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A showdown between environmental activists and oceanfront property owners appears imminent as the Solana Beach city council prepares to discuss approval set to be granted by the California Coastal Commission to the city’s Local Coastal Plan, provided that the city adopts a host of recommended changes to the document.

Many of these changes affect what private property owners can do to affect public lands, such as building retaining walls along the ocean bluffs, and who pays the costs associated with them. These issues have sparked a lawsuit from the Beach & Bluff Conservancy and Condominium Owners of South Sierra Avenue, demanding that the city reject some of the changes proposed by the Coastal Commission.

One issue concerns funding for a sand replenishment program at the city’s beaches. Because seawall construction prevents natural erosion and replenishment of beach sand, the Plan calls for collection of fees from owners of private seawalls that would be used to periodically dredge and replace the sand being lost at the beach due to the presence of the walls. The landowners’ lawyers are seeking to insert language into the Plan that would assign public funding for the same purpose.

Other points of contention include a proposal that private access points to the beach either be phased out or converted to public use (which is opposed by landowners), an argument over whether new development should “avoid” or “minimize” the impact on public access and recreation, and a move by the Conservancy to strike language suggesting that partial relocation or redesign of bluff top houses might be a feasible alternative to installing additional walls.

“We sincerely hope the Solana Beach city council doesn’t succumb to the bluff-top homeowners and go back on their word; there is too much riding on this decision,” said Jim Jaffee, Surfrider San Diego’s co-chair of beach preservation, in a release.

The council will take up the issue at a meeting this Wednesday.

“It's going to be difficult, controversial and emotional,” Solana Beach city councilman Tom Campbell tells the North County Times. “It is extremely, extremely difficult to come up with a plan that everyone can buy into.”

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iantrowbridge Sept. 24, 2012 @ 2:22 p.m.

As someone who goes to Coastal Commissions statewide, the property owners on the bluffs will not get a better deal than they have been offered. The commission has a consistent policy on all these issues and that will not change as result of a self-interested group that recklessly built on top of the bluffs knowing the bluffs were being rapidly eroded.


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