Commentary: Watermark – Politics vs. Policy

The 50-unit Watermark project was found unanimously by the California Coastal Commission on November 17 to not “raise any substantial issue” regarding coastal access nor environmental harm, thereby ending appeals filed by neighbors. The project (near the roundabout), in the pipeline for over a decade, is now slated to be processed for a building permit with no additional public input or design review.


After years of public hearings and negotiations with neighbor opposition and resistance from two Council Members (Gaasterland and Druker), we are now at the likely endpoint with 50 rental units, including 10 affordable, four stories counting a parking podium (they decided against an option of adding even 15 more units).


As we reported last year, a smaller project was proposed for 38 units (for sale units plus at least 7 affordable units) with significant public benefits (including at least 4 affordable projects deeded to city/nonprofit ownership) but it would have required four Council votes. When it became apparent to the builder that Council Members Gaasterland and Druker were in opposition, they abandoned the process and resorted to the state’s “By Right” provision which allows them to bypass local review. It is noteworthy that Gaasterland continued her opposition in a recent letter to the Coastal Commission.


Ironically, both Gaasterland and Druker later voted for the same level of density for the North Commercial area, but it was after getting votes from opponents during the election campaign.


Moral of the story: what is good for politics is not always good policy for the community.