Preservation group plans to appeal council-approved seawall

ENCINITAS — The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation presented its appeal to the city council on March 14 of a major use permit and coastal development permit for a seawall and private stairwell in Leucadia that was granted in January.The City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the permit on Jan. 5 that allows a seawall built under emergency conditions to become permanent despite objections by shoreline preservation groups. The council voted 4-1 with Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposed.The applicant, Blue Curl, LLC’s request to install new landscaping in the mid-bluff area, an irrigation system and reconstruction of an unpermitted stairway was also approved.

The state’s Coastal Commission authorized an emergency mitigation permit in July 2008 for a seawall covering the lower bluff.

After a bluff collapse destroyed the aging wooden structure and stairs, the applicant was given permission to construct a temporary seawall.

Seawalls are not allowable by city code. However, exception is made for instances where an existing structure is in imminent danger, according to City Planner Roy Sapau. In addition, he told the commission that the stairway is considered to be vested, so that nonconforming structures can be rebuilt if they are destroyed 100 percent.

Marco Gonzalez, executive director of Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation and a partner at the Encinitas-based Coast Law Group, made the argument that the seawall should come with consequences to the private owner, not just the public.

Mitigation measures, including sand replenishment and recreation fees should have been assessed according to Gonzalez.

“Why isn’t the city imposing this fee?” he asked. “Today is the first of many days I will meet with you to discuss your armoring of the coastline,” Gonzalez said, adding that he’s done the same with the city of Solana Beach.

“Don’t make me appeal this decision to the coastal commission to get you to do your job,” he said. “Let’s just do it right this time.”

Mark Dillon, the attorney representing Blue Curl, LLC, said the project was unique.

“You’re not being asked to predict what the impacts will be in the future,” he said. “It’s there because this wall is needed to protect the property above.” The wall has been in place since 2009.

He claimed there were no significant environmental impacts stemming from the seawall. “There are no passive erosion impacts,” he said.

“We voluntarily committed to a sand replenishment fee,” he said.

Gonzalez said the “paltry” $11,000 the applicant is giving to a sand replenishment fund was not sufficient to mitigate the loss of the public’s beach.

Livia Borak, a Leucadia resident and attorney at the Coast Law Group disagreed with Dillon’s claim that seawalls don’t impact the beach. “At times I just don’t go down there (the beach) because there’s no beach to go down to,” she told the council.

“I think it’s disingenuous to say that seawalls don’t cause environmental impacts,” she said.
“I think it’s bad policy to put in these seawalls.” She said the negative financial impacts from eroding shorelines on a beach town economy should be mitigated by the applicant.

Gonzalez said the decision would be appealed to the state’s Coastal Commission.


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