Point Reyes Station, Calif. (November 4, 2016) – After eight long years of meetings, hearings, and public comments, the Marin County Local Coastal Program (LCP) Amendment was considered for certification by the California Coastal Commission on November 2, 2016 in Half Moon Bay, CA.
The LCP Amendment presented to the Coastal Commission was a complete revision of Marin County’s 1981 certified LCP; it included significant changes to policies that will affect agriculture, biological resources, environmental hazards, mariculture, water resources, energy, housing, public facilities and services, and transportation for the next 30-40 years.
Throughout the LCP update process, EAC has endeavored to ensure the proposed revisions to the LCP uphold and strengthen coastal resource protection when compared to the 1981 certified LCP. EAC has acted as an important environmental voice under its guiding principles to ensure the LCP amendment protects and preserves the distinct and valuable natural resources of the coastal zone, protects the community character of West Marin, enables the widest opportunity for public involvement, and ensures tools are provided to address climate change and sea-level rise adaptation strategies.
Wednesday’s Coastal Commission hearing was conducted by Vice-Chair Bochco rather than acting and present Chair Kinsey, a Marin County District 4 Supervisor whose district includes the area affected by the proposed LCP Amendment.
The hearing included several hours of public comments on sections of the proposed LCP Amendments concerning Agriculture and Environmental Hazards. Residents from the shoreline communities in Stinson Beach urged the Commission to adopt Marin County’s version of the proposed Environmental Hazards section of the proposed LCP Amendment rather than the modifications proposed by the Coastal Commission staff.
Marin County’s submitted version of that section has serious inconsistencies with the Coastal Act. Some of those issues include
- references to “potential sea-level rise maps” that were never adopted by the Board of Supervisors and could not be considered by the Coastal Commission,
- policies governing new development that would result in elimination of public beaches and prevent public access,
- failure to consider avoidance of hazards as the first step to new development,
- failure to limit the time period for sea walls for coastal redevelopment,
- and failure to mitigate coastal resource impacts where unavoidable.
Additionally, the proposed Environmental Hazards policies are inconsistent with the Coastal Commission’s past actions from 2012 to 2016 concerning Local Coastal Programs and updates from Santa Cruz County, Solana Beach, Newport Beach, and Seaside. Despite these Commission decisions development along the coast has not come to a halt. People still construct new houses, maintain their homes, and will continue to do so into the future.
EAC’ focused on the substantive issues involving coastal resources, the public trust, public access, sea-level rise guidance, and the inconsistencies with the Coastal Act concerning Marin County’s version of the Environmental Hazards sections of the Land Use Plan and Implementation Plan.
“As we face the impending challenges of sea-level rise, we must act to protect our beaches, shoreline habitats, community character, and other coastal resources. The Commission is the only entity with statutory authority and mandate to protect these coastal resources, and public trust lands. The time to act is now. This is the Commission’s opportunity to stand up to defend California’s coast by adopting policies for adaptation to sea-level rise. If not the Commission, then who? If not now, then when?” said Morgan Patton, executive director of EAC during public testimony at the hearing.
After hours of public comments, the Coastal Commission began deliberations around 5pm with an introduction and opinion by Commissioner Kinsey.
Ultimately, Commissioner Kinsey made the motions, which would not have been allowed if he had chaired the hearing.
- The Commission moved to remove the Environmental Hazards sections from both the Land Use Plan and Implementation Plan, directing Marin County to revise them and return at a later date.
- The Land Use Plan and Implementation Plan with staff recommendations were both adopted.
- Commissioner Kinsey then made two motions to modify the definition of “ongoing agriculture” included in the Implementation Plan to remove references to “existing legally established agriculture production,” and “conversion of grazing area to crop production.” These deletions would allow exceptions for activities which would otherwise require a Coastal Development Permit. The removal of “conversion of grazing area to crop production” required a roll call vote ending in 9 to 1, with commissioner Shallenberger dissenting.
Agriculture operators also gained new entitlements that were negotiated with multiple community stakeholders and are similar to the Land Use Plan conditionally certified in 2014. These entitlements include:the ability to construct 27 intergenerational homes throughout the Coastal Zone, new Principally Permitted Uses (including farm stores and processing facilities), and new streamlining for agricultural permits like the de minimis waiver and public hearing waiver. These new entitlements were negotiated with multiple community stakeholders and are similar to the Land Use Plan conditionally certified in 2014.
None of these provisions will go into effect immediately. Coastal Commission counsel advised that the removal of the Environmental Hazards section would postpone the effective date of the LCP until that section was returned to the Coastal Commission for certification. Until that unknown time, Marin County will continue to enjoy the protections the 1981 certified Local Coastal Plan has provided over the last 35 years.
Marin County, community members and Coastal Commission staff will need to return to negotiations and review of the Environmental Hazards section over the next few months in order to find agreement before bringing the section before the Coastal Commission again.
“It is critical the Marin County LCP update be a comprehensive forward-thinking plan that fulfills the Coastal Act’s intent of coastal resource protection and maximum public coastal access,” said Morgan Patton, executive director of EAC, during public testimony at the hearing.
EAC looks forward to participating in these talks to ensure that they incorporate protections of coastal resources, public access, and inclusion of the County’s sea-level rise adaptation strategies.