Break-down of Coastal Commission Recommendations to OB Plan

by on July 2, 2014 · 6 comments

in California, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach

Last Friday, June 27th, staff of the California Coastal Commission submitted 43 recommendations involving the Ocean Beach Community Plan to the City for its considerations. This 11th-hour submittal of modifications has now delayed the review and potential approval of OB’s Plan by the City Council. This past Monday, the Council moved their hearing to July 29th.

The Council felt that City staff, both from the planning department and the City Attorney’s Office, needed to review and respond to the recommendations.

If staff found a recommendation that is “material” – that is a substantial change – to the Plan, then the potential exists for even more delays, as the Plan then would have to go back before the Planning Commission.

And at tonight’s OB Planning Board meeting, the Board will decide just how and when it will also respond to the Coastal Commission’s suggested changes.

Many of the OBceans who spoke at the brief City Council meeting on Monday stated that they saw no problems  with the recommendations. Hopefully, every one can agree on this – everyone, the City Attorney’s Office, the City planners, the Council.

Many of the modifications are common sensical, and enunciate ideas implied by other language of the Plan. And as it is the Coastal Commission’s job to protect our coast, many of the recommendations have to do with more protections for sensitive habitat, open space, and bluffs, etc.  Plus, many begin with “encourage” or “consider” such and such – language that anyone can live with.

So, in order to help facilitate the community’s read of the recommendations and to further obtain a grasp of the essence of the modifications, I sat down yesterday and compared the recommendations, one by one, to the language in the existing Plan, and here now present a break-down of the modifications.

Break-Down of Coastal Commission Recommendations to OB Community Plan

Before I go through them individually, let’s look at them as a whole.

  • 15 of the recommendations are improvements to or strengthens the language surrounding coastal bluffs, coastal habitat areas, flood plains, open space, parks and shoreline.
  • 8 are other ecological or environmental-friendly suggestions, such as “consider” upper-floor decks and outside patios to help keep views.
  • 5 have to do with sea level rise and climate change considerations. (Don’t forget this plan is the blueprint for OB for the next 20 to 30 years, and there is some rise expected during that time.)
  • 4 are map modifications, such as adding Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
  • 3 preserve or strengthen language having to do with public access to the shoreline.
  • 2 encourage and prioritize “low-cost visitor serving recreational facilities”.
  • 2 encourages mixed-use development in commercial areas.
  • 2 have to do with parking preferentials for public and residential parking;
  • One of the recommendations states that property owners “shall assume risks associated with new development in hazardous areas”. That means no one can build a house or complex on the bluffs and then a few years down the road demand that the City place cliff armor for their own protection.
  • Another one has to do with historic review of any demolition or rehab of buildings older than 45 years.

Here, one-by-one, is a more complete – but brief – breakdown  of the 43 Coastal recommendations:

#1. Map modification regarding Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

#2. Adds a goal to land use goals re: prioritizing “low-cost visitor serving recreational facilities” and marine development.

#3. Encourages mixed-use development in commercial “prime visitor-serving areas”

#4. Requires setbacks and buffers to new development when adjacent to coastal habitat, open space and park land.

#5. Any preferential residential parking program requires an amended land use plan.

#6. Ensure adequate off street parking for all development.

#7. Minimize and evaluate night lighting along the shoreline and adjacent to sensitive habitat areas.

#8. Encourage use of new design of windows to ensure bird safety.

#9. Avoid plastic netting in temporary rolled erosion-control products (cites alternatives).

#10. Same as #3 – different part of Plan.

#11. Consider use of upper-story sun decks or patios to maintain views.

#12. Strengthen language re: capture of pollutants and urban-run-off.

#13.  Preserve and protect “low-cost visitor serving recreational facilities”  and over-night accommodations; calls for mitigation required for any loss of such.

#14. Map modification to show wetlands and open space areas.

#15. Improve informal trail along east side of Famosa Slough and develop bike path to connect with OB Park.

#16. Preserve, etc., public access to shoreline; mitigation required for any loss; “maximize retention of existing public on-street parking for protection of the public beach parking reservoir.”

#17. Re-vegetation of open space with native plants, drought-resistant, etc.

#18. More re-vegging with native plants to lands adjacent to San Diego River.

#19. Prepare for sea level rise and climate changes by: avoiding bluff development in hazardous areas; proper sitting of new development to avoid need for future shoreline protection devices; utilize best science available on sea level rise impacts.

