Overview & Background:
The California Coastal Act helps protect the California coast from large-scale development, which must be consistent with the Coastal Act’s mandates. The Act requires each local government within the coastal zone to develop a Local Coastal Program (LCP). Each LCP includes both a Land Use Plan and an Implementation Plan. LCPs define where, how, and when development can occur in the coastal zone.
In addition to providing environmental protections, LCPs must allow public participation that create pathways for communities to voice concerns over development proposals that may negatively impact natural resources, coastal views, and public access.
The 1981 Certified Marin County LCP has provided a development framework for public participation that has successfully protected and conserved natural and coastal resources, the community character of our unique coastal villages, our scenic vistas, public access to coastal areas, and our agricultural lands of West Marin.
In 2008, Marin County embarked on a process to amend the current LCP, which continues today. The Certified LCP will remain in effect until the California Coastal Commission adopts the updated LCP.
The amendment process requires involvement from multiple government agencies, as well as the public. The process includes public workshops in communities within the coastal zone, County Planning Commission hearings, the adoption of the LCP by the County Board Supervisors, and finally the LCP’s certification by the Coastal Commission.
EAC’s Role in the Amendment Process:
Over the last eight years, EAC has been a critical and tireless advocate in this important process. EAC is the only environmental group that has participated in every public workshop and planning meeting for the LCP amendments.
Through attendance at workshops and hearings and the submittal of extensive public comments to both the Coastal Commission and Marin County, EAC has advocated for strong coastal protections, public access, public participation, and enforceable standards in the amended LCP.
EAC continues to be very actively involved in the amendment process. EAC is committed to ensuring that environmental protections within our current LCP are not weakened, the amendments do not have any unintended negative environmental consequences, our wetland and stream protections are improved, the rural character of West Marin is protected, and the public’s right to participate in planning decisions is not diminished.
EAC’s Concerns with proposed LCP Amendments (organized by chapter):
Environmental Hazards (EH):
This section of the Land Use Plan provides policies that aim to address concerns and is meant to outline potential solutions related to environmental hazards, such as climate change, sea level rise, and fire hazards.
EH areas of concern:
- The LCPA lacks general strategies for sea level rise adaptation. For example, the threat of sea level rise to public works like transportation (Highway 1 and Sir Francis Drake), wastewater (septic tanks), and utilities is inadequately addressed.
- The LCPA proposes raising structures in the flood zone above the current LCP height limit without Design Review or other planning permits, possibly changing community character and impacting shoreline ecology and visual resources.
- The LCPA lacks proposed mitigation measures, strategies and alternatives for adaptation to climate change.
- The LCPA fails to protect the public trust shoreline resources resulting from the landward movement of the public trust boundary due to sea-level rise. The policies lack general strategies and recommendations to cope with shoreline erosion, changes to sand supply, loss of beach area and wetlands that may result, as the public trust boundary moves inland and approaches elevated development, armored shorelines, and other hazard mitigations.
This section of the Local Coastal Program provides policies and implementation measures that aim to balance agricultural and environmental concerns.
AG areas of concern:
- The LCPA includes language which is overly broad, lacks standards, and is inconsistent with the Coastal Act, such as the definition of “ongoing agriculture.”
- The LCPA redefines “agriculture” to include commercial and industrial uses, potentially allowing for a significant amount of new non-agricultural development on C-APZ lands.
- The LCPA has broadened what is a principally permitted use (PPU) without providing adequate standards or a proper review process.
Resources (biological-BIO & water-WR):
This section of the Local Coastal Program provides policies, which require that development is undertaken in a way that assures conservation and protection of natural resources, including biological and water resources.
BIO and WR areas of concern:
- The LCPA lacks enforceable environmental standards to protect biological and water resources. Enforceable standards are necessary to ensure long-term protections and habitat viability.
- The LCPA adds new exceptions to wetland and stream buffers that were not in the 1981 Certified LCP, which could result in common-place wetland encroachments, even for accessory uses.
- The LCPA fails to adequately address wetland impacts from sea level rise.
The Coastal Act requires the widest opportunity for public participation. The Implementation Plan includes language regarding the public’s involvement in the process of coastal development and protection.
Public participation areas of concern:
- The LCPA eliminates the public’s right to question a proliferation of operations that include new retail stands and large production facilities that will likely result in increased traffic and changes to community character.
- The LCPA eliminates the right of neighbors and other community members to question elevated housing in flood plain areas (coastal and inland), which will likely obstruct views and alter community character, and adversely affect natural resources.
In April 2016, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted the revised Land Use Plan (LUP) and Implementation Plan (IP), which combined make up the LCP amendments and submitted to the California Coastal Commission for certification.
The Coastal Commission received the transmitted files from Marin County in April, May, and July for the complete LCP filing. The submission by Marin County was deemed complete on July 1, 2016. The Coastal Commission has 90-days to take action on the LCP.
Coastal Commission Staff submitted a time extension request to be considered at the August 11, 2016 Coastal Commission hearing to allow more time for completion of the staff report and was granted a one-year extension to September 2017. If the extension had not passed, the LCPA would have been scheduled in September 2016 in Newport Beach, CA.
On September 26 2016, the Marin County Planning Commission held a hearing per the Marin County Community Development Agencies (CDA) request in order to receive the CDA staff’s report and to provide recommendations to the Board of Supervisors regarding any issues discussed during the hearing. Morgan Patton, EAC executive director and Bridger Mitchell, EAC President testified before the Marin County Planning Commission to raise awareness about the Marin County Local Coastal Program (LCP) Amendments and address concerns over new policies which the public has has inadequate time to review.
This Planning Commission hearing was oddly-timed and raised several concerns around public participation and transparency. EAC argued at the hearing that the Planning Commission should have held a hearing in February or March 2016 before the Board of Supervisors approved the Land Use Plan and Implementation Plan in April 2016 so that they could have could have provided recommendations to the Board and allowed for public comment and review. The Planning Commissioners did not take any action and did not issue any recommendation to the Board of Supervisors (read more here).
The proposed Marin LCP amendments were considered for certification by the California Coastal Commission on November 2, 2016 in Half Moon Bay, CA. Read more…
Thank you to the EAC members and partner organizations like the Sierra Club, Turtle Island Network (TIRN), and Surfrider Foundation who have helped to increase public participation and awareness of this critical issue. Throughout 2016 EAC and TIRN have rallied more then 300 comment letters from the public to be submitted at the August, September, and November 2016 hearings. Public participation in this process calling for the protection of coastal resources, wetlands, balanced approaches to the definition of “ongoing agriculture,” public participation, and community character have been an important part of this process.
Our collective work continues forward as we prepare to engage in the review of the Environmental Hazards sections. You can count on EAC remaining engaged to ensure that sea-level rise adaption strategies and public trust protections are in the plan.
Thank You to Planning Commission, and Coastal Commission and County Staff
EAC would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Marin County Planning Commission and planning staff for their diligent and thorough work on the LCP amendments.
We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to the California Coastal Commission’s staff for consistently and diligently providing comments on the draft LCP Amendment language.
Marin County Local Coastal Plan Certification and Amendment Timeline:
The below timeline outlines the process the public, Marin County, and the Coastal Commission has undergone to amend the LCP.