Uncertainty remains over Prop A, coastal commission approval

Uncertainty remains over Prop A, coastal commission approval
Questions loom over whether the voter-approved initiative Prop A demands any kind of California Coastal Commission certification. Despite questions from the city of Encinitas, the commission has yet to respond. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — Last week, Proposition A passed with 51.85 percent voting “yes.” But it’s still unclear whether the California Coastal Commission needs to approve the initiative for it to take effect in most of the city. 

At the beginning of the year, a city-ordered impact report on Prop A from Orange County-based Rutan and Tucker stated the initiative would become law for the eastern slice of Encinitas 10 days after the election. But for the roughly 80 percent of the city that’s in the coastal zone, Prop A will also need the go-ahead from the coastal commission, the report says.

If the coastal commission declines to certify Prop A after a lengthy review process, this could result in different zoning rules for the separate parts of Encinitas, according to the report.

The City Council’s argument against Prop A that appeared with ballots, states the different zoning rules could “increase, rather than decrease, development pressures” in the coastal zone, citing the Rutan and Tucker report.

Documents show city staff sent the coastal commission a letter at the end of May asking if Prop A necessitates any kind of coastal commission approval. Eric Stevens, an analyst with the coastal commission, previously said staff from the organization would issue a stance on Prop A on June 11. But the staff has yet to respond.

In an interview earlier this week, Stevens said the delay could be chalked up to coastal commission staff “being under a heavy workload.”

“This is a controversial matter; we don’t want to issue something that we later have to retract,” Stevens said.

He said the coastal commission will likely weigh in on Prop A in the next few weeks, but declined to give a specific date.

Some maintain that coastal commission review isn’t necessary to certify Prop A.

“The coastal commission has never certified an initiative since it doesn’t have the legal authority,” said Sara Wan, former chair of the coastal commission. “Why would it start now?”

The Rutan and Tucker report states that Prop A demands certification because it amends a local coastal development permit. But Wan said that nothing in Prop A triggers an “up-zoning” amendment like that.

“I’m baffled how they arrived at that conclusion,” Wan said.

Joel Kuperburg, a lawyer with Rutan and Tucker, said in a voicemail the impact report’s reasoning is based on section 30514 of the California Public Resources code. He didn’t return a call asking which specific part of the code was grounds for the impact report.

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