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By Eric Heinz 

In an effort to define what is an “existing” structure in the coastal zone, which is 1,000 yards from the shore to inland, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) decided to keep its options open when looking at San Clemente’s plans.

The city of San Clemente’s coastal land use plan has been waiting for the commission’s approval since 2017 when it was deferred to this year. A major component of the local plan would make the definition of existing structures as those that were constructed before 1977.

That is significant because according to the plan, property owners within the zone would not be able to alter their properties beyond a 50 percent threshold that includes protection measures and refurbishment.

San Clemente homeowners in the Capistrano Shores subdivision have fought against this provision since at least 2015 when the plans were in development. Most of the homes that abut the Pacific Ocean in that area were either built or rolled in as mobile homes after 1977.

“For the most part, we interpret (existing) to mean there’s something there existing, but we haven’t even done that consistently,” said Coastal Commissioner Steve Padilla.

The CCC voted to not put the 1977 provision in the city’s local plan but did vote to have it reexamined in the implementation plan, which follows the land plan through a six-month review by the city. The city is currently working on a sea level vulnerability assessment and aim to have a draft in the next couple of months. The city will look forward to the residential adaptation guidelines and will work with staff on the implementation plan.

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