Del Mar looks to postpone Coastal Commission hearing over sea level rise to July

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar City Council members will attempt to withdraw and resubmit applications to the California Coastal Commission related to the city’s plan to handle sea level rise, with the goal of postponing a hearing in front of the commission until July.

The council members voted 3-2 at their Jan. 13 meeting to have the city manager send a letter to the Coastal Commission asking for Del Mar’s applications to be withdrawn and resubmitted as new applications. The administrative maneuver allows the city and the Coastal Commission more time to come to terms on Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program Amendment applications pertaining to sea level rise.

If the Coastal Commission considered the applications in their current form next month, as originally scheduled, they likely would have been rejected, according to city staff. With the extra time, the two sides will be able to discuss sticking points, such as proposed changes to Del Mar’s Floodplain Overlay Zone and Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone that would have undermined the city’s plan to avoid managed retreat.

According to a city staff report, the Coastal Commission proposed modifications to those zones and other changes “based on data with a high level of uncertainty and high likelihood for legal challenge.”

“If you’ve ever tried to get coastal staff to devote time to an issue that isn’t in a pending application, good luck,” said City Councilman Dwight Worden, who was part of the majority vote. “If we want their attention, we need to keep the application pending.”

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland and Councilman Dave Druker were in favor of withdrawing the city’s applications and holding off on resubmitting pending further discussion with Coastal Commission members and staff scheduled for later this month.

Del Mar resident Laura DeMarco mentioned the concerns residents have had about their property values. “We need to keep them high so people can afford to repair and replace the seawalls that protect the 600 houses behind them in the whole North Beach neighborhood,” she said during public comment. “You’ve really helped the community in holding the ground and not let our property values and our economic viability erode.”

According to city staff, postponing the hearing until July would allow the city more time to evaluate Coastal Commission recommendations, receive more input from Del Mar residents and receive additional direction from City Council members.

“Our ability to protect our city against the consequences of sea level rise is far stronger if the Coastal Commission is a partner,” Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland said.