SOLANA BEACH — A plan to help Solana Beach meet its goal of eliminating sea walls by 2081 is now available on the city website. Residents are encouraged to view and comment on the proposal, which requires bluff-top property owners who build shoreline protection devices to pay a fee.
Sea walls, which are allowed in Solana Beach only under specific circumstances, prevent natural bluff erosion that creates beaches. The purpose of the fee is to compensate the public for that recreational loss of the beach. It is part of the city’s long-term shoreline protection management plan to preserve and enhance a safe beach for the public while protecting the rights of bluff-top property owners.
The land lease and recreation mitigation fee, as it is known, was created by determining the value of public land. To do that, the city hired a consulting firm that applied data to an economic model known as travel and time cost, which was used because it is considered to be replicable and cost effective. It also requires a reasonable sample size.
Consultants monitored beach attendance and conducted random surveys of beachgoers 16 and older for one year beginning in July 2008 to find out how much time and money it took to get to the beach each day.
After that number was determined, it was used to calculate a fee of $4.80 per square foot of beach area leased annually. Also factored in was the annual rate of beach erosion.
Property owners will be required to pay at least one-third of the fee upfront. The total fee amount will depend on the size of the sea wall and the year in which it is constructed. Owners will have the option of paying in full or amortizing the cost through 2081.
The land lease fee is part of the Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan the city has been developing for more than a decade. An LCP is the basic planning tool used by a city to guide development in its coastal zone. It is required by the California Coastal Act of 1976 to ensure coastal areas are used and developed according to statewide public objectives.
Solana Beach is unique in that the entire city is considered a coastal zone. It is one of six cities statewide, and the only one in San Diego County, without an approved LCP. Sea walls have been the most controversial part of developing the LCP.
A citizens advisory committee of environmentalists and bluff-top property owners spent years developing a document that includes compromises from both groups. LCPs were submitted to the California Coastal Commission in 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
One provision in the document requires that all shoreline protection devices be removed by 2081, while another grants the city first right of refusal to buy bluff-top homes when owners decide to sell. That program will be partially funded by the land lease fee.
Solana Beach resident Jim Jaffee, who was a member of the citizens advisory committee, described the land lease fee as a “critical cog in the whole LCP.”
“Sea walls do have an impact,” he said. “This is the study that can finally mitigate that impact.”
Jaffee, vice president of CalBeach Advocates and a member of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation, had issues with some elements of the fee plan, including the estimated annual erosion rate, which he felt was too low.
“In general, it’s a good report,” he said. “This is a very important element. We’ve got to keep it moving.”
The fee will be reviewed and likely updated before 2081. The land lease report can be viewed at www.ci.solana-beach. ca.us. Residents have until June 14 to submit written comments.