Coastal Commission staff spanks Midcoast LCP update

Why wait till Wednesday?

Posted by on Mon, December 5, 2005

UPDATED: We’ve added a link the Midcoast Community Council’s response to the Board of Supervisors Subcommittee recommendations.

One day before the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to hold a Coastside hearing on their proposed changes to the county’s Local Coastal Program, Coastal Commission staff have sent a strong message in the form of a 11 page letter to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. The letter seriously calls into question the Board subcommittee’s vision for the county’s Local Coastal Program update. Page 1 of the Coastal Commision staff letter reminded the Supervisor’s of the definition of an LCP.

As you are aware, the LCP is the County’s local implementation of the California Coastal Act. ... Section 30108.6 of the Coastal Act defines an LCP as "a local government’s land use plans, zoning ordinances, zoning district maps, and, within sensitive coastal resources areas, other implementing actions, which, when taken together, meet the requirements of, and implement the provisions and policies of [the Coastal Act] at the local level." Accordingly, any amendments to the LCP Land Use Plan must conform with and be adequate to carry out the coastal resource and public access protection policies contained in Chapter 3 of the Coastal Act.

The Commission staff will review any proposed LCP changes ultimately approved by the Board to determine if the changes are consistent with the provisions of the Calfornia Coastal Act. To help guide the Board in the right direction, the Coastal Comission staff had sent three earlier letters to the Supervisors. The wording of the latest letter suggests that the Supervisors apparently did not get the message contained in the three earlier letters [Download February 16, March 7, and March 28 letters from Coastsider]. The current LCP update was set into motion in 2000 when the Commission gave the county a $40,000 grant to support key elements of the process. 

In seventeen numbered points, the Commission staff raised serious issues with the supervisors’ plan:

  • the buildout number is a theoretical maximum that doesn’t take into account many situations that would render a lot unbuildable;

  • the Midcoast has inadequate water, sewer, and highway infrastructure;

  • there are problems with exempting certain types of housing from annual growth limits;

  • mandatory mergers of substandard lots are needed;

  • it’s necessary to keep houses in proportion to lot size; 

  • it’s undesirabe to use the Princeton waterfront for residential uses;

  • rezoning the Burnham Strip in El Granada to permit residential use would conflict with Coastal Act;

  • there is a need for more locals-serving business zoning to reduce car trips out of the Coastside;

  • there are problems with rezoning the area around the airport;

  • there must be mitigation for the traffic impact of any new development, including single houses;

  • the county must keep some kinds of zoning in character with the rural areas of the Midcoast;

  • rezoning the Devil’s Slide Bypass as open space is desirable and easy to do;

  • it’s important to keep down the amount of impervious surfaces and winter grading to improve water quality;

  • the county must keep the LCP consistent with the Coastal Act;

  • the county proposal "would substantially weaken the LCP visual resource protection standards" ;

  • priority water connections designated for coastal-dependent and visitor-serving uses should not be used for "affordable" residential uses.

It’s clear that the much work needs to be done before the Midcoast LCP update would be in a form that is legally consistent with the California Coastal Act, a necessary condition before it can approved by the Coastal Commission itself.  However, until that time, the county’s current LCP (which many believe to be inadequate to control the rapid housing construction boom and expanding traffic problems) will remain in force. Many believe this outcome would satisfy the well-financed and well-connected development community.

This raises the bigger question of whether the residents of the Midcoast can control our own communities unless we have local government.

Comment 1
Mon, December 5, 2005 10:15pm
Barb Mauz
All my comments

I’m still very concerned that the CCC does NOT understand & has done NOTHING TO CURE the County/Special Interest Groups set-up of the Mid-Coast via the exploitive, ill-conceived LCP Amendment 3-00 (Part A) that would be like CANCER devouring the Mid-Coast body & needs to be TOTALLY EXCISED from our LCP, LCP Update & General Plan Amendment to the Housing Element.

