Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county
Coastal Commission denies dunes project
Hard work by Sierra Club and others saved these dunes in Sand City from being developed—for now.
Photo ©2002-2009 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.Californiacoastline.org
In a unanimous 8–0 vote at its December meeting, the California Coastal Commission denied the massive resort proposed for rare coastal dune habitat in Sand City. The developer, Security National Guaranty, had proposed a 360,000 square foot mixed-use 341-unit complex including 161 hotel rooms, 180 condominiums, conference center, spa, three swimming pools, a restaurant, and surface and underground parking for 841 vehicles on 39 acres.
Commission staff recommended denying the project in a 138-page report stating the project was “inconsistent with the water supply, hazards, visual resource, natural resource, traffic, and public recreational access provisions of Sand City’s certified Local Coastal Plan, as well as the Coastal Act’s public access and recreation provisions.”
The development plan would have required 693,000 cubic yards of grading and the removal of 417,000 cubic yards of sand. Negative impacts included disruption of habitat for western snowy plover, Smith’s blue butterfly, and sensitive native dune plants such as the protected Monterey spineflower.
Ventana Chapter members traveled to San Francisco to attend the Coastal Commission hearing and to speak against development in fragile habitat. Club member Ed Thornton, a coastal engineering scientist, pointed out that the setback for the resort building was based on erroneous assumptions of the coast erosion rate. The error would have placed the proposed building in a hazard zone based on historical erosion rates. In addition, erosion is expected to increase due to sea level rise.
Thornton cited erosion rates presented in the Regional Sediment Management Plan for southern Monterey Bay released in 2008 that range from 2.7 feet/year for the period 1984-2004 to 3.9- 6.4 feet/year for the period 1970-2002. These data suggest that the value of 2.4 feet/year adopted by the developer for the proposed project underestimated the erosion rate and, hence, the setback.
The Chapter noted that the proposed development plan used a 50-year economic life as required by the Sand City Local Coastal Plan, but should more properly have used a 100-year economic life for the project. The Club believes that using a 50-year economic life is outdated and unrealistic both in terms of the economics of the project and the actual planning for such a project.
Sierra Club lawyer, Larry Silver, spoke on the lack of water available for the project. The proposed resort was denied a water distribution permit by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management Board last April. Since that time the State Water Resources Control Board has issued an order requiring significant reduction of unlawful diversions of the Carmel River as first ordered in 1995.
Thank you to all who wrote letters or spoke at the hearing requesting denial of the project including the Santa Cruz County Group, Surfrider, LandWatch, ORCA, Monterey Dunes Coalition, Coastkeeper, California Native Plant Society Monterey Bay, and many others.
The developer, Security National Guarantee, has filed a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission regarding the denial.