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Seawall Supporters Rise
Don Mosier | Rimini Road

The Sea Level Rise Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) had its 15th meeting on September 21st in the temporary council chambers. While the first 13 meetings drew little public response, the last two have drawn overflow audiences concerned with the draft adaptation program released last September (yes, it has taken a year for the implications of that report to sink in). The STAC listened to two hours of citizen testimony, mostly from residents who own property in or near the beachfront, after a brief update on the federal and state regulations driving the proposed revisions to our Local Coastal Program (LCP) by Amanda Lee of the Planning Department.

Most comments supported retention of sea walls along the beach, sand replenishment as the preferred strategy to maintain beach width, and the possible addition of jetties to reduce the normal southward migration of sand during the winter. Several speakers emphasized that the sea walls protected much of the inland beach community from flooding because the beachfront homes are 6 feet higher than those further east. Raising habitable floor elevations on new construction and major remodels will likely be required because of the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map outlining the 100 year flood risk in Del Mar, but several speakers suggested ignoring this mandate. “Retreat” was the strategy that drew the most ire from speakers. Most comments focused on the risk from sea level rise that would impact the beach community, with much less attention on flood risks from the San Dieguito River or bluff erosion that might take down the railroad tracks and, eventually, the adjacent properties.

There were comments asserting conflicts between the Beach Preservation Initiative (BPI), a citizens’ initiative approved by Del Mar voters in 1988, and the current advice from the California Coastal Commission. The BPI states that sea walls are an allowed use as long as they are constructed on private property, with proper engineering; an encroachment up to 5 feet is allowed on public land subject to additional requirements. In effect, this means that BPI-compliant sea walls fronting private property are not going to be removed absent amendments to the BPI, which would require a public vote. That would certainly not happen if the opinions expressed by the audience at the STAC meeting were to be shared by a majority of Del Mar voters.





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