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Coastal Consequences
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

 

Waves of angst predicting the takeover of pro-development interests went through the environmental community after the Coastal Commission’s highly regarded Executive Director was fired on February 10th. Should Del Mar be concerned? How much authority does the Commission have over Del Mar’s land use planning decisions? We asked Planning Director Kathy Garcia.

The entire City of Del Mar is covered by the California Coastal Plan implemented in 1975 after voters approved Proposition 20. That proposition required a statewide plan to preserve the natural resources of the coastline and to maximize its use and enjoyment by the public. Each local jurisdiction was then required to submit a Local Coastal Program (LCP) for certification; the Commission approved Del Mar’s LCP in 1993. Our LCP contains land use designations for all property in the City and meets the Coastal Act requirements “to preserve coastline resources and protect the general public’s opportunity to get to and enjoy the City’s considerable coastal recreational resources.”

Del Mar is responsible for implementing the LCP and issues all coastal development permits within our city limits, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions include lands “subject to tidal action or claims of public trust” known as “original jurisdiction” lands. This category includes land in the San Dieguito River Valley from the Pacific east to El Camino Real. For instance, the City was required to go before the Coastal Commission for approval to build River Path Del Mar that will ramble from Jimmy Durante Blvd. to the Grand Avenue Bridge. Another exception is the Fairgrounds. “The 22nd District Agricultural Association properties were deferred from certification (whiteholed)” to avoid holding up Del Mar’s LCP. As a result the Ag District has to go directly to the Commission to get approval for any development on that property. The City would also go to the Commission to change the LCP designations for the proposed Watermark project.

Development approved by Del Mar is generally not appealable to the Commission. However, the Coastal Act does include an appeal process for any locally approved development project within 300 feet of the beach or bluff edge or 100 feet of a wetland or stream. One definition is “between the first public road and the sea” which in Del Mar is Stratford Court.

So how would Del Mar fare with a feared “pro-development” Coastal Commission? The Fairgrounds might be vulnerable to more intense development that could impact Del Mar significantly. But our Community Plan, Certified LCP and the Coastal Act are strong buffers from inappropriate development. In the meantime, Speaker Toni Atkins and two Assembly members, concerned about the lack of explanation for the termination of Lester, have introduced AB 2002 which would add the Commission to lobbyist reporting requirements. And the L.A.-based Grassroots Coalition has filed a law suit against the Commission asking for release of documents related to the firing. Finally, at its March meeting the Commissioners proclaimed their commitment to preserving coastal resources and vowed to work toward healing the chasm between each other (7 to 5 vote) and with the public.
Comments from Hershell Price and Jeff Barnouw on the readers’ page of the Sandpiper website:

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