Protect Our Sonoma Coast

By Richard Charter, Director, Coastal Coordination Program, The Ocean Foundation

We all know that the Sonoma Coast is a global natural treasure, and every few years our county decision makers update our Local Coastal Plan (LCP) as a way to keep pace with changing times and to address emerging threats. Sea level rise and increasing development pressures are just two of the most serious challenges now facing our coast.


On July 17, our Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will finalize the process of updating our LCP, and this hearing will be a very good time for all who value this coastline to stand up and be counted.


The Sonoma Coast LCP has always made it clear that environmentally-sensitive natural habitat must be protected, especially between the ocean and the first public roadway. The LCP also emphasizes that maintaining public access to the shoreline is a top priority, and that our scenic viewsheds are to be kept intact for future generations. The basic purpose of the current update for our LCP is to strengthen this guiding document so that it will successfully address the next generation of environmental threats.


The completion of a strong LCP is clearly now within reach of our County Supervisors. The Sonoma County Planning Commission, after exercising due diligence and patiently listening to their own public hearings, got it right, voting to retain a key series of important parcel-specific protections that have long been in place along the Sonoma Coast.


Our LCP works, as can be seen on any visit to our coast.


The protections we have enjoyed to date now face new threats originating from the private profit motive of a particularly invasive development proposal near Timber Cove. If that project sneaks by under the radar, other similar exploitive development plans will surely follow. This is not the time to let one developer get away with arbitrarily undoing critical protections all along the entire Sonoma coast.


The only potential impediment to adoption of the strongest possible LCP on July 17 appears to be originating from an East Coast developer’s paid lobbyist. This lobbyist’s goal is to try to gain an exemption from the LCP parcel protections to obtain a permit for a proposed new blufftop commercial “event center” between Highway One and the ocean in Timber Cove that would block the public’s coastal viewshed with twelve high-end vacation rental homes, a “welcome center” and spa buildings, a swimming pool, and a new parking lot for eighteen cars—all of which would completely close off access to the coast there to the public for at least 24 days each year.


The completion of a strong LCP is clearly now within reach of our County Supervisors. This is your coast, and now is the time to let our elected officials know in no uncertain terms that we want the strongest possible LCP and that we will praise them when they finalize this LCP with the essential parcel-specific protections intact.


There is only one Sonoma Coast. If you cannot make the July 17 meeting, write to your Supervisor today. Learn more at