SOLANA BECH — A draft amendment for a plan adopted in February that will give Solana Beach more permitting authority over most new development in the city was released March 29 for a six-week public comment period.
But according to one stakeholder group, the 12-page document “still has serious problems.”
The supplement to the Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan primarily addresses bluff-top development and shoreline protection.
“It’s not in its final form by any means,” resident David Winkler said on behalf of bluff-top property owners. “There are some issues that are not going to be resolved easily. Some things have to change, but I’m hopeful we can get those resolved.”
A Local Coastal Program, or LCP, regulates 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 that ensure public access to beaches.
Each LCP contains a Land Use Plan, or ground rules for future development and protection of coastal resources, and an implementation plan, which is created after the LUP is approved by the California Coastal Commission.
Solana Beach is unique in that the entire city, including the area east of Interstate 5, is considered the coastal zone, which means new projects, even those east of I-5, require city and state review.
Solana Beach is one of a handful of cities statewide — and the only one in San Diego County — without an approved LCP.
Solana Beach has been actively working to prepare an LCP since 2000. Six drafts submitted to the Coastal Commission between 2001 and 2011 were sent back with suggested modifications, most of which have been incorporated.
During that time a citizens group was formed to address resident concerns, including sea wall permits, perhaps the most contentious issue in the process.
Bluff-top property owners say they have the right to build and maintain 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.
The Coastal Commission approved an LUP last year, but with modifications that hadn’t been discussed by the stakeholder group. At the Feb. 27 meeting, environmentalists urged council to adopt that version and then create amendments to address details that hadn’t been worked out.
Resident Jim Jaffe, representing the Surfrider Foundation, said he would no longer be involved in negotiations if council took any other action.
Winkler and other bluff-top property owners wanted council to take no action and let the stakeholders continue negotiations to work through the remaining issues.
With Tom Campbell dissenting, council voted 4-1 to adopt the LUP and continue working on an amendment.
Campbell, Winkler and others said they were wary the Coastal Commission would work with the city once the LUP was approved.
“I was shocked that they enacted it,” Winkler said. “It’s unfortunate that now we have a law on the books with so many problems. I was hoping they would adopt (the LUP and the amendments) concurrently because the LUP has provisions that are unenforceable, illegal or unconstitutional. We still need to get it right.”
Winkler said the amendment re-enacts “language that has gotten the city into trouble before.”
“It contains language that will result in lawsuits,” he said. “That’s not meant as a threat. They are issues that have already been litigated.”
Specifically, Winkler said, a judge recently ruled in an Encinitas case that a 20-year limit on sea wall permits, which is included in the Solana Beach amendment, is illegal.
The amendment also includes a provision that would eventually convert private beach-access stairways for use by the public. Winkler said a similar condition was also recently ruled illegal.
“There are provisions that just don’t make sense,” Winkler said. “They are interesting to have but they’re unworkable.
“It’s essential that we have an amendment because the LUP has serious flaws that the Coastal Commission staff and city staff have acknowledged,” he added. “I remain optimistic that we can get amendments through that are legal and respect the environment and property owners’ rights.”
Noting the Founding Fathers didn’t get it right the first time, Jaffee said he’s not surprised by the process.
“We have 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “If we can get this done with one or two, I declare that a success. It’s not out of the ordinary to go through a process like this.”
Jaffee said his group isn’t happy with the LUP documents. “But can we live with it?” he asked. “Yes. I’m hopeful the other side can live with it.”
Jaffee said he disagreed with the bluff-top owners’ interpretation of the recent lawsuits. “That ruling doesn’t apply to Solana Beach,” he said. “Those were totally different circumstances. That was on private property.
“Nobody is going to agree 100 percent,” he added. “Whatever happens, there has to be a compromise. Sea walls have been in place for a decade and they are already impacting the beach. There has to be an end to this.”
The draft LUP amendment is available on the city website or at City Hall. Comments must be received by May 10.
A public hearing will be held before the documents are submitted to the Coastal Commission at an October meeting.