The County/Special Interest Groups have interlinked exploitive schemes in LCP Amendment 3-00 (Part A) in the LCP, LCP Update & General Plan Amendment to the Housing Element - Chpt. 14 “Affordable Housing”/Zoning Text Amendment/Inclusionary Program for “Affordable Housing” as follows:

Consider 3,500 sq.ft.Lots or above yet UNDER the Zoning Lot Minimum of 5,000 sq.ft. for R-1/S-17 Areas comprised of El Granada, Princeton, Moss Beach & Montara - BUILDABLE, AS A MATTER OR RIGHT and only require a USE PERMIT for Lots UNDER 3,500 sq.ft. with the 2nd largest FAR/% Lot Coverage of any other City or Unincorporated Area in San Mateo County of up to 53% which would alos be used as an “incentive” for “Affordable Housing”. County’s version of the Proportionality Rule would only apply to the larger sized lots!

The Coastal Commission may not be aware that the County has RE-ZONED all R-1/S-17 land to “S-Combining District” that would IMPOSE the above determinations to all of El Granada, Princeton, Moss Beach & Montara. The County Planning Commission’s recommended that anything they deem to be “Affordable Housing” OR, “Market Rate Housing” rolled in & bolted down or constructed on 25’ Sub-Standard Lots in singles or in groups will not be counted in the County’s Yearly Growth Rate!

The County has NO mention of the need to protect and preserve our GREENBELT/OPEN SPACE AREAS aka our OPEN SPACE ELEMENT which have the special, protective designations of Rural Land, RM/CZ, “Park”, Community Open Space/Open Space and are comprised of the Mirada Surf Field, Tree Grove & Hillside Areas which is also a COUNTY SCENIC CORRIDOR that the General Plan states that the County SHALL protect, the Burnham Buffer Strip, Land in Princeton, Land adjacent to the Radar Station, Land along the Bluffs stretching from Moss Beach into Montara & Land in upper Montara.

Since one of the requirements to even have an LCP certified is to have an OPEN SPACE ELEMENT, I think that the County’s not admitting that the Mid-Coast even HAS an Open Space Element is a BIG DEAL that the Coastal Commission needs to bring to the County’s attention and ask for protections of these highly scenic Greenbelt/Open Space Areas that are there BY LAW and is part of the General Plan to meet the requirements of Section 65910 of State Gov’t. Code requiring formulation of an Open Space Ordinance aka Open Space Element and to ensure consistency between the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance.

The Coastal Commission letter also did not address that the County’s LCP Update does not contain provisions for protecting HAZARD AREAS such as the steep hillsides in El Granada where the County continues to allow people to cut down all the trees, cut into these nearly perpendicular hillsides and shove foundations into them & erect huge retaining walls - take a look at this weeks MCCC Planning & Zoning Committee’s agenda! Someone needs to take photos of what is going on off of the steep hillside known as “Del Monte” & also “Lewis Drive” which is a hair pin canyon off of El Granada Blvd.

Leonard Woren & I witnessed that the County allowed some contractor to FILL IN this Canyon, cut trees down & SHOVE a house into the north side - note that there are existing houses on the land directly adjacent to this STEEP Canyon!

Take a look at the Goat Trail known as “Highland” also off El Granada Blvd. The County’s allowance of constructing Monster Houses IN THIN AIR off of this & other perpendicular hillsides is totally irresponsible!

Also, there is NO mention of the need to protect HISTORIC AREAS.

The Coastal Commission needs to investigate the County’s granting of large numbers of what they call Coastal Development Permit EXEMPTIONS (CDX Permits) - are these type permits even included in the Yearly Growth Rate? How many of these have been granted this year?

The County is saying that the entire Mid-Coast is a Coastal Development Permit “Exemption Zone” where they only require a CDP if there is a Stream, Creek, Environmental Concerns but they do NOTHING to take steps to protect these Coastal Resources anyway!

The County currently requires a CDP & Use Permit for Sub-Standard Lots (lots UNDER the 5,000 sq.ft. Zoning Lot Minimum Requirment) but, their “LCP Update” states an intent to only require a Use Permit for lots UNDER 3,500 sq.ft. & consider lots 3,500 sq.ft. or larger yet UNDER the 5,000 sq.ft. Zoning Lot Minimum, “buildable, as a matter of right”—- THIS is totally unacceptable!

