The Coastal Commission certified the City of San Clemente’s Land Use Plan (LUP) update in August 2018. The City’s proposed LUP amendment before the Commission on Thursday attempted to change the baseline date for calculating cumulative alterations to structures toward determining whether overall development should be considered “new” from January 1, 1977, to August 10, 2018, the date of certification of the most recent LUP update. This change is important because it determines when new development or redevelopment will have to come into conformance with the Coastal Act as well as the City’s setback policies.
The Surfrider Foundation spoke during public comment at the August 14 California Coastal Commission hearing (as well as previous local hearings on the matter) and urged Commissioners to deny the proposed amendment, arguing that to protect San Clemente’s remaining beaches from sea level rise and coastal hazards, the City must adopt a long-term vision for the restoration of the coastline or face total loss of sandy beaches and the recreational opportunities they provide. San Clemente’s iconic beaches once offered ample opportunity for surfing, beachgoing, fishing and other recreational opportunities, but now face total extinction. The City must include the correct definition for redevelopment in the land use plan. If the 2018 date were adopted, coastal development would be able to rely on shoreline armoring for far longer into the future – a death sentence for the beach and important coastal habitats as sea levels rise.
Several Commissioners agreed with Surfrider that ample policy guidance exists – past precedent and previous decisions that define redevelopment as cumulative development completed after January 1, 1977 above the 50 percent threshold – therefore providing no reason to grant an exception to San Clemente. To do so would set a terrible precedent as local jurisdictions across the state tackle sea level rise planning and are looking at these early examples for guidance on acceptable adaptation policies. Indeed, Commissioner Dayna Bochco stated, “I simply cannot support that we move this date to an arbitrary place because the City wants to.” Commissioners Caryl Hart, Mike Wilson and Sara Aminzadeh all agreed.
In contrast, Commission Chair Steve Padilla had a differing view, repeating several times that previously adopted sea level rise policy guidance was not sufficient to base decisions on and that the Commission should have a set policy or regulation change to codify a policy position on the matter; lacking such, he would support the amendment. Indeed, a clear definition of redevelopment and existing development within the Commission’s regulations would be preferred – as long as that definition doesn’t doom our public coastal resources upon which our state’s coastal economy and vast recreational opportunities rely.
The City of San Clemente, clearly facing denial, withdrew the application in response to the deliberations thus leaving the burden of coastal zone permitting within the City on the Coastal Commission.