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State panel steers clear of local park plans

ENCINITAS — The California Coastal Commission declined to interfere with the city’s plans to build a park on the Hall property in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
During its public meeting Feb. 6 in Huntington Beach, the commission voted unanimously to reject appeals from neighbors of the site who called into question the park’s impact on traffic, noise and environmental factors.
However, the commission declined to even discuss the matter, relying instead on staff findings that the park raised “no issue of regional or statewide significance.”
Deputy Mayor Dan Dalager represented the city at the meeting. “The Coastal Commission grilled the people appealing this thing,” he said. “They said ‘it is the best project we’ve ever seen.’”
The city purchased the 43-acre Hall property, located just west of I-5 and south of Santa Fe Drive in 2001 for $17.2 million. City Council cleared the way for construction of five lighted sports fields at the park during a packed meeting Oct. 22. The 3-2 vote reverses the Planning Commission’s denial of the project.
Councilman Jerome Stocks also attended the meeting. “It was a unanimous win for the city,” he said.
Appeals by Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident Peter Stern and the Citizens for Quality of Life group were considered at the hearing. Andrew Audet told the commission that the surrounding residential neighborhood did not have the infrastructure to support the increase in traffic.
Gerald Sodomka, a member of the group, argued that traffic was an issue of state and regional interest. He claimed that traffic generated by the planned multi-use sports complex at the park would impede access to the area’s beaches.
Established by voter initiative in 1972 through Proposition 20, the commission was solidified as a permanent agency in 1976 through the Coastal Act. As an independent, quasi-judicial state agency, the commission considers matters affecting the use of water and land in the so-called coastal zone.
The commission is composed of 12 voting members with four members each appointed by the governor, the senate rules committee and the speaker of the assembly. Half of the commissioners are selected from elected officials in coastal cities, while the remaining six members are chosen from the public at-large. Each member represents a specific geographical region along the state’s 1,100- mile coastline. An additional four members representing various state agencies do not have voting privileges.
“The commission has a very diverse group of people on it and they all agreed with the city on this park,” Dalager said.
Opponents still have an opportunity to stall the park project. A lawsuit was filed by the Citizens for Quality of Life in November to prohibit the city from taking action on the project.