Watermark’s application for a fifty-unit apartment complex next to the traffic circle on Jimmy Durante Boulevard has been deemed “complete” by the city Planning Department. State law requires an administrative permit decision by April 19 “by right.” There can be no public, DRB or Council involvement. The Planning Department decision will be based on “objective criteria including conformance with applicable zoning.” Once approved by Planning and noticed to the California Coastal Commission (CCC), there will be a ten day period for anyone to file a CCC appeal. All property owners within 300 feet will also be notified.
If an appeal is filed, CCC must begin a public hearing within 49 days to determine if it raises a “substantial issue” relative to conformance with the City Local Coastal Program or Coastal Act public access and recreation policies. If no substantial issue is raised, the city decision is final. If a substantial issue is raised, the CCC takes jurisdiction over the application from the city through a “de novo” hearing to address the issues raised.
Watermark resorted to its by right option in 2020 after two Council Members, Gaasterland and Druker, during the election campaign, made their opposition clear, thereby signaling that the required four votes for approval would not be forthcoming. For years prior to that time, Watermark had been voluntarily engaging in a good faith Specific Planning process that would have resulted in a smaller town home neighborhood with public benefits, including at least four units deeded to city ownership. So now the city gets a larger 50 unit (they could have increased it even more) complex with more density, height, a 3 story component instead of 2 , and 10 affordable units instead of 8 but none deeded to the city.
Hopefully our city can learn from this experience to work constructively within the law to balance public and private property interests.