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An aerial view of the Del Mar coastline captured by a drone. Photo by Marley St. John
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Del Mar to withdraw sea-level rise amendment from Coastal Commission

DEL MAR — After the California Coastal Commission staff published a revised list of 22 modifications to Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program Amendment and less than two weeks before the agency’s hearing on the matter, the Del Mar City Council voted 4-1 to withdraw its amendment from the California Coastal Commission.

The lone no vote was Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden.

Each of the council members, including Worden, expressed their belief that some of the modifications the Commission requested were not in the best interest of the city of Del Mar.

“The Coastal Commission’s certification has been delayed for three years. Why?” Mayor Terry Gaasterland said. “Every time they have sent comments to the city, their changes reintroduce managed retreat for private property which would irreversibly harm Del Mar, our beaches, our many beach visitors each year, and especially the 700-plus homes in the beach community.”

In 2018, the state agency updated its guidance on sea-level rise to include strong encouragement of managed retreat which includes the purchasing or condemning of threatened homes along the coastline and either tearing them down completely or relocating them.

The following year, Coastal Commission staff recommended denying the city’s proposed amendment without necessary modifications:

“The proposed amendment does not include the level of detail necessary to address the future impacts of (sea-level rise) – and future extreme events – which are described in the City’s Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment, Adaptation Plan, and other technical documents.

“Given the extensive work the City has done to better understand its sea-level rise vulnerability, and given the serious consequences those vulnerabilities could have on coastal resources, development, and public safety in Del Mar, it is important that the LCP better address sea-level rise hazards.”

Opponents of the process claim it is devastating to property values and believes that seawalls are a preferable option.

“Without seawall protection as provided for in Del Mar’s existing LCP, Del Mar’s neighborhoods will be quickly compromised,” Gaasterland said. “The low-lying land east of the missing berm, due to its low elevation, would revert to wetlands. Because of this unique topology, loss of seawall protection will compromise the oceanfront berm and eliminate viable access to the beach.”

The City Council believes the Coastal Commission, which has not spoken with the city since publishing its revised modifications, has not taken into account the Del Mar’s unique topography.

“The Coast Commission is not understanding the way Del Mar beaches work,” Councilmember Dave Druker said. “The major concern really is the San Dieguito River and its flooding and that is going to be a much bigger problem than the sea rising and damaging the sea walls.”

Druker noted the Coastal Commission is also not taking into account the size of Del Mar, which does not have the funds that bigger cities such as Los Angeles or San Diego have to pay for work they are asking for to be completed.

Worden, the sole vote against withdrawing the LCP Amendment from the commission, expressed his desire to continue the dialogue with the commission through the hearing scheduled for June 10.

“I’m not on board (with all of the modifications), but I don’t think it’s timely to withdraw now. I think we should continue the effort. Go to the hearing and see what kind of reaction we get from the commissioners,” Worden said.

Some local advocates attempted to persuade the council not to take this step. In a letter sent to City Council prior to the council meeting this week, the Surfrider Foundation urged the council to do what they believe is needed to prepare the city for rising sea levels.

“We believe wholeheartedly that the city will get closer to this goal by having a public discussion in the appropriate policy context at the Coastal Commission hearing on June 10, and implore the City Council to pursue measurable and implementable sea-level rise planning by moving forward with Coastal Commission review of its LCPA,” the letter signed by Kristin Brinner, Jim Jaffee and Laura Walsh of the Surfrider Foundation said.

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