Marin adopts new coastal zone plan missing vital section
A new coastal county plan was approved this week with no changes to key chapters on environmental risks.
Marin supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to operationalize the new version of the general plan that governs the county’s coastal areas – called the “local coastal program” – after being told by the California Coastal Commission that they could proceed without commission approval. The updated plan will take effect within 30 days.
Critics of the move said it would remove the county’s incentive to strike a deal with the commission on new environmental risk policies, while supporters said it was important to implement the newly approved policies. as soon as possible.
“We are very concerned that this way forward creates a deterrent for the county to uncover the dangers,” said Morgan Patton, director of the West Marin Environmental Action Committee.
“Will the dangers be updated or is it again the box that is thrown down the road?” Patton said. “Since 2015, the public has been promised three times that hazards are a top priority, and yet it continues to be delayed, withdrawn and not a priority. “
Peter Sandman, lawyer for the Seadrift Association, a group of landowners in Stinson Beach, said: “It is very important now that everything has been done that the board approves this. It would be terrible if the environmental hazards section essentially held hostage all the work that has been done on the rest of the local coastal program. “
Stacey Laumann, deputy director of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin, said her organization supports the immediate implementation of the certified chapters of the plan.
The county chose the Land Trust Association and Eden Housing to serve as co-developers to convert the former Coast Guard site at Point Reyes Station into affordable housing. Laumann said affordable housing is not allowed at this location, however, under the existing plan’s zoning.
“So we are counting on the new LCP,” Laumann said.
A complete overhaul of the existing plan, which was certified in 1981, began 13 years ago. All the chapters, with the exception of those dealing with environmental risks, were certified by the Coastal Commission in 2019.
The adoption of new policies on environmental risks has proved controversial as they can result in costly mandates for changes to prepare for sea level rise.
The commission and the county argued over what would trigger a homeowner’s obligation to make changes and the extent of those changes.
Commission staff wanted landowners to be required to obtain a coastal planning permit if they were to alter 50% or more of any major structural element such as a foundation, floor, roof or wall. Board staff also sought to make the 50% threshold retroactive to 1977.
Likewise, houses built after 1977 would not have been considered “existing” and their owners would have been prohibited from constructing shoreline protection. In order to obtain a development permit, some owners would have been obliged to move their buildings and remove the existing dikes.
The county and the commission also differed on sea level rise forecasts. The county proposed a 50-year horizon, with the hope that sea level rise would eventually reach up to 3 feet, while the commission proposed a risk analysis timeframe of 100 years with an elevation of 6 feet.
In a statement issued following the supervisors’ action on Tuesday, Mandy Sackett, policy coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, said: “We have enough scientific data on sea level rise and coastal risks to planning for the next few decades, there is no excuse to delay action. “
Tom Lai, director of the County Community Development Agency, provided a timeline for moving forward with the certification of the environmental risk chapter. The schedule calls for the publication of a review for public comment by September 17 and its submission to the Coastal Commission between December 14 and January 28, 2021.
Lai, however, said it is impossible to predict how long it will take the commission to approve the new policies once it receives them.
“It could take months or maybe years, depending on how involved and controversial this element is,” he said.
Supervisor Dennis Rodoni suggested delaying implementation of previously certified chapters of the plan until the county has submitted the new environmental risk policies to the commission. Rodoni said he wanted to reassure the community that the board is serious about completing the work as soon as possible. His recommendation received no support from other board members.