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By Eric Heinz
Two of the most divisive issues that are part of the city’s coastal land use plan (CLUP) will be discussed in an upcoming California Coastal Commission (CCC) meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8. These issues revolve around the governance of short-term lodging units (STLUs) and the conditions set for coastal property owners to protect and alter their homes.
A consistent issue among some residents in San Clemente is the requirement the Coastal Commission is proposing that would mandate any property owner who is the keeper of a structure built after 1977 in the coastal zone to waive their rights to be able to maintain a revetment wall or other protections if they altered their structure in a significant manner. Such alterations include renovations, additions and other augmentations. The coastal zone is designated as from the shoreline throughout California up to 1,000 yards inland.
“There’s no date for existing development in the Coastal Act, so we’re concerned with that language, and at the California Coastal Commission hearing (in December), they preliminarily brought that up,” San Clemente Community Development director Cecilia Gallardo-Daly said.
Gallardo-Daly said the city of San Clemente wrote a letter to the Coastal Commission recently that outlined some of the city’s concerns. (See document at the bottom of this article).
“I think for the most part, the city worked well with the Coastal Commission to update the land use plan to be consistent with the city’s recently adopted General Plan, and we’re generally in agreement with the suggested modifications the CCC is recommending, with the exception of some proposed changes. (Mostly), the policies regarding hazards and the prohibition on protective devices for the bluffs or seawalls,” Gallardo-Daly said. “The city is not in agreement with Coastal staff recommendation to require waivers from everyone so they can’t protect their property.”
Eric Wills, a resident of Capistrano Shores subdivision, and Eric Anderson, the general manager of the subdivision, have been studying this proposal since it appeared in the city’s original CLUP in 2015.
Wills successfully argued in court, in a somewhat related issue in 2016, that he should be allowed to replace the mobile home on his lot as no ground was disturbed in the process. He said the new proposed date from 1977 concerns him and that property owners have constitutional rights to protect their homes.
Vacation rentals, short-term lodging units and other forms of vacation rentals will also be addressed at the Coastal Commission meeting. Various residents throughout San Clemente claim these temporary lodging situations are a detriment to residential areas. Their argument is that because they operate in areas meant for families or quiet living, people on vacation continue to abuse local rules and make parking problematic.
Joe Janis, who is part of the Protect Our Neighborhoods group, said he wants to see more oversight of such operations and STLUs shouldn’t be permitted in residential areas.
The city took action on this matter in 2016 when it set a “visitor-serving” zoning change. STLUs and vacation rentals are currently allowed to operate under a permit, not within 300 feet of one another in a zoning overlay, most of which is west of Interstate 5.
“(The Coastal Commission) is laying out a very general policy to allow vacation rentals, but also understands there needs to be reasonable protections,” Gallardo-Daly said. “In the implementation phase, the Coastal Commission will look at the STLU ordinance the city adopted and then go into the details to determine if it’s consistent with the Coastal Act.”
The city wrote in its letter to the Coastal Commission that staff also had concerns regarding beach access in certain areas that would bifurcate private property. This has been a contentious issue with residents of Cypress Shores and Cypress Cover subdivisions in San Clemente.
After the CLUP is approved by the Coastal Commission, the city will have six months to decide on whether to adopt it into its code. Should the city adopt the LUP, there will then be a period where city and Coastal Commission staff discuss an implementation plan for land uses.
The next Coastal Commission meeting will take place on Thursday, Feb. 8 in Cambria. If you can’t make the meeting in person, it will be live-streamed on www.coastal.ca.gov.