CARLSBAD — A contested resolution to update land uses passed unanimously despite several pleas from residents concerned for the future of the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
The City Council was in favor to streamline the Local Coastal Program (LCP) Land Use Map on Tuesday.
Six segments in the Coastal Zone were deferred by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) on May 11, but two were singled out after residents wrote letters and provided testimony against actions they believe are an attempt to revive the controversial Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan, otherwise known as Measure A.
The measure was defeated in a special election in February and proposed to develop 48 acres on the site, in addition to creating trails and more acreage for strawberry farming.
At the heart of the issue for several residents, including City Council candidate Cori Schumacher, is the designation change at the Encina Power Plant and the 48 acres on the lagoon and Interstate 5.
The suggested modification at the plant would change the use to Visitor Commercial/Open Space (VC/OS) from Utility, while the 48 acres would become VC from Travel/Service Commercial (TS).
Mayor Matt Hall said there is a “difference of understanding” between the residents, their concerns and what was approved by the council. City Attorney Celia Brewer said once Measure A was voted down, the land on the lagoon reverted back to its original designation.
Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio, meanwhile, said the change in designations are important for the city as it attempts to consolidate three different aspects — zoning, LCP and General Plan.
“We want to consolidate all six segments into one program,” he said. “They have different language within each one of them. Some are more up to date with the current thinking of the commission and Coastal Act and others are less compliant. We have started that and are working with coastal staff.”
The Costal Commission must approve the modifications, although the timeline is at least one year away before the commission takes action. City staff reported the commission will certify the implemented suggestions in August or September, the draft update of the LCP would not be ready until spring 2017 and public hearings would follow in the summer.
Reisdent Hope Nelson, meanwhile, also highlighted an April memo consisting of six pages where the communication between staff consisted of repeated statements saying the changes are not related to Measure A.
In addition, she said Senior Planner Don Neu, in the memo to the CCC, said the vote and power plant property as separate issues. Nelson said they are not, while Neu added the VS/OS designation is part of the community future vision.
“This outrageous statement indicates to me that senior staff in the city are continuing to insult the voters who voted for open space,” resident Hope Nelson said. “It’s obvious the city is still moving forward with plans to develop that land (the 48 acres).”
The city approved a General Plan update on Sept. 22, 2015, which included a LCP amendment, although it would not be effective until the Coastal Commission approved it, according to Senior Planner Jennifer Jesser.
Although the commission deferred the decision, Jesser said city staff is working with the CCC to ensure the city is following the recommendations.
As for the power plant, Jesser said the change is to be consistent with the General Plan. The CCC, meanwhile, held off and requested more information to determine appropriate designation and Visitor/Commercial use throughout the city.
As for the 48 acres, Jesser said the CCC did not have enough information to understand the types of uses allowed in the VC designation.
Jesser said at a previous council meeting the changes were not an attempt to circumvent voters, noting the proposed alterations began seven years ago.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.