Sea-Level Rise Local Coastal Program Amendment

The City of Del Mar has demonstrated great leadership and commitment to actively plan for sea-level rise to protect local beaches, coastal bluffs, and environmental resources and minimize impacts to residents, businesses, and visitors. After years of public outreach, discussion, and over 25 public meetings, in October 2018 the City Council adopted the package of Local Coastal Program Amendments and technical documents relating to Del Mar’s Coastal Resiliency/Sea Level Rise Planning Work Program. In addition to meeting various state and federal obligations, this scientifically grounded planning process helped the City to reduce risk and plan ahead to protect the future of Del Mar.

An ad-hoc advisory committee was utilized to provide a public forum for stakeholder review, discussion, and recommendations to the City Council while the Sea Level Rise Stakeholder Technical Advisory Committee was active between July 2015 and September 2018.  This helped the City tailor the plans accordingly to account for community values and concerns.

The City’s adopted plans for adaptation and resiliency identify the City’s priorities for adaptation through beach nourishment/management, river channel dredging, and flood management; and continued implementation of the City’s Beach Preservation Initiative and Del Mar Municipal Code Chapter 30.50. The City concluded that planned retreat (managed retreat) is not necessary or feasible in Del Mar. Therefore, planned retreat is not a proposed strategy; and will only be re-evaluated with future planning and plan amendment if it becomes necessary and feasible.

Below are links to the City’s Vulnerability Assessment and adopted plans and implementing regulations:

Generous grants from the California Ocean Protection Council, California Coastal Conservancy and California Coastal Commission, together with supplemental funding from the City of Del Mar, have made this work program possible.

Coastal-ConservancyCA-Ocean Protection ConcilCalifornia Ocean Protection Council

Coastal Commission Certification Process

On October 14, 2019, the California Coastal Commission and City of Del Mar mutually agreed to postpone the public hearing (initially scheduled for October 16) to consider Del Mar’s Sea level Rise LCPA package (adopted October 2018).   The continuance will allow time for the agencies to work together to see where this is common ground.

Following are links to the Coastal Commission meeting agenda and staff report for the postponed Item W10a:

Coastal Commission October 2019 Agenda

Coastal Commission Staff Report

View the City’s Report to City Council dated October 7, 2019, that includes analysis of the initial Coastal Commission staff recommendation: 

Staff Report to City Council - October 7, 2019

News Items

On October 1, 2018 the City Council took the following actions:

  • Adopted Local Coastal Program Amendment LCPA 16-005 (same Adaptation Plan previously approved by Council May 21, 2018)
  • Directed staff to prepare and process a Community Plan Amendment for compliance with Senate Bill 379. (This item will be considered by the Planning Commission in February 2019 and City Council in March 2019.)
  • Accepted the supporting technical documents: Vulnerability Assessment, Sediment Management Plan, and Lagoon Wetland Habitat Migration Assessment.
  • Directed staff to return to City Council with a Resolution to reiterate the City Council’s commitment to continue to reject managed retreat during the Coastal Commission LCPA certification process.
  • Adopted the Land Use Plan Amendment portion of LCPA 18-002 by Resolution.
  • Continued the public hearing for the Ordinance (ZA 16-008)/ LCPA 18-002) with direction to proceed with the code amendments, but with no rezone or expansion of the existing overlay zone boundaries.

View the October 1, 2018 Report to the City Council (PDF) and the Coastal Commission comment letter (PDF).

On October 15, 2018 the City Council took the following additional actions:

  1. Adopted the Commitment Resolution (PDF) to reiterate the Council’s commitment to reject managed retreat during the Coastal Commission certification process.
  2. Confirmed the LCP Land Use Plan Resolution accurately reflects the prior Council action.
  3. Introduced the Ordinance to amend DMMC Chapter 30.29 (Floodway Zone), Chapter 30.55 (Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone), and Chapter 30.56 (Floodplain Overlay Zone) with no change to the overlay zone boundaries.

View the October 15, 2018 Report to City Council (PDF).

On October 29, 2018, the City Council adopted the Ordinance amending the Floodway Zone, Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone, and Floodplain Overlay Zone regulations as introduced.  This action allowed the City to submit the LCPA package to the Coastal Commission in time for the October 31, 2018 grant deadline; and to submit the Ordinance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bring the City into compliance with FEMA’s floodplain management requirements.

Del Mar’s Plans for Adaptation and Sediment Management

Del Mar’s approach to adaptation is comprised of many sub-components all designed to work together.  Del Mar’s commitment is, for the long term, to maintain a popular public beach hosting one of the very few off-leash dog beaches in the County, offering public access at every street end, at the river mouth, and at Powerhouse Park, and offering a variety of recreational experiences ranging form surfing and swimming to volleyball, fishing, and other recreational activities. 

