Preservation group plans to appeal council-approved seawall

ENCINITAS — The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation presented its appeal to the city council on March 14 of a major use permit and coastal development permit for a seawall and private stairwell in Leucadia that was granted in January.The City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the permit on Jan. 5 that allows a seawall built under emergency conditions to become permanent despite objections by shoreline preservation groups. The council voted 4-1 with Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposed.The applicant, Blue Curl, LLC’s request to install new landscaping in the mid-bluff area, an irrigation system and reconstruction of an unpermitted stairway was also approved.

The state’s Coastal Commission authorized an emergency mitigation permit in July 2008 for a seawall covering the lower bluff.

After a bluff collapse destroyed the aging wooden structure and stairs, the applicant was given permission to construct a temporary seawall.

Seawalls are not allowable by city code. However, exception is made for instances where an existing structure is in imminent danger, according to City Planner Roy Sapau. In addition, he told the commission that the stairway is considered to be vested, so that nonconforming structures can be rebuilt if they are destroyed 100 percent.

Marco Gonzalez, executive director of Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation and a partner at the Encinitas-based Coast Law Group, made the argument that the seawall should come with consequences to the private owner, not just the public.

Mitigation measures, including sand replenishment and recreation fees should have been assessed according to Gonzalez.

“Why isn’t the city imposing this fee?” he asked. “Today is the first of many days I will meet with you to discuss your armoring of the coastline,” Gonzalez said, adding that he’s done the same with the city of Solana Beach.

“Don’t make me appeal this decision to the coastal commission to get you to do your job,” he said. “Let’s just do it right this time.”

Mark Dillon, the attorney representing Blue Curl, LLC, said the project was unique.

“You’re not being asked to predict what the impacts will be in the future,” he said. “It’s there because this wall is needed to protect the property above.” The wall has been in place since 2009.

He claimed there were no significant environmental impacts stemming from the seawall. “There are no passive erosion impacts,” he said.

“We voluntarily committed to a sand replenishment fee,” he said.

Gonzalez said the “paltry” $11,000 the applicant is giving to a sand replenishment fund was not sufficient to mitigate the loss of the public’s beach.

Livia Borak, a Leucadia resident and attorney at the Coast Law Group disagreed with Dillon’s claim that seawalls don’t impact the beach. “At times I just don’t go down there (the beach) because there’s no beach to go down to,” she told the council.

“I think it’s disingenuous to say that seawalls don’t cause environmental impacts,” she said.
“I think it’s bad policy to put in these seawalls.” She said the negative financial impacts from eroding shorelines on a beach town economy should be mitigated by the applicant.

Gonzalez said the decision would be appealed to the state’s Coastal Commission.

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  1. Harry Eiler says:

    A FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP

    If you have some time to waste, you might consider viewing the televised Encinitas Council Meeting of Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at the City’s website. Towards the last hour of the meeting, the Council dealt with a reasonable request to appeal the findings of its Planning Commission in permitting a seawall to remain on the public lands of the foreshore off property on Vulcan Avenue in Leucadia.

    In contradicting the vote of the Council, I have been told that this was a ‘slam dunk” decision requiring no reasonable questioning. After all, it had been built years ago supposedly on private property (a statement that I have yet to validate) and the emergency replacement wall – this time on public land – was authorized by the Coastal Commission in 2008. What need was there for further discussion?

    Well, the fact that the ‘mighty’ four of Encinitas Council (Barth being the only vote against) missed an opportunity to establish its intent to protect the public lands along the Pacific Coast seems reason enough to dwell on their decision and to consider whether they are sincere in protecting public access from this and a slew of future encroachments along the shoreline. It would seem that building an ugly seawall all along the entire coast would be an ideal solution to prevent a possible death because of cascading cliffs –- a ‘win/win situation’ according to Mayor Stocks.

