Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
By Jonathan Horn UNION-TRIBUNE
Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 6 a.m.
SOLANA BEACH — In the decades to come, the sea walls that line the Solana Beach bluffs could all come down.
The city is working on a long-range plan that would remove the concrete barriers, which protect the homes that sit above the coast but also threaten the 1.4-miles of beach that give Solana Beach its biggest tourist draw.
Under the plan, all sea-wall permits would expire in 2081, a date agreed upon by blufftop homeowners and environmentalists. In the meantime, Solana Beach would have first dibs on blufftop homes with sea walls if they go up for sale. Should the city buy them, the sea walls could be removed as part of a process to restore the beach.
Property owners and environmentalists are on opposite sides of whether sea walls are even appropriate.
Sea walls are controversial because they teeter the line between private property rights and the public’s access to a sandy beach. The mostly concrete barriers are built into the coastal bluffs to block erosion, a gradual crumbling of the cliffs due to repeated pounding from high-tide waves.
By blocking erosion, sea walls keep the oceanview homes atop the cliffs safe from a shrinking base below. But that also means a narrower beach for the public since the walls cut off one source of sand — the breaking down of the bluffs.
Solana Beach is unique among North County cities because its entire coastline is made up of bluffs.
Sea wall homeowners must pay fees for sand replenishment and to make up for loss of beach. In fact, Solana Beach blufftop owners account for more than $1.25 million of the roughly $1.46 million of sea wall fees the San Diego Association of Governments holds.
SANDAG imported 2.1 million cubic yards of sand for 12 county beaches, including Solana Beach, in 2001. It plans to do a similar project early next year.
The 2081 sea-wall expiration date is part of the land-use portion of Solana Beach’s proposed Local Coastal Plan, which the city hopes a skeptical California Coastal Commission will approve by November. If that happens, the vast majority of projects would only need city approval, not the blessings of both the city and commission.
The idea of a 2081 removal of sea walls is specific to Solana Beach. City Manager David Ott said, however, that the plan could change drastically in the next two months given recent criticism from Coastal Commission staff members. An Oct. 27 letter to the city from the commission called 2081 sea wall removal “implausible as proposed and extremely unlikely to occur.” The city has submitted five drafts of its land-use plan proposals to the commission since 2001.
Commission staffers have suggested sea-wall permits be limited to 20 years, a current norm. Jon Corn, an attorney who represents the homeowners, wrote in a Jan. 25 letter to the city that the deal is at risk if a 20-year limit on sea walls is imposed.
Under current commission rules, a Solana Beach homeowner who wants a sea wall has to prove an imminent threat to their property exists. Under the compromise, they wouldn’t have to do that. Solana Beach would allow the walls through 2081. At the same time, environmentalists are all-but assured the sea walls will not be there forever.
Also under the proposed Local Coastal Plan, blufftop homeowners with sea walls installed after 2005 would have to pay a to-be-determined fee to compensate the city for their sea wall causing a narrower beach. That money, along with other sources, would go to paying for the properties if the city buys them. The latest proposal for the fee is $3,100 per linear foot of sea wall, so a 50-foot sea wall would incur a $155,000 fee, not including a $21,000 sand replenishment fee. Environmentalists say that amount is too low; homeowners say it’s too high.
“The most valuable property on the Pacific Ocean is going to a bunch of self-interested property owners,” said Jim Jaffee, a Solana Beach surfer and adviser to the Surfrider Foundation. “The city has essentially given the deed of the bluff away from the beach-using public.”
Corn said a sea wall can cost between $500,000 and $700,000, including fees. David Winkler had one installed to protect his Solana Beach home last year.
“Everybody’s responsible for a lack of sand on the beach, and yet the oceanfront homeowners are the ones that get stuck bearing the burden of this,” he said, adding that he believes most of the sand that feeds the beaches is blocked by other coastal developments, such as Highway 101 and the train tracks.
Coastal Commission approval of Solana Beach’s plan is far from a sure thing. Deborah Lee, the district manager, called streamlining sea-wall approvals through 2081 a “significant policy change.” She also said the commission is uncertain that Solana Beach has an adequate business plan to buy the properties.
The city’s proposed plan to finance buying the properties could involve government grants, redevelopment money, rental income from the blufftop properties after the city buys them, parking revenues, or a portion of the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax.
Comment from Jim Jaffee:
This is a very good primer on the proposal in Solana Beach to remove seawalls. The one fact that is underscored is that the city and/or the state own the beaches and bluffs where seawalls are built. They do not have to let seawalls on their property. The failure was letting them be built on the public property in the first place. It did not have to happen.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter recognizes beaches as a public resource held in the public trust. Beaches provide affordable recreational access available to everyone. As human activities and development in coastal areas increase, preservation of these areas becomes more important. Increasingly, coastal development poses a threat to our naturally dynamic shoreline. Protecting development has become a priority over protecting the shoreline and beaches.
This policy establishes the Chapter's position on the preservation and restoration of San Diego County’s natural beaches, wavecut platforms, nearshore environment, and sandstone bluffs. The policy goal is preservation of San Diego's remaining natural coastline and restoration of the coast to its natural, unarmored state, including the landward migration of the shoreline due to the natural geology of the San Diego coast and sea level rise.
Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter supports:
- A long term Planned Retreat policy that would allow interim protection of existing development coupled with gradual acquisition of property for expansion of Public Trust and Park Lands. This will allow for a natural retreat of the coastline ensuring continued beach formation.
- Development of regulatory policies, which ensure adequate setbacks such that new development will not require shoreline protection within the useful economic life of the structure when subjected to natural erosion and accounting for sea level rise.
- Charging Lease and Recreation Impact Fees for the interim use of Public Trust and Park Lands for Seawalls and other such devices used to protect existing development.
Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter May Support:
- Beach replenishment projects that bring properly sized and constituted sand to San Diego County. These projects are strictly for strategic periodic maintenance, and should not be the cornerstone of the coastal management policy of San Diego County. Projects should provide maximum benefit for the beach going public, taking into account all natural and recreational resource impacts. Where necessary, such environmental impacts will be mitigated in their entirety.
Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter opposes:
- The Permanent use of Public Trust or Park Land to build seawalls and other such structures. Seawalls and other structures built on a naturally eroding coastline subject to sea level rise will destroy recreational access and nearshore environment.
- The construction of any form of permanent, hard structure as a means for retaining sandy beaches in San Diego County. Temporary shoreline protection projects may be supportable given a set of strict conditions.
- The construction of permanent artificial reef projects for the purpose of retaining sand. Given predictions of accelerated sea level rise, the effectiveness of a reef's design will be short lived.
- Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will strive to work with public agencies to implement or modify Local Coastal Plans and General Plans for consistency with this policy.
- Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will work on regional projects that restore natural sediment flow to the shoreline.
- Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will oppose projects that use public lands for private purposes without just compensation to the public.
- Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter will oppose projects that adversely impact recreation, access to the coast and surfing and other water-oriented recreational activities.
Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter's policy is consistent with Sections 30210, 30211, 30212, 30220, 30221 of the Coastal Act and Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution in promoting free and open access to the coastline.