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Sea Level Rise Plan:
Dwight Worden | City Council Member

After three years of work, Del Mar adopted a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan comprised of several parts:

• An inventory of what is at risk from sea level rise in Del Mar, including public and private property (Coastal Hazards, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessment)
• A set of policies and programs for mitigating those risks (Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan)
• A sediment management plan
• Wetland habitat mitigation assessment.

These documents were developed under the guidance of the City’s Sea Level Rise Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) with assistance from experts [Environmental Sciences Associates (ESA)], city staff, property owners, environmental groups, and lots of public hearings, meetings, and input. The final Plan was approved by the City Council in November 2018 and submitted to the Coastal Commission as an update to Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program (LCP). It was also added to the Del Mar Community Plan. Now, the City Plan is coming to hearing before the Coastal Commission on October 16th and the Commission’s staff report is out for public review.

The Commission’s staff report recommends APPROVAL of Del Mar’s Plan if 25 listed changes are made. Importantly, the staff report does NOT call for managed retreat to be inserted into the Plan or for modifications to the Del Mar Beach Preservation Initiative (BPI) adopted by Del Mar voters in the 1980s, but the details of their suggested changes do matter and need careful review.

Del Mar’s Plan as submitted to the Commission as an LCP Amendment rejects managed retreat in favor of a program of sand replenishment, river dredging, a possible living levee, and reliance on the voter adopted BPI. After discussing shore protection in Del Mar’s North Beach area and the BPI the Commission staff report states: “Thus, if approved by the Commission as recommended, action on this LCP Amendment will not result in changes to these existing shoreline protection standards in the North Beach area, beyond those required by [FEMA’s updated maps.]”

The city council will be considering the Commission’s staff recommendation at the council meeting of October 7, focusing on the 25 suggested revisions. We would welcome your input to help us fashion a city position on how to respond to the recommended changes. The council has committed to stand by our Plan and to defend it before the Commission against any changes that “…substantially deviate from or are inconsistent with the [City Plan]…” See Council Resolution 2018-72. This means each of the 25 suggested modifications needs to be considered as to whether it “substantially deviates from” or is “inconsistent with” the City Plan as submitted to the Commission, and we welcome your input.

You can find the Commission staff report here:

Find the Del Mar’s Plan documents and the council Resolution committing to defend the Plan here:

COMMENT. By far the most controversial part of Del Mar’s sea level rise planning effort was how to deal with managed retreat. Many Del Marians, especially some beach front property owners, were concerned that the Coastal Commission would force managed retreat into our Plan over our objections. Some didn’t even want Del Mar to submit its Plan to the Commission for fear of this result. They advocated that Del Mar put the sea level rise plan only in the Community Plan.

The problem with that approach is that the Community Plan is not binding on the Commission. The Commission is required by law to make all its decisions based on the Coastal Act and on certified LCPs. Rejection of managed retreat in our Community Plan, but not in our LCP, would leave the door open for the Commission to impose it anyway. So, I was a strong advocate that Del Mar submit our Plan to the Commission so that it would be included in our LCP and be binding on the Commission, especially as to rejection of managed retreat.

That key issue of no managed retreat is on the table for Del Mar as Commission staff is not recommending managed retreat be required in our Plan. But, there are 25 other suggested modifications on other topics, some important, that need to be evaluated. Do they substantially deviate from our Plan? Can we accept some? All? None? Will we risk losing our position on managed retreat if we fight everything? No easy answers here. My hope is we can reach a community consensus on the best course of action. I hope you will take the time to write to the council by email, or better yet, come to our hearing October 7 and help us decide the best course of action.



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