The Coastal Commission approved two possible future industrial land use designations for San Diego after the Commission and city staff reassured industrial waterfront business representatives that the designations were unlikely to affect the shipyard areas around Barrio Logan.

The business anxieties mostly concerned a new overlay zoning designation, IP-3-1, which would allow "co-location of residential and industrial uses," where the industrial uses would consist of light manufacturing or research and development, housing would be allowed on up to 49% of the land, and the same area would be further regulated by a Business Park Residential Permitted Community Plan Implementation Overlay Zone. The IBT-1-1 zone would be specific to development on the international border with Mexico.

As a preview analysis by NBC San Diego suggested, the proposal appeared against the background of tensions over interaction between residential and industrial uses in the Barrio Logan neighborhood near the shipyards. Shipyard businesses that last summer challenged and defeated the Barrio Logan Community Plan in a referendum because of its residential protections similarly opposed the IP-3-1 zone as possibly limiting heavy industry.

Objections were led by the Working Waterfront Group, which described itself in a letter on file as "a coalition of water-dependent industrial business located proximate to San Diego Bay including a large constituency in the Barrio Logan Community Plan Area." The organization's letterhead lists entities from the ILWU longshore union to General Dynamics NASSCO. The Navy and Port of San Diego objected separately. Sharon Cloward of the San Diego Port Tenants' Association was among speakers complaining of short notice but expressing gratitude for the city's reassurances.

Senior Planner Dan Normandin with the City of San Diego said both new zones came up in discussion of the Otay Mesa Community Plan update. He said IP-3-1 was a "research and development zone," not "appropriate" for application to a heavy industry area such as Barrio Logan. He said the proposal before the Commission in January was only to create new zoning categories, whereas a choice to apply them to an area within the Coastal Zone would require extensive further public notice and review.

Also in San Diego, the Commission easily approved amendments to the Centre City and Marina Planned District Ordinances on relatively minor changes to standards including those to permit outdoor entertainment uses such as sidewalk caf├ęs.

[Disclosure: Bill Fulton, publisher of CP&DR, was recently Director of Planning for the City of San Diego.]

Two Laguna Beach Dramas Decided in a Day

Laguna Beach activists have been fighting a couple of projects all year -- and on January 8, the Coastal Commission approved both.

The Commission unanimously approved a 30-unit "work/live" project for artists in Laguna Canyon. Commissioner Jana Zimmer said she felt "a strong obligation to support" the housing because it would help provide affordable housing for artists in the area.

John Erskine and Bonnie Neely of the Nossaman LLP firm worked on the matter for the project proponents. Erskine introduced the project team at the hearing, including sculptor Louis Longi. (Neely formerly served on the Coastal Commission during her tenure as a Humboldt County Supervisor.) The proponents had accepted some conditions including native plant restoration work and removal of initially proposed cantilevered extensions to maintain a 25-foot minimum setback from the creek. A neighbor favoring the project said it had been through an "unbelievably protracted process" of seven years.

Julie Hamilton, a former local planning staff member, represented three of four appellants including leading appellant Devora Hertz. On Hamilton's request for a show of hands, a large proportion of the crowd in the Santa Monica meeting hall raised hands to oppose the project. (Many were present for a later hearing on the Laguna "Ranch" project.) A letter in the hearing file from Hertz objected that the project as initially proposed contained eight units but "Somewhere in the twilight this project grew to be a 30-unit apartment complex."

Objectors said the project was too close to the creek for both habitat and flood danger reasons, and was out of scale for the rural area. Hamilton said the adjacent animal hospital was undermined in a prior flood and "they had to dash madly to save its life, holding the building up with a bulldozer." Further objections said the project was one in a larger series under consideration whose cumulative impact should be considered, and that traffic impacts had not been fully considered. Appellant Jackie Gallagher said that, from experience in "the art industry" locally, "the artists came to paint the canyon, they didn't come to live in the canyon." Compared with small beginnings in the 1920s, she said, "there are thousands of artists in Laguna Beach and they're all living well."

