Fees for sea walls considered

SOLANA BEACH — Public input is being sought as the city considers fee programs to reduce the potential impacts of coastal protection structures such as sea walls on sand supply and public recreation.
Sand mitigation and land lease/recreation fees that would be paid by bluff-top homeowners were outlined and discussed Sept. 16 at City Hall during the first of several workshops planned within the next year.
“The sand mitigation fee is the cost of replacing the volume of sand up to the property line that would be eroded if not for the coastal protection structure,” said Dino Serafini, an engineer with Pacific Municipal Consultants hired by the city to help formulate the fees and identify and evaluate potential offsetting public benefits.
In other words, homeowners who construct sea walls to protect their property would pay for the beach that would have been created through natural erosion if the structure didn’t exist.
To quantify the loss, the sand mitigation fee will be based on the cost of 1 cubic yard of sand, times the annual erosion rate of .4 feet per year, times the width of the structure, times the average height of the eroded bluff face.
The land lease fee, created by the California Lands Commission, is used for coastal protection structures, levees, dikes and other public works facilities on state land, Serafini said. The recreation fee, he added, “is more of a Coastal Commission concept” that requires “valuing the beach area based on its recreation value.”
“The land we’re talking about is the footprint of the coastal protection structure and the area of bluff that would erode back to the property line,” Serafini said. “We’re trying to find the value of that beach for recreational purposes.”
“Essentially, if the coastal structure is on the beach, that area is no longer available for public recreation,” Leslea Meyerhoff, a consulting project planner for the city, said.
“This wouldn’t be a problem if there was a market for useable beach, but there isn’t,” said Gordon Kuvota of CIC Research, a marketing and economics firm working with Pacific Municipal Consultants. “It creates a lot of problems for economists.”
Pacific Municipal and CIC are conducting surveys and beach counts to determine the behavior of beachgoers, including who they are, what their income is, how they got to the beach, how long they stay and what they do once they’re there. The data will be used to determine the value of the beaches.
The city sought help from consultants primarily because the concept of putting a price tag on a potential beach and its recreational value is a first in the state. “It’s cutting edge because no other city has done (the fees) before,” Meyerhoff said.
The next workshop, tentatively set for this winter, will address potential public benefits that could be generated by a sea wall, including increased public safety, property values and taxes, and protection of public roads, beaches and infrastructure.
The sand mitigation and land lease/recreation fees are part of the city’s Local Coastal Program, or LCP, a planning document prepared by cities and counties for areas within the coastal zone. It is required by the California Coastal Act of 1976 to ensure coastal areas are used and developed according to statewide public objectives. Unlike many other areas, Solana Beach’s LCP encompasses the entire city.
Meyerhoff said Solana Beach is one of the few cities still working on its LCP, which includes the Land Use Plan, or LUP, and the laws and regulations that implement its policies and provisions. The LUP lays out a 75-year shoreline management program to replenish and restore beaches to their natural state by 2081. The plan calls for eliminating existing sea walls.
The 275-page LCP is available for purchase. It can also be viewed on the city Web site at www.ci.solana-beach.ca.us. Residents can also visit the site to provide input or comment on the sand mitigation and land use/recreation fees.


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