    In his zeal to accomplish his mission, Stocks was forced to make the ill=considered motion himself because of reticence on the part of the other four Council Members to speak up – after several promptings – although a hasty ‘second’ was forthcoming. I have been alerted by Mr. Stocks that to pursue this issue would damage my credibility; NO WAY ! It is the Council that has lost any and all credulity as to their custodianship of public lands and the city’s future. Theirs is a failure of leadership in not standing up for all the citizens of Encinitas in favor of the few who ignorantly purchased pricey homes on known unstable sandstone. THEIRS is the missed opportunity to protect our coast !

    It is time for Encinitas to consider a clean sweep of its Council and seek out those who can be entrusted with the custodianship of our coast for all our citizens. We simply need intelligent people who are independent thinkers working for the good of our city. Fortunately, there are over a dozen names submitted for our consideration in November. After dismissing all sitting Council members and the past disgruntled applicants all of whom, for various reasons, lack the talents for positive change, have their own personal agendas, and who will ensure a continuation of squabbling and petty personal agendas, there are still about a half dozen people who offer hope and who well might be regarded as possible replacements for the present Council.

    More later.

    Harry Eiler

  2. Concerned Resident says:

    I agree that the entrenched “super majority” on Council once again made a terrible decision. I find it to be ridiculous that no environmental impact report was required. The wall was built as an “emergency wall,” that is true. According to Encinitas Muncipal Code, ONLY emergency walls can now be constructed. But an “emergency” situation should not be considered permanent. When the status is changed from an emergency structure, to becoming permanent, then it only seems logical, and fair, to the public, that independent environmental review must be required. To declare it exempt from environmental review is contrary to the City’s duty to uphold the public trust. Our coastline is changing, due to rising water levels. The “mean high tide line” is not static. We can read about this in the NCT: http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/sdcounty/region-scientists-say-rising-sea-level-threatens-local-beaches-oceanside/article_69f1178f-ece7-55cf-8433-33463b1138ef.html?mode=story

    Our cliffs are not stable. It seems absurd that the blufftop property owner can simply hire an engineering firm to declare there is no evidence of erosion! If there was no evidence of erosion, then how could an emergency situation exist such that the seawall was permitted to begin with!

    It took courage for Teresa Barth to stand up to the majority of Council, who seem bound and determined to go along with developers and commercial interests, to the detriment of residents and the general public. I completely agree that we need a drastic change on Council. I hope that Jim Bond will keep his promise this time, and not run again. We have to work together to vote Jerome Stocks out of office, as well as his former campaign manager, Mark Muir, who now makes approximately $176,000 per year in retirement pay from being “a fireman,” as he recently described himself, as well as his compensation and benefits through being appointed, against the wishes of the public speakers and former council member, Maggie Houlihan, who, on her death bed, recommended Lisa Shaffer as her replacement. I feel Lisa Shaffer would bring intelligence and integrity to the office. She would add a fresh perspective, and would put the public’s interest first.

    Mr. Eller, I know you had your issues with Maggie Houlihan, but independently of her recommendation of Lisa Shaffer, you will find Lisa to be straightforward and honest, involved and very well-educated on environmental concerns. Lisa supports open government, supports our having a Sunshine Ordinance, to spell out how our City will interpret and apply the California Public Records Act, the Brown Act and the Conflict of Interest laws all detailed in Government Code, part of our statutory law.

    Yes, the decision to make what was an emergency seawall permanent was a “slam dunk” with the current make-up of our Council. Vote out the incumbents, including the bully, Stocks, and his former campaign manager, Muir (as well as Bond, if he runs again)! Vote for positive change. Collectively, we can make our voices be heard.

  3. mercededud says:

    Instead of worrying about the city council worry about Gonzalez his motto is sue, sue, sue then settle and keep the MONEY, NO taxpayer money pays for seawalls the people who put up the seawalls pay for everything, as a matter of fact the state, the city all make money off of seawalls and the public has more beach to use. Also there’s a matter of property rights doesn’t a home owner have the right to protect is property. Gonzalez, Jaffee and few other extreme surfriders have filled the community of so many lies its sad. If the truth be known not one person would be against seawalls

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