Coronado’s plan to build a plaza and restrooms at the ocean end of Avenida del Sol is being challenged by Coronado Shores residents — and two California Coastal Commission members.
“You don’t build a bathroom on the beach when you know it’s going to flood,” said Coronado native and surfer James Scanlon. “They’ve armored it on three sides and are pile-driving deep into the sand so it’s like a ship with a bathroom on top.”
Scanlon says a public restroom is a good idea for that end of the beach but believes it should be in the public parking lot, which is already protected from storms and high tides.
“Just not on the beach when they know it’s going to flood,” he said. “It belongs in the main parking lot where there’s good public access, the infrastructure is there, and it’s less likely to flood.”
The city council approved the plan’s environmental impact report in November 2016 and sent the design off to the coastal commission for review. It was initially approved and sent out for an environmental review in 2014, with Coronado Shores homeowners opposing it. On Friday (January 13), the coastal commission agreed to hear the appeal.
The restroom was first proposed in 2012 at a cost of $500,000, with the Hotel del Coronado chipping in $100,000. The nearest public restroom is about a half mile north of the hotel, on a 1.75-mile stretch of beach that sees about one million visitors each year. The city also has opened public restrooms just south of the dog beach at the north end.
The proposed building has three private restrooms with outdoor showers and sinks. Current cost estimates are now closer to $1 million. The city plans to raise the end of the street in an effort to shield it from sea-level rise.
Both the city’s Design Review and Planning commissions approved the project in the months before it returned to the city council in November 2016. Coronado Shores residents opposed the installation, saying the restrooms would attract vagrants and crime, devalue the beach and their properties, and would become an unsightly, unsanitary mess.
“We are sure Senator John McCain is not in favor of toilets being built close to his condo,” one couple noted. Coronado Shores consists of ten 15-story towers with around 140 condos each. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo sold for $3.15 million in October 2016, according to Realtor.com; and one was listed for $1.1 million earlier in 2016.
Facing energetic resistance, the city meanwhile opted to place trailer-mounted portable bathrooms in the city right-of-way on Avenida del Sol in 2013. Staff reports indicate that between 350 and 900 people a day are using the portable restroom.
“We have reports from the shores…that they have visitors trying to use the shores restroom or worse yet, the landscape to relieve themselves,” Coronado capital projects manager Bill Cecil said.
The threat of a wash-away isn’t new. In 1981, waves overtook and washed away a restroom at Silver Strand State Beach.
The city council approved the plan by unanimous vote (5-0) in November despite objections of Coronado Shores residents, who had hired land-use attorney Josh Chatten-Brown and sea-level rise expert David Revell to challenge the project.
“The city acknowledges that it will be battered by storms and it will be flooded,” Chatten-Brown said. “That violates the city’s own local coastal plan.... We brought this up in our comments and to the city council and they ignored it.” Chatten-Brown’s firm and the Coronado Shores then challenged the approval, which then goes to the coastal commission for final review. On January 13, the commission voted to hear the appeal.