The Coastal Commission's October docket in Newport Beach served up a fair slice of Southern California celebrity-involved madness and possibly more items than usual of old business of the it's-never-over variety.
The Commission's most widely reported act of the month was to postpone consideration of an appeal on an unpopular proposal by entities linked to U2 guitarist David Evans, known as "The Edge," to build five large new houses in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Malibu Times and LA Times reported the postponement was for lack of adequate notice to stakeholders and the Commission would likely take up the matter again in January. The paper quoted Frank Angel, attorney for the Sweetwater Mesa Homeowners' Association, as calling the continuance "a huge game changer" because the Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Plan (LCP) was to take effect the Friday after the October Commission meeting. (On that approval see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3559; http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3474.) In a commentary ahead of the meeting, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez had questioned how Evans managed to get the hearing scheduled just before that effective date.
In the staff report, summaries of public comments included celebrity relationship gossip and a mention of a Web site that formerly discussed the project, www.leavesinthewind.com. As of 2011 that site explained the plan as it then stood in some detail, promoting it in terms of environmental responsibility and high-concept design. Rejected in its original form that year, the project has since been reduced and redesigned for a less visible group of sites.
The Laguna Beach Independent reported that Mark Christy, proponent of a renovation and rebuilding project at "The Ranch" in Aliso Canyon, brought three busloads of supporters to speak in public comment sessions at the Coastal Commission. It said speakers in Christy's favor included the Mayor Pro Tem and two City Council members. The Newport Beach Independent reported more than 60 supporters of The Ranch appeared, outnumbering participants in the monthly anti-fracking protest. The Commission has had rocky relations with Christy for some time. This month, as reported further at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3595 and in the Coastline Pilot, the Commission determined The Ranch had done unpermitted work on its outdoor landscape, including creation of a 7000-square-foot dance floor. Additional disputes concern whether Christy's proposed additions to the site will cause too much environmental harm, and whether the work he has already done on the mid-century resort buildings constitutes renovation or new construction. And this month the Coastline Pilot published a letter by Christy on an additional issue: the lack of a public trail on the site. He wrote that it wouldn't work for safety reasons because the resort includes a golf course.
The Commission granted approval, with conditions, for a plan allowing the City of Los Angeles to sell the last seven house lots it owns on the rim of Potrero Canyon in Pacific Palisades. The plan comes with approvals for filling and grading by the city to stabilize the canyon rim. Proceeds will go into a special restoration fund for the park below the lots. The staff report recounts that the city bought 22 residential lots along the canyon in 1991 following litigation over landslides. Since then the city has been conducting restoration work in the area and selling house lots a few at a time to pay for each next stage of the project. This month's approval allows the city to sell the last seven lots without keeping an earlier promise that it would first complete a new park and riparian "habitat installation." Per the Los Angeles Times' online archives the original landslide was in 1978 and coverage of city efforts to fix the problem dates back to at least 1985 and 1989.
Caltrans won confirmation of a 2012 approval to move about three miles of Highway 1 inland in San Luis Obispo County near Piedras Blancas. Shoreline erosion and bicycle safety were among the major concerns. The plan also brings the road farther away from a beach that is massively popular with elephant seals, hence decreasing the risk of sofa-sized marine mammals entering the roadway.
On reconsideration, the Commission granted permission to the City of Los Angeles to install a seasonal ice rink on Venice Beach. The Commission had denied the permit initially in September because of objections to the city's prior handling of a zipline attraction and maintenance of nearby public bathrooms.
San Diego got approval for its LCP amendment to license and regulate food trucks at parks and beaches.
The Daily Pilot reported the Commission approved 23 "townhomes" for the former site of a Christian Science church in Newport Beach. The paper wrote, "The site along the 3300 block of Via Lido isn't far from where the former Newport Beach City Hall is to be replaced by a boutique hotel. Officials hope the move will inject life into the area."
The Commission was still planning a workshop for December to consider methods of preserving public access to the cheap seaside family vacation. A cheerful mission at first glance, but conflicts over mitigation costs to developers to preserve low-cost access were less than cheerful through the summer, especially in July (see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3528).
The Commission's meeting agenda, annotated with outcomes, is at http://coastal.ca.gov/meetings/mtg-mm14-10.html.
News of the Commission during the rest of October was a mix of grants, enforcement actions and appeals.
Napster and Facebook billionaire Sean Parker and his wife Alexandra Lenas got the label of "philanthropists" from a Monterey Herald report on their steps to comply with a Coastal Commission settlement. The settlement is in compensation for environmental damage caused at Big Sur by elaborate preparations for the couple's wedding in June 2013. Parker and Lenas agreed to sprinkle $1.2 million among eight environmental and education nonprofits on the Central Coast as part of a $2.5 million settlement payment. Parker also agreed to create a mobile app for the Commission to help coastal visitors to find beach access points.
In another resolution of long-running old business, the Commission announced its approval of a "final plan to restore public access" to the Ontario Ridge trail in San Luis Obispo County. More details from the Tribune here.
Commission staff contributed to an Assembly hearing September 25, primarily on dangers of desalination to sea life.
The city of San Clemente got a $90,000 planning grant to work toward finishing its Local Coastal Program (LCP) certification. Newport Beach is applying for a similar grant. More jurisdictions' pending planning grant applications are posted online, awaiting decisions during the next couple of months. KIEM-TV reported the city of Eureka got a $250,000 grant to prepare a risk analysis on sea level rise.
The Orange County Register reported Long Beach officials were moving toward approval of the Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center, a pricey remodel of the existing Belmont Plaza Pool for use in diving competitions. Columnist Bob Keisser objected that the new pool would be less ambitious than the old one in the scale of competition events it could host; he was among those calling for a bigger effort to potentially host 2020 Olympic trials.
The local Daily Breeze reported the city of Rancho Palos Verdes was working on an amendment to its LCP to comply with a Coastal Commission determination that the current 70-foot flagpole at the Trump National Golf Club violated the existing LCP.
San Diego's Friends of the Children's Pool filed suit over the Coastal Commission's decision to reserve the Children's Pool beach for seals during pupping season. Beach access advocates were additionally calling on the city to open sluiceways in the seawall to clean the sand. Sadly for an already-contested resource, the pool was reportedly part of an area closed for safety due to an October 14 sewage spill.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that Ross Eric Gibson of the La Bahia Coalition filed an appeal with the Coastal Commission against city approval of a plan to partly replace, partly renovate the historic La Bahia Hotel. The project would convert it from a 44-unit apartment building into a 165-room hotel, conference center and day spa.