Obtaining Your Discretionary Permit on the Central Coast: The California Coastal Commission

by Daniel Silvernail

California-Coastal-CommissionAuthor’s note: Many of our clients retain us to assist them in charting the unknown waters of obtaining their development permit. In this article we discuss the regulatory framework behind Coastal Development Permits generally, with specific emphasis on local governmental application along the Central Coast of California. This is the first of a series of articles on the topic “Obtaining Your Discretionary Permit on the Central Coast”.

Overview:
The California Coastal Commission is a state agency with quasi-judicial regulatory oversight over land use and public access in the California coastal zone. The Commission’s mission is “To protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline”. The Commission was established in 1972 by voter initiative via Proposition 20, initiated in part in response to the controversy surrounding the development of Sea Ranch, a planned coastal community in Sonoma County. Sea Ranch and other similar coastal projects of that era prompted the formation of activist groups whose efforts eventually led to putting Proposition 20 on the ballot.

Development Defined:
Development activities are broadly defined to include construction of buildings, divisions of land, and activities that change the intensity of use of land. Development usually requires a Coastal Development Permit from either the Coastal Commission or local government. The Coastal Zone is described as the area from the Mean High Tide Line to a distance of between a couple of hundred feet in urban areas, to up to several miles in rural areas.
The Commission is the primary agency which issues Coastal Development Permits. However, once a local agency puts in place a Local Coastal Program (LCP) certified by the Commission, that local agency takes over the responsibility for issuing Coastal Development Permits. A Local Coastal Program (LCP) is composed of a Land Use Plan and an Implementation Plan. A Land Use Plan details the Land Uses permissible within the local jurisdiction’s area, specifying the general policies applicable to each Land Use. The Implementation Plan is responsible for implementing the policies contained in the Land Use Plan. The Implementation Plan is generally a part of a city’s zoning ordinance.

Coastal Zone Regulation, Santa Cruz County:
In Santa Cruz County this zone extends about five miles inland from the North Coast. From Natural Bridges to 41st Avenue in Capitola, it extends about 0.6 miles inland. From Capitola to the south County boundary, it extends to Highway One.
Within this Zone, any person who wishes to do any sort of land development must obtain a Level 5 development permit. “Development” includes:
• Construction, reconstruction, alteration, or demolition.
• Grading, removing, placement, and extraction of earth material.
• Subdivision and minor land division.
• Change in the density or intensity of land use.
• Harvesting major vegetation, except for agriculture and timber harvesting.
Coastal Commission hearings in the County are held at the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chambers at 701 Ocean Street in Santa Cruz: http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/Government/BoardofSupervisors.aspx

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Santa Cruz:
The City of Santa Cruz has a fully certified local coastal program. Applications are processed through the City Planning Commission: http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=378

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Capitola:
The City of Capitola has a fully certified local coastal program. Applications are processed through the Planning Department’s discretionary permit process administered by the City’s Department of Community Development: http://www.cityofcapitola.org/general/page/community-development-home

Coastal Zone Regulation in Monterey County:
The Local Coastal Plan for the County of Monterey was written in conjunction with a citizen’s advisory committee and adopted by the Board of Supervisors as part of the the County’s Zoning Ordinance. Because the County of Monterey’s Coastal Plan has been certified by the State of California Coastal Commission, the County is authorized to issue Coastal Permits. Implementation is through the County’s Regional Management Agency (RMA): http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/planning/

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Marina:
The City of Marina has a fully certified local coastal program. For information about Marina’s local coastal land use plan go to: http://www.ci.marina.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=171

Coastal Zone Regulation in Sand City:
Sand City has a fully certified local coastal program. For information go to: http://www.sandcity.org/government/departments/Planning.aspx

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Seaside:
The state Coastal Commission has approved the final step in certifying the city’s local coastal program for the area of Seaside within the coastal zone. That means the city will soon be able to assume local control over granting permits in Seaside’s coastal area — an L-shaped corridor running from Monterey Bay and around Roberts Lake and Laguna Grande — from the state Coastal Commission.

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Monterey:
The City of Monterey does not currently have a local coastal program in place. Coastal permit applications within City limits are referred to the Coastal Commission: http://www.coastal.ca.gov/address.html

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Pacific Grove:
The City of Pacific Grove does not currently have a local coastal program in place. Coastal permit applications within City limits are referred to the regional California Coastal Commission office: http://www.coastal.ca.gov/address.html

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Carmel:
The City of Carmel has a fully certified local coastal program. The link to the City’s Coastal Land Use Plan is at: http://www.coastal.ca.gov/sc/carmel-rev-lup.pdf

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