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City plans for the development of the parcel of land at Abbott Street and Saratoga Avenue have been approved by the California Coastal Commission, but one important consideration seems to have been given short shrift.

Currently there are 15 apartments and four detached buildings slated to be demolished, including a former location of Hodad’s restaurant at the beach. The two alleys that border the west and south sides of the property will be eliminated, and half of the alleys will become the property of the new development. The entire alley area will be turfed for pedestrian use and open space.

The new development includes plans for a 12-unit condominium building over a 27-space subterranean parking garage. Currently there are 14 parking spots for the 15 apartments. The Coastal Commission permit requires that the subterranean parking structure be “water-proof and be designed with a de-watering system.”

The permit further states: “The report therefore concludes that over the last several decades there has been no shoreline retreat in front of the site; it has not been subject to significant flooding, erosion damage or wave run-up attack in the past, including the 1982-83 El Niño winter; and the proposed habitable improvements are above any potential coastal hazard.”

In addition, the report states that “flooding, erosion, and wave run-up will not significantly impact the proposed development over its lifetime (75 years).”

It should be noted that during the heavy rains of the 1982-83 El Niño event, runoff from the hillside above the beach was so extreme that I was able to sail a windsurfer — with center board in place — down Abbott Street from Santa Monica Avenue to Saratoga Avenue. So, the water in Abbott Street was at least 40 inches deep — that’s a block uphill from the proposed entrance to the subterranean garage.

When the surf is up and the tides are high and the rain is dumping, storm drains are ineffective and the water backs up into the streets. (Ask Steve Goebel of Cleanline Carpet how many times he’s vacuumed out flooded businesses along the bottom of Newport and Abbott Streets.) Even if the new sub-grade garage has a de-watering system, there is nowhere for the water to go once it’s pumped out of the garage.

Major El Niño events occur approximately every 10 to 12 years. I have seen Abbott Street under two feet of water at least three times. Other than this one issue, the plans for the new development look good…on paper.

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