The City’s goal is to maintain the existing high quality public beach and public access in Del Mar as the primary means of addressing sea-level rise with due consideration for the following:

  • Shoreline protection consistent with the voter-approved Beach Protection Initiative;
  • The specific needs of public facilities and infrastructure such as roads, sewers, and utilities;
  • The unique needs of the north and south bluff areas;
  • Public beach access at the many street ends, at North beach, and at Powerhouse Park, to ensure long-term public access; and
  • The unique topography of Del Mar with its “front row” of beach homes located at a higher elevation than the properties, public and private, to the east.

The Del Mar Adaptation Plan is a "toolbox" to help property owners (public and private) plan for and address future sea-level rise, storm surge, coastal flooding, and erosion. On October 1, 2018, the City Council adopted the Adaptation Plan as a Local Coastal Program Amendment and accepted the supporting technical documents. Visit the City’s Agenda Center to view staff reports, correspondence, minutes, and meeting videos. 

The City of Del Mar identified beach nourishment as the highest priority, near-term adaptation strategy to address projected local flooding and erosion. Del Mar is actively seeking opportunities for beach nourishment to protect people, property, and infrastructure. On June 17, 2019, the City Council selected a consultant team (Moffatt & Nichol) to begin work on the City’s Shoreline Management Program in Fiscal Year 2019-2020. In July 2019, the City began work to develop and obtain permit approvals for a sand compatibility opportunistic use program (SCOUP) that will enable the City to participate in future beach nourishment projects.  Work on the design for a potential living levee project is expected to follow.

The City of Del Mar is also interested in participating in regional efforts as applicable.  The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is currently in process of applying for grant funding to coordinate a regional beach sand project to protect coastal infrastructure along the shoreline in the San Diego region, which the City has expressed support for.

The City’s Sediment Management Plan concluded that beach nourishment is expected to be feasible with up to 3 feet of sea-level rise and that the feasibility of beach nourishment for projected higher levels of sea-level rise is uncertain.

The City believes the adopted adaptation strategy will be successful, is “feasible” within the meaning of the State law (California Coastal Act section 18.04.010 and Public Resources Code sections 21061.1 and 30108) and will best meet both public and private goals for a significant period of time.


The City of Del Mar is committed to monitor the following over time and discuss annual status reports with the collected data in a public forum via City Council to determine the level of significance and whether follow up action is necessary:

  • Coastal bluff conditions: Evaluate changes in the distance over time between the coastal bluff edge and the railroad infrastructure, sewer lines, and private development.
  • Beach conditions: Evaluate quantitative and qualitative changes in beach width as it relates to changes in the average and successive beach widths during summer vs winter; the level of beach activities; and whether beach nourishment is still a feasible option.
  • Flood conditions: Evaluate changes in flood conditions to determine whether there are any repeating patterns of flood damage and whether the frequency of flooding and storm damage is simply an inconvenience that can be addressed via reconstruction or whether the frequency is becoming unsustainable to rebuild in the same location.

Following are resources for monitoring data relating to the City’s sea level rise planning work program:

Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Mitigation Project for Restoration of the San Dieguito Lagoon

SANDAG- Regional Shoreline Monitoring Program

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Adaptation Strategies

In June 2017, Nexus Planning & Research prepared a comparative cost-benefit analysis (using information provided by the City of Del Mar and City of Carlsbad) as part of a larger regional project led by the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative. The analysis included an evaluation of potential damage or loss to “at-risk” properties in Del Mar’s North Beach area and the cost of no action versus various adaptation scenarios to protect, adapt, or abandon/retreat those properties. The main takeaway is that the highest return on investment may be realized if beach nourishment is utilized in the near term and paired with sand retention (i.e. groins); and that the highest cost to the City is associated with a choice to take no action at all. One of the lessons learned is that “project and site-specific information is necessary to provide more detailed cost estimates.” The study also recommends “that financial feasibility not be assessed until any preliminary design is accomplished, based on a more thorough consideration of coastal processes, regulatory and environmental opportunities and constraints, and engineering.” View the study here:

Legal Risk Analysis of Adaptation Strategies

In June 2017, the Environmental Law Institute prepared a legal risk analysis for sea level rise adaptation in the San Diego region as part of a larger project led by the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative. View the study here:

The California Coastal Commission also prepared an analysis of the legal context of adaptation planning within the State of California. View the Commission’s legal analysis here in Chapter 8:


Staff Contact:

Information requests, notification list registration, and general inquiries should be sent to the Sea Level Rise email.