A City of Pacifica approved project was appealed to the California Coastal Commission. The project would allow for the construction of two buildings containing a total of seven condominium units on a half acre lot on Beach Boulevard in Pacifica. The property would have fronted an abandoned portion of Beach Boulevard to the seaward side and would have relied on the existing riprap seawall. Coastal Commission staff as well as the applicant’s coastal hazard report concluded that the entire development would be subject to coastal hazards within its lifetime and would rely on the existing riprap seawall. Staff recommended utilizing a policy with in the City’s LCP that allows for minimum viable economic development in cases where an entire lot is subject to coastal hazards. Thus, the staff recommendation included increasing the setback from the City’s permit that would allow space for 3-4 condominium units. The Surfrider Foundation and several local residents argued that approval as such would create a loophole in the Coastal Act, setting a precedent by which the prohibition against armoring new development could become meaningless. New development must not be allowed to rely on existing shoreline armoring regardless of who owns, manages or maintains the seawall. The Coastal Commisison denied the entire proposal in a split 6-5 vote.
Development on this site, or anywhere in a coastal hazard zone, that will perpetuate reliance upon an existing seawall will perpetuate its lifespan should be denied. Reliance on shoreline armoring will result in the complete and total loss of the adjacent beach for private benefit at the enormous expense of the public’s resources. Instead, we should focus on locating and relocating development away from the hazardous areas and restore natural shoreline processes so there will be a beach for all to enjoy!