Plot thickens for Prop A and coastal commission

ENCINITAS —Several weeks ago, it appeared as though the city would need to process a land-use change in order for Proposition A to take effect in the entire city. But after receiving a letter several weeks ago, the city is seeking clarity on whether that’s necessary. 

The growth-control initiative went on the books for the northeastern portion of the city July 21. However, for now, the city is holding off on processing permits for some building projects in the 80 percent of the city that’s in the coastal zone. The delay is due to continuing uncertainty over Prop A and the California Coastal Commission, according to City Planning Director Jeff Murphy.

“We want to figure this out as soon as possible,” Murphy said.

Specifically, the city is looking at whether it will have to file an amendment to its local coastal program to satisfy the coastal commission.

In late May, Murphy asked coastal commission staff if the city would need to approve all or a portion of Prop A for it to become law in the coastal zone.

“Briefly, the answer is ‘yes,’” wrote Eric Stevens, an analyst with the coastal commission, in a July 1 response. The letter went on to say coastal commission approval is dependent on the city completing an amendment to its local coastal program — a process that could take up to a year.

The amendment is required, among other reasons, because Prop A establishes a 30-foot height limit in the coastal zone, according to that letter.

However, a July 10 letter from the coastal commission noted that proponents of Prop A have argued the initiative’s height limit doesn’t conflict with the local coastal program, and thus the supporters believe an amendment is unnecessary.

Further, in contrast to the July 1 correspondence, a July 10 letter emphasizes the city has some leeway on whether it’s going to file an amendment.

“The next step in the process is for the city to determine the provisions of the initiative that are inconsistent with the policies or standards of the certified local coastal program and begin processing an local coastal program amendment for review,” Stevens wrote July 10.

Murphy said the “incongruence” between the July 1 and July 10 letters has to be reconciled.

“That’s something I’m trying to clarify,” Murphy said. “Does that mean for certain we don’t have to do an amendment? There’s some confusion.”

City officials met with the coastal commission staff and legal counsel last week. But the city is still trying to determine how to move forward with Prop A.

Because of lingering questions over implementing Prop A, Murphy said the city is currently refraining from processing building permits for three projects in the coastal zone for land grading.

Sara Wan, former chair of the coastal commission, said that the most recent coastal commission letter “clarifies that coastal commission doesn’t certify initiatives.”

She added that Prop A lowers the maximum building height in certain portions of the city.

“Prop A is more restrictive, meaning that it’s not inconsistent with the Encinitas local coastal program, and therefore (there’s) not a need for an amendment,” Wan said.

Prop A was written to eliminate the City Council’s ability to “up-zone” beyond height and density limits.

 

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