January Coastal Commission Wrap Up

January 15, 2014 | By JONATHAN WILLIAMS

PLF keeps tabs on all of the happenings with the California Coastal Commission by attending their monthly meetings. We live tweet those meetings @TheCoastWatch, and provide recaps here at the blog. Here’s a rundown on what happened at the meeting I attended in San Diego last month:

• Governor Jerry Brown proposed a $14 million Coastal Commission budget for 2014-15, but the Commission announced it would lobby the legislature for more money. The Commission also noted that it had awarded $1 million in grants to communities along the coast to update their coastal plans. [FYI – the Commission noted that these communities have already obtained $5 million in other public funds.] In subsequent rounds, other municipalities will receive these grants.

• Beyond finances, one of the more newsworthy decisions involved the nation’s first offshore sea farm. KZO Sea Farms which already received Army Corps of Engineers approval for the sea farm, requested a consistency determination from the Coastal Commission. Its CEO pointed out the environmental and economic benefits of moving shellfish production to California. The project also received support from the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute—which declared the farm the greenest way of “producing protein.” Nevertheless, environmental activists demanded additional concessions that would inflate the cost of the project. For example, the groups asked the Commission to require KZO to install expensive – and technologically infeasible – video cameras in order to provide round-the-clock monitoring. Fortunately, the Commission approved the project without those conditions.

• The San Diego School District also requested permission to upgrade the Mission Bay High School stadium and install new lights. The Commission approved the project but attached a series of conditions that will require the District to adopt an intensive monitoring program, hire a school ecologist or ornithologist, and to turn the lights off by 730 on most nights . One Commissioner did not understand why the District was singled out for intensive monitoring, but his argument for less restrictions did not persuade the other commissioners.

• The City of Solana Beach’s Land Use Plan, which Pacific Legal Foundation is litigating, also appeared before the Coastal Commission. Public concerns centered on the use of erodible concrete, which will dissolve with the bluff and prevent landowners from rebuilding their homes after disasters. The Commission’s report also recommended conditions which would tie bluff retention device permits to the life of the structures they protect rather than an arbitrary 20-year designation. Although the Commission responded favorably to the recommendations, City and Commission staff will continue to hash out implementation details.

• Lastly, the Coastal Commission continues to solicit public comment on its sea level rise guidance. To make your voice heard you can submit your opinions to the Coastal Commission before Valentine’s Day. The Coastal Commission’s Executive Director will testify before the “Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy” Thursday morning in Sacramento.

Remember that we will be live tweeting next month’s meeting @theCoastWatch, and posting pertinent happenings here on the Liberty Blog.