Coastal Commission staff spanks Midcoast LCP update

Why wait till Wednesday?

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.