Applicants of this coastal development permit proposed an 8,000 Sq. Ft. residential development that would be located in a protected coastal canyon. The lot contains environmentally sensitive habitat that would be damaged, which is not allowed under the Coastal Act and is therefore illegal, and the grading required would create an unstable bluff and thus be unsafe. The entire site consists of a coastal canyon slope and is surrounded by ESHA. The proposal also violates a number of policies in the city’s land use plan that prohibit development in canyons. The staff report recommended approval in order to avoid a takings claim because the lot was technically zoned as residential. Commissioners disagreed and stood by the Coastal Act by unanimously denying the permit.
Commissioners expressed concerns that the city did not yet fully evaluate or approve the project at the local level, and that it was premature for the Commission to rule. Commissioner Linda Escalante also asked that staff look into alleged illegal vegetation clearing and use of weed killers to eradicate sensitive habitat. She also noted that this fight is worth fighting, casting doubt that there was actually a valid takings claim at this property.
Approval of the proposed development would have set a dangerous precedent not only for the City of San Clemente but also for the protection of coastal canyons throughout California. The Commission should not give in to developers, jeopardize the Coastal Act and coastal canyons throughout California for unsubstantiated takings claims.
The South Orange County chapter works as part of a community coalition to raise awareness and concern over the proposed development and voice their concerns to the Coastal Commission. Due to their efforts, this project was blocked!