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Surfrider Foundation Joins City of Solana Beach in Fight to Protect Public Coastal Rights

Solana Beach CA— Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter has decided to intervene alongside the City of Solana Beach in what has become a key legal case in the push to safeguard unique coastal resources and the needs of the beach-going public. The foundation has been closely following the development of the City’s Local Coastal Program and, with the case reaching a pivotal point in the courts, has joined the legal team defending the Land Use Plan, which also includes representatives from the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic.

The Solana Beach City Council originally approved the Land Use Plan in February 2013 and the California Coastal Commission approved a draft of the Land Use Plan in March 2012. The plan is a key portion of the Local Coastal Program that will guide coastal development in the City. In 2013, hundreds of Solana Beach residents and property owners joined with Surfrider to urge the City to adopt the Land Use Plan and protect the integrity of the Solana Beach coastline. The plan was approved after more than thirteen years of negotiations and six draft documents. However, a vocal minority of bluff-top homeowners continues to file lawsuits against the City over the Land Use Plan portion of the Local Coastal Program, blocking the City from completing this important planning document. In fact, Solana Beach is the last city in San Diego County and among the last cities in the state to adopt a Land Use Plan as part of its Local Coastal Program.

“Hopefully, the bluff-top homeowners will realize they are in the best position possible and that the Land Use Plan passed by the City is a fair document based on compromises made by all parties involved. If these lawsuits continue to drag out the process and hold our Local Coastal Program hostage, decisions about our community’s coastline and beaches that could be made locally will instead continue to be made at the state level,” said Kristin Brinner, Surfrider Foundation volunteer and Solana Beach resident.

An isolated and well-funded vocal minority of oceanfront homeowners in Solana Beach is now fighting the Land Use Plan approval by suing the City, preventing the adoption of planning documents that have been designed by the City to specifically reflect Solana Beach’s unique coastal features. The delay in the adoption of the plan allows some oceanfront property owners to continue using public land for seawalls virtually rent-free, damaging the scenic characteristics of the coast and eventually limiting or even destroying access to the beach without having to pay an appropriate fee.

“It has been a long, grueling fight up to this point, but we are optimistic that the City of Solana Beach will keep making progress toward finally having an approved Local Coastal Program. The simple truth is that the desires of the bluff-top homeowners do not comply with the California Coastal Act. We have demonstrated this time and time again, and we will do everything we can to make sure the Coastal Act is upheld. The beach belongs to all of us, not just the first row of homeowners,” said Julia Chunn-Heer, policy manager for Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter.

The impacts seawalls have on beach access, recreation, and scenic resources in Solana Beach were established and documented in 2002 when the City certified an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that found, “subsequent projects would have significant long-term impacts to recreation and lateral public access from the construction of seawalls and sea cave notch fills and aesthetics from the construction of seawalls.”

The requirement that coastal communities have a Local Coastal Program was passed when citizens of California overwhelmingly voted in 1972 for Proposition 20.  This established provisions to create the California Coastal Commission and their Land Use Plans that would maximize recreation and access to the shoreline while protecting coastal resources.

About Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a grassroots nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

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