Deputy Director Sherilyn Sarb said the project's flood protections were adequate for a hundred-year storm and was in a developed area of the canyon. She said the restoration plan would require Fish and Wildlife as well as Commission review.

On the same day, the perennially disputed Ranch at Laguna Beach project got its permit to finish renovations of the existing mid-century family vacation spot and upgrade the property for high-end resort use, splitting existing suites into smaller rooms and adding a penthouse for a total increase from 64 to 97 rooms. The Laguna Beach Independent reported the Commission held a five-hour hearing before approving the permit.

Under the final deal, project proponent Mark Christy agreed to grant an easement for a trail plus $250,000 for its design and construction, and agreed to keep noise down and restore habitat. He also agreed to host overnight camping events for youth at the former scout camp on the property. However, the paper reported the Commission did not adopt earlier staff recommendations that would have required the Ranch to run a shuttle across the property until the trail could be built and possibly also to pay in-lieu fees to compensate for the increase in room rates. Appellant Mark Fudge and area activists had alleged that new uses of the property were disturbing neighbors, disrupting habitat, and reducing public access to formerly affordable amenities.

In Other Commission News --

  • The Commission found no substantial issue on a major Dana Point Harbor "commercial core" reconstruction but the parties looked forward to considering the matter further in future. Two appellants had objected to the proposed relocation or removal of businesses renting jet skis, boats and kayaks -- a form of recreation available to people who don't own boats themselves -- and also to boat storage and parking provisions. Commission staff said the city had not as yet approved a dry boat storage building that would cause the displacement opposed by the appellants.
  • The Orange County Register reported negotiations began for purchase by the Orange County Water District of desalinated water from the the Poseidon Water plant. The Register reported it would likely cost twice as much by volume as "water imported form Northern California" but the Huntington Beach Independent reported the prices quoted have varied.
  • The Commission approved an expansion of the Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, also described as "the Barn Project", over objections from the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.
  • The January 1 effective date of of SB 968 brought a new challenge to tech billionaire Vinod Khosla in the Martins Beach coastal access dispute. Despite heavy lobbying on Khosla's behalf, the bill by State Sen. Jerry Hill requires the State Lands Commission to negotiate with Khosla for public purchase of the access road that he has closed to the popular San Mateo County surfing beach. If purchase negotiations fail after a year the Commission is authorized to acquire beach access for the public by eminent domain. Aaron Kinney of the Mercury News and Santa Cruz Sentinel has details. Kinney notes the legislation is "one of four fronts" in Khosla's battle to block access to the beach. Two court cases are pending on the matter, and the judge in one of them has ordered Khosla to open the gate. So has the Coastal Commission. Writer and cartoonist Susie Cagle has a column on the dispute's context in the Pacific Standard. Meanwhile, literal access to the site has become inconsistently possible again. The San Mateo Daily Journal reported that Jim Deeney, the property's former owner and current manager, was sometimes allowing people to drive to the beach -- but not walk there -- for a $10 fee, and only when someone was available to collect it. The paper reported one local surfer who tried to walk to the beach was turned away, and another man who walked to the beach was met by a sheriff's deputy who threatened to cite him for trespassing -- though the sheriff's department "said it is not turning people away from the beach" and was looking into the deputy's action.
  • A legislative report to the Commission mentioned a quietly enacted new climate change law alongside more prominent items. The new AB 2516 requires the Commission to report twice a year to the Natural Resources Agency on each Local Coastal Program's progress in planning for sea level rise.
  • The Director's Report for January included an update on progress toward certifying LCPs for remaining segments of the Los Angeles County coast now that the difficult Santa Monica Mountains process is concluded. Yet to complete are LCPs for the six segments of the City of Los Angeles coastal area (the Port of Los Angeles has its own certified LCP) and for the cities of Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach and Torrance.