Barb Mauz (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Comment 2
Tue, December 6, 2005 8:08am
Mary Bordi
All my comments


As a local group notes (about the furor over the update):

“It is an old saw of policymaking that if all the conflicting interest groups have something to complain about, the policymakers must be on the right track. That is certainly true here, and explains why the two MidCoast political extremes, ‘no-growth’ and ‘pro-growth,’ both feel betrayed.”

See it here.

Comment 3
Tue, December 6, 2005 8:40am
Barry Parr
All my comments

I’m surprised that people who have decried the lack of self-government in the Southcoast would condone the Board of Supervisors in ignoring the recommendations of the elected representatives of the Midcoast (as well as their own planning commission and the Coastal Commission).

As for Terry’s old saw, it’s a pretty blunt instrument for deciding the difference between right and wrong in the best of cases.

We’re not talking about the difference between extremes anyway. The MCC’s proposal was a moderate-growth proposal whose upper limit was greater than existing growth rates. It was hardly no-growth.  So, if you split the difference between the moderates and the extremists, what do you get?

Comment 4
Tue, December 6, 2005 9:04am
lani ream
All my comments

What a breath of fresh air! The recommendations of the California Coastal Commission staff point to mandatory lot merger where non-conforming lots occur. In additon they are not to be exempted from the Coastal Development review and proportionality is also recommended. These lots and second units are to be included in the overall buildout projected numbers, not set aside. All of the discussion over where infrastructure improvements belong is clearly, in the letter, within the process of proposed development and prior to applications for large scale projects. Mitigation is suggested in ALL development projects.  It would seem that governing bodies, in their review, can choose to attempt to alter the intent of the Coastal Act but it will not go unnoticed. lani ream

Comment 5
Tue, December 6, 2005 11:03am
Scott Boyd
All my comments

It’s nice to see C4PR (Californians for Property Rights) assert clearly that they are pro-growth.

Any label they stick on anyone else, though, has to be seen through that lens.

Their pro-growth stance does not make those concerned about the healthy future growth of the community “anti” anything.

As to the old saw, what would the appropriate response to a very bad idea?  If everyone complained, would the policymakers be on the right track?

Barry Parr wrote:
“This raises the bigger question of whether the residents of the Midcoast can control our own communities unless we have local government.”

The latest set of Supervisors’ recommendations should be a wake-up call for the residents of the Midcoast. Their objective is to make it easier for the County to meet its housing objectives, not to address the problems of overdevelopment, traffic, and loss of coastal resources that we all know are getting worse every day (see link below to earlier article).

The latest Coastal Commission staff letter shows how far the Supervisors’ have strayed from the balanced principles set forth in the Coastal Act.

The road to self-government on the Midcoast is a long and hard one. But a first step could be a citizen-sponsored ballot initiative that would direct the Supervisors to implement a 1% residential growth rate (a true 1% rate that counts everything), patterned after HMB’s 1% growth ordinance (Measure D) that passed by a wide margin in 1999.

Only in this way can average citizens hope to counter the paid, professional lobbying efforts of the realtor/developer/property-rights groups.

Comment 7
Wed, December 7, 2005 3:45pm
Carl May
All my comments

The debate over the LCP revision for the unincorporated San Mateo county coastside is not between no-growth and pro-growth. It is moderately fast growth (1 percent) and the steamroller of steady coastal environmental damage that is part and parcel of that kind of growth versus runaway, virtually unlimited growth (current draft of LCP revision with supes suggestions that poorly mask a sellout to developers) and its mindless, willy-nilly slaughter of coastal features and values.

Those who want a sustainable, healthy, nurturing coastside aren’t at the LCP party.

Carl May

Carl—I’m new to all this, so my first question is why aren’t those people at the LCP party?  I’m unclear how a disengagement strategy will accomplish anything.  Please advise…

Comment 9
Wed, December 28, 2005 11:34am
Pam Porteous
All my comments

Do you feel that building in the unincorporated area of Montara will become easier?  I bought land 20 years ago in hopes of retiring there.  When we went to build we were told all of the set backs had been changed.  Although our land has passed tests for septic and well it is still uncertain if it is buildable.