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City’s land use plan inches forward

SOLANA BEACH — A document in the works for more than a decade that will give the city more control over development cleared another hurdle June 11 when council members unanimously adopted draft amendments to its Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan.

Efforts to obtain an LUP have caused friction between bluff-top property owners, who have said provisions relating to sea walls prevent them from protecting their homes, and environmentalists, who say shoreline protection devices stop the natural creation of a beach and will eventually eliminate land that belongs to the public.

But stakeholders on both sides of the controversial issue urged council to approve the changes.

“A lot of blood has been drawn on all sides,” said resident and attorney Jon Corn, who represents bluff-top property owners who are suing the city as the Condominium Organization of South Sierra Avenue and Beach and Bluff Conservancy.

Corn said many who have been involved in the process probably wish they could do things over, but “we are where we are.”

“I’m pretty proud of it in a lot of respects,” he said. “It’s been a long haul. The LUP, even with the amendments, is still not exactly what we would like it to be but there’s a lot of good things in it. And the LUPA improves upon a number of the problems that we were very concerned about.

Corn said his clients support adoption of the amended document “even though it continues to have some problems that we don’t like because the things that we do like … outweigh the things that we don’t.”

“I can tell you that it didn’t turn out exactly the way we would have liked it to,” said resident Jim Jaffee, chairman of San Diego Surfrider’s beach preservation committee. “We object to many of the things that are in there.

“There’s still a chance for things to change and improve as you go through your local implementation plan process,” he added. “It’s very common to tweak things, to make it more right, to keep the dialogue open. But it’s time to move this thing forward.”

Council approved an LUP in February 2013 with the caveat that changes would be submitted to the California Coastal Commission later as an amendment.

Those who opposed the LUP as adopted, including Councilman Tom Campbell, were doubtful the stage agency would continue working with the city once the initial document was approved.

As Councilman Mike Nichols pointed out at the June 11 meeting, the city took that risk and it paid off.

Amendments approved by council in May 2013 were sent to the CCC, which subsequently requested additional changes.

One of the most significant allows the 20-year life of a sea wall permit to begin when construction is completed, not when the permit is issued.

Other key changes include the addition of two erodible concrete alternatives for sea cave and infill protection projects. Public access on private beach stairways may be provided when feasible and reasonable and when located on a public easement or public property.

There is also an allowance for a 40-foot rear yard setback, rather than the geological setback line,

for additions and new development.

Additionally, a caisson foundation can be used for bluff stability for new development and additions. Cantilevered designs of up to 10 feet will be permitted over the rear yard setback but not over the bluff edge afterward.

Significant improvements or bluff-top redevelopment could trigger the requirement to remove an existing sea wall.

An LCP is the basic planning tool used by a city to guide development in its coastal zone. It is required by the California Coastal Act of 1976 to ensure coastal areas remain accessible to the public.

Each LCP contains a land use plan and zoning ordinances to implement that plan.

An approved LCP gives a city more permitting authority over most new coastal development. Solana Beach is unique in that the entire city is considered a coastal zone. It is the only San Diego city without an approved LCP.

That means development permits for all property owners, not just those on the bluff, must receive city and CCC approval.

“I think we can all agree on one thing,” Councilman Mike Nichols said. “This has taken a really, really long time.

“It’s been a long back-and-forth process,” he added. “Not everyone’s completely happy but I think that’s kind of what happens when you have a compromise.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done but it’s nice to say here tonight that it looks like we could have an approved … land use plan through the amendment process.”

The LUPA will go back to the CCC for final approval, most likely no later than August, according to City Manager David Ott.

He said the city will begin this month working on its implementation plan, a process that will take about 18 to 24 months. Once that’s approved by the Coastal Commission, Solana Beach will have an LCP.

Corn said he is “uncertain at this point what effect, if any,” the council’s adoption of the LUPA will have on the lawsuits.

Bluff-top owners still have other concerns, including a fee they are required to pay for installing sea walls.