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Posted on: June 8, 2021

Council withdraws amendments for sea level rise

Empty Beach aerial

The City Council on June 7 voted to withdraw an application to the California Coastal Commission to amend Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program. The proposed amendments to the State-controlled coastal program reflected locally-approved policies and regulations addressing sea level rise.

Council members concluded that the City was not able to move forward with modifications requested by Coastal Commission staff. The amendments had been scheduled for a Coastal Commission vote on June 10.

The State agency’s staff had recommended that Commissioners deny Del Mar’s proposed amendments and stated that by failing to incorporate 22 modifications, the City had not done enough to address projected sea level rise.

During their meeting June 7, City Council members found that the Commission’s modifications deviated substantially from Del Mar’s adopted policies, including a Commitment Resolution from 2018 to reject any modifications that facilitate managed retreat.  

Council members agreed that the modifications overlook considerations that are unique to Del Mar. The City Council concluded that the Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program amendments provide sufficient resource protection, development policies and regulations that are consistent with the Coastal Act and planning for sea level rise.  

In 2019, the Coastal Commission first presented its modifications to Del Mar’s proposed amendments and extended interagency coordination for 19 months to try to reach an understanding.

Earlier, as part of its planning for sea level rise, Del Mar designed the amendments to protect the beach, coastal bluffs, and lagoon; to minimize risks to bluff-top and beach-level neighborhoods, and to ensure the City remains viable through 2100.

In 2014, Del Mar launched a multi-year planning effort to study projections for sea level rise. Years of public discussion focused on possible vulnerabilities.

After an exhaustive review of options, the City Council in 2018 concluded that managed retreat — the purposeful movement of people and structures away from risk — is not a viable adaptation strategy for Del Mar and conflicts with the City’s Community Plan.

Also in 2018, the Council adopted a “Commitment Resolution” to affirm its support for an adopted Adaptation Plan, the proposed Local Coastal Program amendments, and the Beach Protection Initiative, a voter-approved measure from 1988 that set rules for land-use and shoreline protection on the City’s beaches.

Open letter of withdrawal (PDF)

Watch the June 7 City Council hearing

Open the June 10 California Coastal Commission staff report

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