According to the California Coastal Commission staff, any permit where public access has not been granted can be automatically appealed on the grounds that California likes public access. A standard that weak is no standard at all, and certainly not what the legislature intended when it provided only limited grounds for appeal under section 30625 of the Coastal Act. We submitted a comment letter on the matter today.
PLF has been following appeal No. A-3-PSB-15-0030 out of Pismo Beach for several months. Staff just recommended that the Commission find that the development raises a substantial issue as to public access under the Coastal Act. There’s just one problem—even staff admits that the development at issue has absolutely no impact on public access.
Section 30625 of the Coastal Act allows an appeal of coastal development on the grounds that the development does not conform to the standards of the public access policies of the Coastal Act. The staff report claims that the development raises a substantial issue because no public access easement was demanded by the City of Pismo Beach during the permitting process. However, the staff also admits that this particular development has “limited public access impacts (if any).”
The report then states that the impacts to public access caused by the development do not “rise to the level of requiring an easement.” But staff has the standard precisely backwards. The fact that demolishing and rebuilding a single-family home has little or no impact on existing public access means that demanding any sort of public access would be unconstitutional—as the Supreme Court established in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission.
The staff report opines that having a public access easement would be “beneficial” to the public. That may be, but a general desire to obtain public access easements is independent of individual development permits that have no impact on public access. And as Nollan rightly noted, California may still obtain any easement it desires–so long as it pays for it.