March 2018 Hearing Report
By Mandy Sackett | Published 2018/04/23
March Coastal Commission Hearing
The March meeting of the California Coastal Commission took place over three days at the Oxnard Harbor District in Port Hueneme. Items on the agenda raised several issues critical to California’s coast including shoreline armoring, sea level rise, public access and sediment management. The meeting also featured many notable speakers highlighting local coastal conditions in Oxnard, including representatives from local environmental justice group CAUSE and California State University Channel Islands.
Reconsideration of Monroe/Sloan Erodible Concrete Seawall
On Wednesday, the Commission heard a reconsideration of a previous good coastal armoring permit decision. In December, 2017, the Commission denied the applicant’s permit application to install a 90-foot long preemptive “erodible” concrete seawall. Coastal Commission staff recommended denial of reconsideration since no new relevant evidence was presented and there has been no error of fact or law which has the potential for altering the Commission’s decision. Revised findings in support of the Commission’s denial were also approved at the March hearing.
Unfortunately, Commissioners approved the applicant’s request to continue this item at a future local hearing in order to receive testimony from local stakeholders. Continuing the reconsideration for this item is a waste of public resources, given the Commission approved the revised findings and the staff report found no merit on which to continue or reconsider this item.
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Wastewater Infrastructure
The City and County of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is proposing to construct new above-ground and subsurface redundancy wastewater infrastructure within a sea level rise and coastal hazard flood zone on the corner of the Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard fronting south Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
While redundancy infrastructure can be a great water quality safety precaution, significant coastal hazard risks are present at the proposed project location. Permitting this infrastructure would be premature given that extensive long term planning efforts for this area are currently underway. If the infrastructure is built as proposed, it would undermine the Ocean Beach Master Plan and may perpetuate future shoreline armoring at this location.
The project should be moved inland or, at the very least, conditions for no future shoreline armoring needs to be included in the permit. This item was continued to the May hearing in the North Central district so it can be heard in conjunction with the San Francisco LCP update for coastal hazards and sea level rise. While some continuances merely kick the can down the road, this instance lends itself to better planning and decision making given that the decision will be part of the larger, long-term planning effort.
Opal Cliffs Private Gate Access
The County-approved project that is the subject of this appeal is the result of a long and protracted case first initiated by Commission enforcement staff in 2006. While the permitting history between the Coastal Commission and the Opal Cliffs Recreation District is undeniably complicated, the fundamental question of whether or not a collective of property owners have the right to charge for access to a public beach is worth examining. The current operation run by OCRD requires those wishing to visit the beach to purchase a $100 gate key for yearly access or pay a $5 fee for a daily pass. The only access to the beach in question is blocked by a 9-foot fence, gate and “gate ambassador” responsible for enforcing the program’s terms. This construct raises significant and fundamental consistency issues with the Coastal Act and California’s coastal management program. In particular, the directive to maximize access all California’s residents and visitors is at the heart of this matter.
The Commission heard only the substantial issue portion of the appeal and the de novo hearing was postponed to a future date at the request of the applicant. Commissioners opted to hear the substantial issue presentation and unanimously found substantial issue.
Rindge Dam Removal
The Coastal Commission reviewed a consistency determination for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Malibu Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project in Malibu Creek State Park. The central feature of the project is the removal of the Rindge Dam and placement of impounded sediment..
The Corps estimates that should the project be authorized and funded by Congress, project construction would commence in 2025 and last approximately eight years. Construction of the project will result in the loss of riparian and other environmentally sensitive habitat (ESHA) that has developed on the surface of the impounded sediment reservoir. However, removal of the dam and sediment would restore the buried segment of Malibu Creek, improve the aquatic and riparian habitat above and below Rindge Dam, and provide habitat for the endangered southern California steelhead.
Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, the City of Malibu and others spoke in support of dam removal. However, significant concerns were raised regarding the need for additional analysis of sensitive habitat impacts, monitoring, restoration and a more robust sediment management plan. Specifically, Heal the Bay and Surfrider recommend the impounded sediment be reused as much as possible with prioritization for beach nourishment. As proposed, only one-third of the impounded sediment would be reused, while two-thirds of it would go to the Calabasas landfill. Meanwhile, due to long term erosion trends, lack of sediment flow from upstream waterways, as well as sea level rise, California’s beaches are starving for sand. More analysis is needed to ensure the benefits to this restoration project are maximized.
The Commission concurred with the consistency determination. Final approval of the project will come before the Commission at a future date.