroded at the same rate as the bluffs. As detailed in the City’s certified LUP, erodible concrete is permitted to be installed preemptively, as its impacts to coastal resources are significantly less than those for seawalls. However, non-erodible concrete is not permitted to be installed preemptively and has many of the same adverse impacts as seawalls and would likely require mitigation for impacts to sand supply and public access and recreation.

The Coastal Commission agreed with Surfrider that there is not sufficient data on the proposed seawall’s erodibility and that this and future coastal armoring decisions must be conservative in light of sea level rise. This bodes well for the future of our beaches facing heading threats due to sea level rise. Indeed, alternatives should be fully exploited before relying on seawalls with unproven erodibility, questionable need and grounds for approval.

Parking Restrictions in Malibu

The Coastal Commission voted heard an appeal of Local Coastal Development Permit 17-057, to implement a 30-minute parking restriction between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m. daily, and posting of parking restriction signs issued by the City of Malibu. The City approved project would restrict public parking on both sides of Pacific Coast Highway in the vicinity of Surfrider Beach, adjacent to the Malibu Pier. The City argues that the restriction will encourage parking turnover, which will benefit coastal visitors because there will be more parking available during other hours.

The area where the restricted parking hours are proposed is directly in front of the most popular visitor serving portion of Surfrider Beach and is one of the few areas in Malibu where the public can park and access the beach at nighttime. Nearby parking lots are gated and closed to the public at night. The City’s findings reference that nighttime visitors may “exit their cars and walk along PCH and enjoy views”; however, 30 minutes does not provide adequate time for members of the public to access the beach, enjoy a moonlight walk along the sand, observe a grunion run, or go swimming or surfing and would unduly restrict coastal access to this portion of the coast.

Commission Staff recommended that substantial issue exists and that the Commission deny the coastal development permit after the de novo hearing on the matter because the proposed project is not consistent with the public access and recreation policies of the certified City of Malibu LCP and the Coastal Act. Commissioners voted to unanimously deny the City’s proposed parking restrictions.

Luxury Hotel in Dana Point

The Commission heard an appeal by the Surfrider Foundation of City of Dana Point Local Coastal Development Permit for construction of a two-story 57-room luxury hotel, 52-bed hostel, a visitor center and more on a 1.6-acre vacant lot. The Surfrider Foundation filed the appeal, alleging the project’s failure to comply with the Headlands Development and Conservation Plan (HDCP) which is the applicable LCP standard of review, with the City’s certified LCP providing the standard of review where the HDCP is silent. However, Coastal Commission staff recommended finding no substantial issue based on ambiguity within the HDCP.

Surfrider made the case that substantial issue should be found based on several factors. Notably, only a maximum of 90 keys (rooms) are permitted in Planning Areas 4 and 9 of the HDCP. The applicant proposes 147 keys in these two planning areas. Therefore, the project exceeds the scope and allowable use of the HDCP. In addition, the appellant claims that the intent of the HDCP was for only one hotel in the Headlands development.

The proposed development would take place on a lot that is designated for purposes that would facilitate coastal access to surrounding trails and coastal vantage points. A luxury hotel would negate those purposes and inhibit coastal access for most people. Instead, a robust visitor center, hostel and parking spaces are more appropriate and conform with the HDCP. Substantial issue was found and the appeal will come back for a De Novo hearing in the near future.

See the full December hearing summary and vote charts here.