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Solana Beach updated on Local Coastal Program

SOLANA BEACH — Council members received an informational update on the city’s Local Coastal Program during the Feb. 25 meeting, about a week before city staff and a citizens committee were scheduled to meet with the California Coastal Commission staff to once again review the document.
A Local Coastal Program, or LCP, which includes the Land Use Plan and implementing ordinances, is the basic planning tool a city uses to guide development in its coastal zone. An approved LCP gives a city more permitting authority over most new coastal development. Solana Beach, which is unique in that the entire city falls within the coastal zone, is the only city in San Diego County without an approved LCP.
Beginning in July 2006, City Council submitted three draft LCPs to the Coastal Commission, which finally deemed the application complete and formally initiated a review in May 2007.
Several times throughout 2008, the Coastal Commission provided comments, which city staff and the citizens committee used to revise the LCP. At its Nov. 13 meeting, the Coastal Commission went against its staff’s recommendation to deny approval of the document and gave the city until this September to submit a revised plan.
“And so the LUP remains a working draft today,” Community Development Director Tina Christiansen said before highlighting some key issues raised by the Coastal Commission. “And there are many,” she said.
In all, city staff and the citizens committee are addressing 135 suggested modifications, 65 of which were included in a 42-page letter dated Jan. 20, 2009.
The commission has issues with several policies, from land use and upper-bluff reconstruction to sea-wall maintenance and repair.
“The role of the city’s beach replenishment program is noted,” Christiansen said. “There are issues and comments from commission staff on (policies pertaining to offset credits for mitigation fee programs).”
The city’s process and procedures for approving emergency bluff retention device permits are also addressed, as are provisions for a bluff-top minimum home, minimum bluff-top setbacks, erosion rates, safety factors and the sea level rise over the next 100 years.
“We really have our work cut out for us,” Christiansen said. “We have a very short period of time.”
As for progress, Christiansen said consultants have been conducting ongoing surveys to collect data for the sand mitigation and land lease/recreation fee programs. Those surveys are expected to be complete by early summer.
A list of prequalified geotechnical consultants who would work with residents seeking bluff retention devices has been established, and the city is pursuing an experimental multipurpose reef project.
“Preferred bluff retention solutions are being looked at, and we have had presentations and are exploring the concept of a geological hazard abatement district,” Christiansen said.
Input from the citizens committee is also a key component of the plan, she said.
Committee member David Winkler said the group continues to “work cooperatively.”
“There is a lot of good will,” Winkler said, noting that the process has been difficult because Coastal Commission comments were received in five separate increments.
“We prepared responses, and then we had to revise the responses,” Winkler said. “We’ve been going back and forth constantly.
“We’re dealing with a tremendous amount of detail,” he said. “There’s a lot of significant issues that the city’s going to have to deal with for decades. We want to be sure that we’re very careful in the way that the document is worded so that it reflects the compromises that we’ve not only reached between ourselves, but now that we’re having to reach with Coastal staff.”
Jim Jaffee, also a committee member, said one goal has been to simplify and effectively manage the project to “help get this done faster.”
“The timeline is critical at this point,” Jaffee said. “We’ve got to get something to them with agreed-upon changes. We don’t want to have anything hanging up in the air when we go to the hearing in September. We want to make sure … there’s consensus before the meeting.”
Jaffee said the citizens committee is proposing elimination of the Shoreline Planning Commission to allow City Council to continue approving sea walls “because they’ve done a good job … in the past.” He said the group is also suggesting removing the preferred bluff solution and adopting the sand mitigation fee the Coastal Commission already has in place.
“The land lease and recreation fee is separate — and the offset credits,” Jaffee said. “Those are two novel concepts that we developed through our process. And those still need to go forward. But for the sand fee, we think we should maybe cut those things and we might be able to do more with less.”
“It’s a typical compromise,” Winkler said. “Nobody’s getting everything that they want. … It’s our intent to try to bring forth something … that we can all sign off on.”