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California Coastal Commission, Managed Retreat & the City of Del Mar

By Louis A. Galuppo

This is part 1 of a 2-part series on Managed Retreat.

The City of Del Mar is “ground zero” and “the tip of the spear” as to the newest set of issues facing owners of homes along the California Coast. Cities and counties along the coast of the State of California are watching how the City reacts to the new reality of “Managed Retreat.” 

The City of Del Mar is taking a very proactive role in amending its Local Coastal Program (i.e., developing an “Adaptation Plan” to work with projected sea level rise). This allows the City the right to issue a Coastal Development Permit for development, redevelopment, or even for home improvement along the coast, but within the boundaries of the City. 

This is an important land use decision for a city to have and maintain, in that land use control remains at a local level (not remitted to the state).

After receiving a $300,000 monetary grant from the California Coastal Commission (“Commission,”) the City performed the underlying work needed to support the Adaptation Plan, but intentionally avoided adding provisions implementing the Commission’s stated “voluntary” policy of “Managed Retreat.” 

This is good for the constituency of the City of Del Mar.  And, since the general public has incredible access to the beaches in Del Mar (as a mandate under the Coastal Act), this policy of “Managed Retreat” is truly not needed.  So, why the fuss? 

Let us start to answer the question with some contextual information.

Since 1979, the mandate of the California Coastal Commission under the Coastal Act of 1976 (i.e., state statutes currently located in the Public Resources Code) is to, among other things, “promote the public safety, health, and welfare, and to protect public and private property, wildlife, marine fisheries, and other ocean resources, and the natural environment, it is necessary to protect the ecological balance of the coastal zone and prevent its deterioration and destruction.”  Section 30001 of the Public Resources Code sets out several other public policy-based reasons for the Coastal Act. However, the subsection quoted above demonstrates there is supposed be a balance, a managed balance.  There is nothing mentioned or implied as to “Managed Retreat.”

Most importantly, from the home owner’s perspective, it is the Commission’s job, duty and obligation to “promote the public safety, health, and welfare, and to protect public and private property.“

Since 1979, this has not changed.  So, what happened?

This is first in a series of informational editorial articles related to issues facing the ownership of real property along the California coast. Louis A. Galuppo is a coastal, environmental, land use, and real estate attorney practicing for 30 years. His office is located in Carlsbad, California.  He raised his family and lives with his wife in Encinitas, California where they have resided for almost 30 years. He taught real estate law, land use, and public policy for 14 years at the University of San Diego, in the Burnham-Moores Center of Real Estate.

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1 comment

Gabe December 19, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Difficult to tell what the author’s main point is.

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