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Council delays action on LCP

SOLANA BEACH — Council members once again postponed taking action on a plan that would give the city more permitting authority over most new development in Solana Beach. 

At a Dec. 5 special meeting, City Council delayed a decision on its Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan for 60 days to allow representatives from the two major stakeholder groups to reach a compromise on a handful of unresolved issues.

An LCP is the basic planning tool used by cities to guide development in the coastal zone. It is required by the California Coastal Act of 1976 to ensure coastal areas are used and developed according to statewide public objectives.

The California Coastal Commission has all permit authority in a coastal zone until an LCP is adopted.

Solana Beach, one of six coastal cities statewide without an approved LCP, is unique in that the entire city falls within the coastal zone.

That means any property owner, including those east of Interstate 5, must seek approval from the CCC for new development.

The city has submitted six draft LCPs since 2001 that include policies to address development citywide. But beach and bluff issues — and sea walls specifically — continue to be the main issues.

Bluff-top property owners say they should have the right to build the structures to protect their homes.

Environmentalists say the shoreline protection devices prevent the natural creation of a beach and will eventually eliminate land that belongs to the public.

Officials from the city and the coastal commission have gone back and forth on modifications to the document. Lawsuits have recently been filed on behalf of bluff-top property owners.

Several years ago the Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit to halt sea wall construction but it was withdrawn in an effort to move forward with the LCP, said Jim Jaffee, a Solana Beach resident who represents the local chapter of Surfrider.

In September, the plan was presented to council for adoption and submission to the CCC, but council members opted to continue work on the plan rather than adopt it, reject it or adopt it with changes.

Modifications were made and the LCP was available for a six-week public review period that ended Nov. 26. Ten comment letters were received.

Jaffee said his group would like to the city to adopt a version of the plan that was approved by the CCC in March.

He said any modifications could be adopted later as amendments.

“I can’t say strongly enough how that would be an awful idea,” said Jon Corn, representing the bluff-top owners. “Please do not do that.”

Corn cited a letter from Carlsbad City Attorney Ron Ball, who noted problems that the city has had with the CCC as it tries to amend its LCP.

Corn said contrary to what some people are saying his group is committed to helping the city secure an approved LCP.

“The owners are very eager to conclude the process and get this done,” Corn said.

There are currently about a half dozen unresolved issues. They include establishing a geologic setback line and reasonable and clear permit renewal criteria for sea walls.

Council had hoped to submit the document before two new members are seated at the Dec. 12 meeting.

But bluff-top owners asked council for an additional 45 to 60 days to work through the issues.

Councilman Tom Campbell and outgoing Mayor Joe Kellejian, who have been working on the LCP for more than a decade, supported the additional time, but were skeptical.

Campbell said he wanted the CCC to state in writing what would be acceptable well in advance of the Feb. 13 meeting, during which the LCP will be presented again.

Kellejian, noting that the city has spent more than $1 million since 2005 on the plan, called the process “tragic.”

“It’s gone on way too long,” he said, adding that if issues aren’t resolved by February he will come back as a private citizen and urge the council to “stop the bleeding.”

City Manager David Ott said Sharilyn Sarb, deputy director of the CCC, has agreed to meet with city staff and stakeholders to resolve the issues.

Ott said he will “be leaning on all the folks” to reach a compromise.