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Save the Sand
Don Mosier | Rimini Road

At the April 16th City Council meeting, a clear consensus from Council and key stakeholders emerged as to the best strategies for Del Mar’s adaptation to sea level rise: sand replenishment, sand management/retention, river dredging, and a possible natural berm along the river to prevent flooding in the beach colony. Though all appeared to agree that managed retreat is not a feasible strategy for the North Beach community, three-plus hours of contentious public testimony focused on two different approaches to how the City’s Adaptation Plan should address the managed retreat issue. In the end, Council deferred action on the draft Adaptation Plan to May 21, to allow an opportunity to “wordsmith” a few items as recommened by some members of the Sea Level Rise Technical Advisory Committee (STAC).

The STAC-recommended draft of the Adaptation Plan, which the Planning Commission also endorsed, followed the approach of removing managed retreat language from the Plan. The version considered by Council included revisions detailing eight separate reasons why managed retreat is not a feasible strategy for the North Beach community, concluding that managed retreat will not be studied or planned for unless all the identified preferred strategies have failed. These revisions were added to the document after Coastal Commission staff warned the City that because the plan is intended to be a very long range document, ignoring managed retreat as an option is not acceptable. Specifically, the Coastal Commission letter noted, “we may see 5 ft. of sea level rise earlier than previously thought. In March 2018, the California Ocean Protection Council adopted statewide guidance that recommends planning for 7.1 ft. of sea level rise by 2100 for this region, and raises the possibility that there could by up to 10.2 ft. of sea level rise---if rapid ice sheet loss occurs.”

After receiving these Coastal Commission warnings, the council liaisons to STAC, Dwight Worden and David Druker, consulted with local property owners and public beach advocates and crafted the revisions that explicitly set forth why managed retreat is “infeasible” for Del Mar, and thus, would only be studied or considered if the strategies identified as feasible have failed.

Nonetheless, most speakers were surprised by the changes, and the majority spoke against any inclusion of managed retreat in the document, citing impacts on property values and the desire to maintain the Del Mar beachfront as it is today. Mayor Worden and Councilmember Druker emphasized that they shared the concerns about property values, protecting private property, and maintaining the public beach, but that the revisions to the Adaptation Plan better serve those interests, since a plan that doesn’t consider managed retreat will likely be rejected, whereas a plan that provides compelling analysis of why managed retreat is infeasible is more likely to be approved by the Coastal Commission,and gives Del Mar a path to avoiding managed retreat unless all other preferred strategies fail.




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