City Leaders in Northern San Diego County Concerned Senate Bill Will Undermine 1972 Coastal Act Protections

by on August 28, 2023 · 4 comments

in California, Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Luke Harold / Pt Loma – OB Monthly / Aug. 27, 2023

A group of elected leaders who represent cities in San Diego County’s coastal zone sent a letter this month to state lawmakers about their concerns over a bill that would streamline development along the coast.

Senate Bill 423, authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, would remove a 2025 sunset provision for Senate Bill 35, which created a “builder’s remedy” that streamlines housing development in cities that are behind on their state-mandated housing goals.

More notably, SB 423 would extend the streamlining to cities in the coastal zone. Those city governments would have to approve new development that adheres to a more rigidly defined set of objective standards under their certified local coastal programs, as opposed to the lengthy discretionary reviews that usually occur.

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The letter from coastal city leaders began:

If passed, SB 423 would be one of the most consequential laws to impact our precious California coast since Proposition 20 passed in 1972. A voter Initiative, Proposition 20 declared that

“it is the policy of the State to preserve, protect, and where possible, restore the resources of the coastal zone for the enjoyment of the current and succeeding generations.”

It led to the creation of The Coastal Act and the California Coastal Commission who were bestowed with broad authority to regulate coastal development. SB 423 would remove many of the vital protections in the Coastal Zone by the Coastal Act at a time when they are needed more than ever. In the face of climate change and sea level rise, coastal development needs to be carefully reviewed, not streamlined without community and local government oversight.

It also stated:

While we agree we need more affordable housing on the Coast, SB 423 will incentivize the exact opposite. Most Coastal Cities in Southern California and elsewhere in the state are, with the exception of environmentally protected and vitally important open space areas, largely built out with little to no vacant land available on which to build. As a result, every new development is a re-development of existing housing or local businesses. Given the high property values in these Coastal Cities, SB 423 will encourage destruction of the naturally affordable housing units we do have, replacing them with high-priced luxury units with very few affordable units included.

The letter expressed concerns about the fates of small businesses:

Additionally, “mom and pop” businesses which give the coast a unique visitor and resident experience, would be eliminated by development of new mixed-use projects which will charge higher rents for businesses and housing alike. The fabric of our coastal communities will be forever changed. And for what? SB 423 will encourage higher density and perpetuate gentrification with little to no affordability.

It continued:

… SB 423 would also prevent proper evaluation of projects. Many of California’s coastal cities have fragile blu?s, wetlands, lagoons, and inlets. New development near these areas must be evaluated prior to building any project.

Additionally, without oversight, new private developments will impact access to the beach, the very reason Proposition 20 was passed. The Coastal Act mandates the protection of coastal access, scenic and visual qualities and that permitted development “shall be sited and designed to protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas…[and]to be visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas.”

Without oversight, these protections, many of which are subjective in nature, will be ignored. Along with our minimal vacant land, higher land values, and natural and scenic resources that must be protected, it was right to exempt the Coastal Zone from SB 35, and wrong to include it in SB 423.

The letter concluded:

The beauty and diversity of our coastline is an economic advantage not just to the individual cities, but to the entire state. As stewards of the coast, our collective charge is to protect and preserve the unique attributes of coastal California, not hand them over to for-pro?t developers

SB 423 will allow unchecked, unlimited development, including the “Builders Remedy” in our precious coastal zones with little to no societal benefits.

It undermines local democracy and the voice of Californians who have consistently supported protecting our coasts for the enjoyment of everyone, not just our cities’ residents.

Therefore we, the Mayors and a Council Member representing several Southern California coastal cities who have signed this letter, respectfully urge you to protect our California coast and vote No on SB 423.

Signed by:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Blavatt August 28, 2023 at 1:00 pm

It’s nice to see so many Mayors sign against SB 423! To bad San Diego’s Mayor Gloria doesn’t want to protect the coast. He wants San Diego to become a BIG city. I will pitch in for the bus ticket to get him to NY! He is not representing most of us!
I knew some of the incredible people who put the Coastal Act (and the 30 ft. Coastal Height Limit) on the Ballot. These people gave years of their lives to protect our coastline. Let’s protect their legacy!


kh August 28, 2023 at 2:18 pm

Well, the current process of discretionary review is a complete misuse of money for most projects here. It is probably our largest roadblock to residential development, (even moreso than the height limit). It is a flawed policy that incidentally gives us some protection against flawed density bonuses from the state.


Ro M August 30, 2023 at 11:53 pm

It’s about time someone paid attention. The Del Mar Union School District conveniently forgot to check the box that their Del Mar Heights Elementary School rebuild is in the Coastal Development Zone. This huge project will impact Del Mar, La Jolla, and Del Mar Heights. The storm water runoff is reshaping the canyon’s edge, adjacent to Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve.
If you don’t hold them accountable for damaging the Reserve, you will regret it. There’s no reason why the new state of the art school, couldn’t be environmentally friendly.

The result of the overbuilt elementary school for the dwindling students, will be a large building with 30’ high walls of glass, facing southwest. The district describes the project as single story, when the reality is, 30’ is the max height, there are no other buildings the height and scale, of this project, in this area. That glass buildings will catch the sunlight and light up like a beacon on the hill. The reflection might blind birds and cause other environmental issues. I guess only time will tell.


Mateo September 3, 2023 at 2:57 am

Call and thank Toni Atkins for the Politico-Corporate Monopolization of housing’s strong arm takeover of California.

Toni Atkins as President of the California Senate has betrayed San Diegans every chance she has gotten if she can profit from.
It becomes more patently obvious that Toni Atkins has spent her carreer decieving California constituents and took office to abolish the Coastal Commission and the 1972 Coastal Preservation Act to benefit her Virginia East Coast Cronies.

SB9, SB10 should have never made it to the floor for a vote if it weren’t for Senate President Benedict Atkins. From stumping for arguably the most corrupted Mayor in San Diego’s history, Todd Gloira, to the elimination of the 30ft height restriction in Sports Arena, Toni is just another San Diego Democratic Party Banana Republican syccophant.

California Dems sold us all out! They are seeking to eliminate the protections provided by real California leadership that preceeded them and made our State great once, a government that used to serve the most noble of intentions, the public good.

Fact is, all of those One Party Rule corrupted California Dems all feed at the same trough. Atkins will stop at nothing to advance her political ambitions. no matter how many Californians must die on the street to serve her Real Estate Investment Trusts and Developer Owners.


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