By Kathy Day
Sometimes, it’s just not over until the fat lady sings – and in the case of the Solana Beach Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan there’s still a ways to go before she takes the stage.
With rhetoric toned down between blufftop homeowners represented by the Beach and Bluff Conservancy (BBC) and Condominium Owners of South Sierra Avenue (COOSA) and those advocating for greater beach access represented by the Surfrider Foundation, the Solana Beach City Council agreed unanimously on Dec. 5 to give a little more time to resolving outstanding issues on the draft plan that outlines development guidelines.
It could well be the last effort to resolve matters raised when the California Coastal Commission made changes last March to a plan previously approved by the council in June 2011. The council granted an extension in September in hopes that a resolution would be reached by this month.
However, several sticking points remain, among them phasing out private beach access stairways, language surrounding replacement of homes destroyed in disasters, and details about blufftop retention devices.
Outgoing Councilman Joe Kellejian, who did not seek reelection and was presiding over his last meeting as mayor, reminded the audience that he had voted to reject the plan in September.
“This process reads like a horror story,” he said, adding that City Manager Dave Ott had told him efforts to come up with a plan probably had cost the city more than $1 million since 2005.
“I do not believe (continuing) the process will change, but I’m hopeful,” he said. “If you’re not successful, I’ll be coming to you as a public speaker to tell you to stop.”
With the two sides wearing their trademark T-shirts — yellow for blufftop homeowners and blue for beach access supporters — their representatives presented short arguments on their concerns.
John Corn, representing BBC and COOSA, encouraged the council to continue, saying he believed resolution “could happen in the next week or two.” But he pushed hard for them to avoid another suggested option: Approve the document as it stands and attempt to negotiate amendments after the Coastal Commission adopts the document.
“Adopt and amend later is a pipe dream,” he said.
David Winkler, who has worked on past committees trying to come up with an acceptable framework for the land use plan, followed COOSA Chairman Tom Ryan to the podium. He said he was willing to meet as soon as the next morning “and get this over as soon as possible. … It’s tragic to throw this out … and tragic to adopt and amend.”
Jim Jaffee of Surfrider, who like many has worked on the plan for years, called on the council to adopt the March 2012 plan that was already OK’d by coastal commissioners.
“If you can’t do that, set some time aside to consider amendments later,” he added, urging the council to act before the new council is seated on Dec. 12 so the plan could be their legacy.
Following the presentations, Councilman Mike Nichols, sad “it sounds like the two sides are getting closer” so it would be time well spent to keep talks going until February. He asked that Jaffee and Winkler be designated to join the talks with the city and Coastal Commission staffers.
“We want this to be a very good process and have meaning,” he added.
Councilman Tom Campbell was adamant that city staff “lean on these folks” — the Coastal Commission staff — to get a firm commitment that they will support any changes when the plan goes back before the full commission.
Councilman Dave Roberts, who will soon be seated as a county supervisor, said he trusted that the current council had laid out a good process for the new council.
Councilwoman Lesa Heebner drew a chuckle from the audience when she said she would support the motion and the idea of having Jaffee and Winkler “in the room” just as long as there were no attorneys present.
“I just want clarity, clarity, clarity,” she added.
Ott, who has met regularly with both sides and will continue to coordinate the city’s talks with the coastal staff, said, “The worst possible outcome for all parties would be to come out and have nothing.”
Both sides, he added, “are truly committed to bring this to a resolution.”