#20. Adds language to increase distance between bluff face and development envelop, to prevent need for shoreline armoring; also sea walls are discouraged.

#21.  Map modification to show areas of sensitive coastal bluffs and buffers.

#22. Strengthens language protecting coastal bluffs.

#23. Strengthens language for public access to shoreline and recreational areas.

#24. Has to do with fixing public access affected and at risk by rise of sea level.

#25. Incorporate sea level rise into beach management strategies.

#26. Adds language that says bluff erosion will accelerate with sea level rise.

#27. Has to do with setbacks from coastal bluffs for development / redevelopment; strengthens protection of the cliffs.

#28. Adds language to shoreline protective “devices”; devices to be removed if building demolished.

#29. Requires a waiver of rights to future shoreline protection for any new shoreline development or redevelopment.  New development SHALL not rely on existing or future shoreline devices.

#30. Adds language to removal of shoreline devices if development or building is demolished.

#31. Strengthens language to protect against potential hazardous development.

#32. Has to do with allowing new construction within floodplain areas.

#33.  Maximize open space and native landscaping to promote runoff infiltration and reduce runoff pollution.

#34. Install recycle bins on sidewalks in high-use areas.

#35. Encourage all new development / redevelopment to pursue LEED certification standards.

#36. Encourage use of native, drought-tolerant landscaping to reduce water usage.

#37. Project developers shall use best science and site-specific geotechnical reports regarding impacts due to sea level rise; reiterates that new development cannot rely on shoreline devices.

#38. Develop incentive program to relocate existing development at risk from bluff erosion.

#39. Property owners SHALL assume risks associated with new development in hazardous areas and shall waive all right to future devices.

#40. Identify feasible locations where homes could be removed due to hazards from sea level rise; convert impacted property to open space.

#41. All new development or improvements to existing structures 45 years or older shall go through the City’s Historic Review Process.

#42. Map modification – same as #1.

#43. Add figure to show current and projected hazardous areas, identify current bluff erosion and projected future erosion rate. –

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Smith July 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

If this gets back to the City Council before the end of the year it will be a miracle. I’m glad to see you support the neutral language the Coastal Commission is using; the lack of neutral language is why the Planning Commission could not fully support the OB Plan Update; the only reason as I see it, the talk of not supporting the FAR is a red herring.
My only concern with the Coastal Commission changes is they are transferring too much liability to homeowners; this is going to make insurance more expensive if not impossible to get.


Marc Snelling July 3, 2014 at 6:59 am

So the Plan’s language was fine with the City Attorney but not the Planning Commission due to non-neutral language? Not buying that.

#39 is not a neutral suggestion. It places the burden on the homeowner as you note. It’s won’t be harder to get insurance in general, just flood insurance. Which is the same situation in other flood plains like North OB. North OB has rising sea levels as a flood potential as well as the San Diego River.


Aging Hippie July 3, 2014 at 7:19 am

It’s not “neutral” language, it’s language intended to negate the rules in the plan and allow wealthy developers to do whatever they want. We need to restore the clarification of variances to make sure no more variances are granted in the 5100 block of WPL, or on similar properties.


Frank Gormlie July 3, 2014 at 7:56 am

City staff will sit down with Coastal Comish staff and work out the language. One thing Teresa Millette said last night – she’s the city planner working with OB – is that the City code avoids language like “shall”.


Doug Card July 3, 2014 at 10:44 pm

So great to see you are still there keeping watch over OB and its special character.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so they say. Which reminds me of our epic 4th of July celebration back in 1976 when we’d won the battle to save OB, for a time at least.
As far as those California Coastal Commission Recommendations, it makes sense that after almost 40 years, that OB Plan could use a little tweaking. We trust the CCC, with OB community oversight and city cooperation, to do the right thing. Numbers 38 & 39 are especially important, for we remember warning that “Sunset Cliffs’ could become ‘Sunset Slopes.”
That this plan, and the OB Planning Board, are still functioning as organized all these years suggests that SD city planner Gary Weber and the first OB Planning Board, of which I was honored to have been a member, planned well. It’s heartwarming to see the current generation of OBcians is still maintaining those good basic Progressive principles with flexibility, without becoming “the dead hand of the past.”
Happy 4th! Doug


Marc Snelling July 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

The more former OBPB members that contact the City to support the current plan the better. Five former chairs have already written the council in support of the plan (myself included). Also in opposition to the SD Planning Comish changes. Coastal Comish ones look good to me though.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: