CARLSBAD — City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s decision that allowed construction of a disputed seawall on private property at the May 25 meeting.
The emergency permit was approved in early 2009 after a significant bluff collapse in December. While the property owner, Dean Goetz, says he built the wall to protect the beach below, environmental lawyers have challenged the city’s approval of the project.
“If you don’t build a seawall, that beach is unsafe for people to use,” Goetz said, of the private beach in front of his house that is often frequented by the public. “I was going to be sued if someone got hurt or killed because the bluff collapsed.”
Environmental lawyers Marco Gonzalez and Todd Cardiff argued that the city should revoke the permit, suggesting that Goetz’s main motivation for constructing the wall was to protect and increase the value of his house. In doing so, the wall will prohibit the bluff’s natural erosion to replenish the beach below.
“As soon as you fix the back end of the beach, you create a condition where we can no longer move inland,” Gonzalez said. “Eventually, you end up with no beach.”
The city had issued a Coastal Development Permit because the seawall would prevent future bluff failures, the beach access remained unchanged and the owner would assume maintenance responsibilities for the wall, said city Senior Planner Van Lynch.
The seawall also met several local coastal program policies, including assurance of bluff stability for the next 75 years and removing ground water from the bluff, Lynch said.
“It was textured and used architectural design elements to make it fit in the natural environment,” he said.
Gonzalez and Cardiff countered that the area did not meet all the requirements to receive a Coastal Development Permit, which are used to protect “coastal dependent uses.”
“Why are we subsidizing the protection of one man’s property?” Gonzalez asked. “The Coastal Commission does not consider walking on the beach sufficient reason to build a wall.”
While the council noted that the lawyers made a strong argument, the city was firm in its belief that what would be safest for the beach and its visitors had to be done.
“The surfers aren’t my concern — it’s the tourists and the families,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said. “I think that it was an emergency. I’m glad it was done.”
Although approved locally, the issue will now go before California’s Coastal Commission to make further determinations about the project.