Solana Beach City Council to continue working with California Coastal Commission on land use plan

By Kathy Day

It looks like the debate over rules governing land use in Solana Beach that started more than a decade ago will continue for at least a couple more months.

And despite efforts by the city staff to negotiate modifications with California Coastal Commission staff and a 3-2 vote on Sept. 26 to continue working with them, most everyone agreed it’s likely the current draft of the Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan (LUP) will be rejected.

Councilman Mike Nichols, who voted to extend talks, said, “I think we will have to reject (the plan) but tonight’s not the night.”

The result didn’t please representatives of the Surfrider Foundation, including Jim Jaffee of its Beach Preservation Committee, who said the next day that he’s “disappointed but hopeful. They need to adopt this. … They have allowed the homeowners to hijack the process.”

The action didn’t please the other side either. Attorney Jon Corn of the Beach and Bluff Conservancy (BBC) and the Condominium Owners of South Sierra Avenue (COOSSA), said he wished the council would have rejected the document outright.

But, he added, he was pleased council members also voiced concerns about the plan and surprise and anger at how they had been treated by the Coastal Commission, which added a number of new conditions to the plan the council had adopted in June 2011.

At the center of the debate are the sections setting rules for seawalls and blufftop development. Of particular concern are property line setbacks, trigger dates, use of the mitigation fees and what would happen if a home was destroyed by a disaster. (See Box)

A crowd of more than 100 residents and their supporters overflowed the council chambers during the meeting, with some moving into an adjoining room and the lobby when sheriff’s deputies and a fire marshal saw the large crowd.

It included the yellow-shirted supporters of the BBC and COOSSA, who wanted the council to reject the document they’ve been working on for more than a decade. Emphasizing the rules they say would constitute “a taking” of private property along the coastal blufftops, they contend the document subverts the California Coastal Act, takes away local control and threatens local tax revenues.

One resident, Daniel Powell, told the council that the alternate plan “gutted our local effort” and asked them what would happen to the city’s tax revenues when the homes are gone.

“You must not let the Coastal Commission push you around,” he said. “Tell the Coastal Commission to go pound sand.”

The other side – the blue-shirted ‘Dude, Where’s My Beach’ crowd supported by the Surfrider Foundation – wanted the document approved, saying they believe the changes worked out over the past decade are in the best interests of people who use the beach and support the local economy.

Jaffee told the council it was important to approve the plan so homeowners outside the bluff zone could stop having to go through both the city and coastal commission to get permits. He also said approval would mean a fee structure would be set for seawall mitigation fees that could be used for sand and access improvements. At this point, they are only required to pay a deposit but not a fee.

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