Plot thickens for Prop A and coastal commission

ENCINITAS —Several weeks ago, it appeared as though the city would need to process a land-use change in order for Proposition A to take effect in the entire city. But after receiving a letter several weeks ago, the city is seeking clarity on whether that’s necessary. 

The growth-control initiative went on the books for the northeastern portion of the city July 21. However, for now, the city is holding off on processing permits for some building projects in the 80 percent of the city that’s in the coastal zone. The delay is due to continuing uncertainty over Prop A and the California Coastal Commission, according to City Planning Director Jeff Murphy.

“We want to figure this out as soon as possible,” Murphy said.

Specifically, the city is looking at whether it will have to file an amendment to its local coastal program to satisfy the coastal commission.

In late May, Murphy asked coastal commission staff if the city would need to approve all or a portion of Prop A for it to become law in the coastal zone.

“Briefly, the answer is ‘yes,’” wrote Eric Stevens, an analyst with the coastal commission, in a July 1 response. The letter went on to say coastal commission approval is dependent on the city completing an amendment to its local coastal program — a process that could take up to a year.

The amendment is required, among other reasons, because Prop A establishes a 30-foot height limit in the coastal zone, according to that letter.

However, a July 10 letter from the coastal commission noted that proponents of Prop A have argued the initiative’s height limit doesn’t conflict with the local coastal program, and thus the supporters believe an amendment is unnecessary.

Further, in contrast to the July 1 correspondence, a July 10 letter emphasizes the city has some leeway on whether it’s going to file an amendment.

“The next step in the process is for the city to determine the provisions of the initiative that are inconsistent with the policies or standards of the certified local coastal program and begin processing an local coastal program amendment for review,” Stevens wrote July 10.

Murphy said the “incongruence” between the July 1 and July 10 letters has to be reconciled.

“That’s something I’m trying to clarify,” Murphy said. “Does that mean for certain we don’t have to do an amendment? There’s some confusion.”

City officials met with the coastal commission staff and legal counsel last week. But the city is still trying to determine how to move forward with Prop A.

Because of lingering questions over implementing Prop A, Murphy said the city is currently refraining from processing building permits for three projects in the coastal zone for land grading.

Sara Wan, former chair of the coastal commission, said that the most recent coastal commission letter “clarifies that coastal commission doesn’t certify initiatives.”

She added that Prop A lowers the maximum building height in certain portions of the city.

“Prop A is more restrictive, meaning that it’s not inconsistent with the Encinitas local coastal program, and therefore (there’s) not a need for an amendment,” Wan said.

Prop A was written to eliminate the City Council’s ability to “up-zone” beyond height and density limits.

 

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  1. Murphy's Law? says:

    Murphy should not sit on pending permits. At the July 10 CC meeting it was very clear that the Coastal Commission retracted his stance and made it clear they have no jurisdiction over Prop A and that the LCP does not need to be amended. The decision to amend rest on the city but is not required.
    The planning department needs to stop delaying tactics. July 21st was already 5 days ago.

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    Change is a constant. Growth cannot be a constant, because the economy and housing cycles must go through periods of expansion and contraction, to remain stable. Unchecked growth leads to bubbles bursting, and insufficient infrastructure, also, loss of community character and quality of life. Fortunately, Prop A put a check on growth.

    The law is in effect, citywide, NOW. This most recent article in the Coast News ends well, but the headline is “muddy” and the first page of the piece, before it is continued, seems to try to defend the incorrect original article, also by Jared Whitlock, which called California Coastal Commission North County Representative Eric Stevens’ mistaken opinion a “ruling” by the Commission. Stevens’ July 1 opinion was mistaken, retracted, and was not “signed off” by CCC Regional Director Deborah Lee.

    Eric Stevens’ July 1 letter to the City was confusing. But it was hypocritical of the City to give his belated answer to new Planning Director Jeff Murphy’s inquiries so much weight, when the City of Encinitas dismissed and overrode Coastal Commission and City staff’s recommendations after the January 23 CCC letter by Deborah Lee directing the City NOT to eliminate a lane, northbound for motorists, without completion of a Coastal Development Permit and a Local Coastal Program Amendment, as a Major Roadway, primary circulation element was being affected by eliminating a lane.

    Our General Plan, North 101 Specific Plan Land Use Element and LCP define North 101 as a Major Roadway AND a primary circulation element. There is no confusion about what is required according to Coastal Act Law. The City’s “waffling” on the “implementation” of Prop A is only its trying to do damage control and blame the voters and the CCC for the City’s not using COMMON SENSE or following competent legal advice from an Environmental and Land Use expert, Attorney Everett DeLano, or former Coastal Commissioner and Chair, current environmental consultant specializing in Coastal Commission matters, Sara Wan.

    Election Code law is very specific. Prop A, which gives voters the right to decide land use issues of upzoning through increasing density or raising height limits is now effective, citywide, in Encinitas, since July 21, or before. The City must abide by the new ordinance that has been created when processing applications for development permits, NOW! The newly appointed Planning Director is not doing his job, but is trying to appease the City Council, City Manager, and City Attorney, who wrote disingenuous arguments against Prop A and allowed a NOT impartial analysis by City Attorney Glenn Sabine. Instead of accepting defeat graciously, and learning from their errors, Council and the City Attorney are trying to “play up” confusion about the Coastal Commission’s role in approving Local Coastal Program Amendments.

    The Coastal Commission staff has admitted in its subsequent letter to the City that it’s up to the City, NOT the CCC to determine if an LCP amendment is necessary. It’s NOT necessary for the law to be effective, as it already IS, according to Election Code and the initiative, itself, written by a North County Attorney who has Sections (specialties) in Real Property (land use, zoning and initiatives) and Environmental Law. City Attorney Glenn Sabine does not live in North County, and has NO sections on his California Bar page. He wrongfully claimed that pre-existing lower residential height limits would be RAISED by passage of Prop A, which is patently false. This was repeatedly pointed out to him and Council, just as the fact that there is no way the city would be “bifurcated,” through the CCC, by passage of Prop A. Unfortunately, Council and Sabine wanted to believe the lies. Jeff Murphy, Planning Director, wants to support Council’s mistaken understandings, and “direction” from fairly new City Manager Gus Vina, as well as poor advice from City Attorney Glenn Sabine, all at the expense of the will of the voters.

    • jim kydd says:

      “Concerned Citizen” is absolutely, positively, couldn’t have been said better, “right on!”
      Wish Concerned Citizen would send these comments to The Coast News “Community Comment” forum for print publication.

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