Santa Cruz County proposed an update to its Local Coastal Plan (LCP) Land Use Plan (LUP) and Implementation Plan (IP) provisions that relate to coastal hazards along the County’s roughly 32 miles of coastal zone shoreline. The County sought to develop an adaptation and coastal resiliency approach which required managed retreat as a primary strategy in the rural areas, and to allow continued armoring in the more developed urban portion of the coastline. The goal was to better address coastal hazards and sea level rise in a way that reflects local conditions while also protecting coastal resources consistent with the Coastal Act.

An ongoing issue with coastal development is siting new development and redevelopment such that it can withstand long term coastal erosion without dependence on armoring and other protective structures, such as rip rap (boulders piled against the bottom of the coastal bluff). While “existing structures” that pre-date the Coastal Act may utilize armoring, there has been considerable debate about how much redevelopment may occur before the structure no longer qualifies.

The County proposed allowing a one-time exception for new development and redevelopment to rely on existing legally-established armoring within the entirety of the County’s urbanized ocean frontage of some 12 miles. This seemed to contravene the Coastal Act, and caught the attention of many environmental organizations. The Coastal Commission staff report recommended denial of the proposal based primarily on this concern.  At the hearing held on October 14th, the Coastal Commission unanimously rejected the County’s proposal.

The County will now have to rework portions of their proposal, which will require another round of public hearings. Hopefully, the County will also convene a stakeholders' working group that will include environmental advocates instead of limiting input to the development community.

The Sierra Club submitted a comment letter recommending denial, but the letter also highlighted positive new changes that were seen in the overall set of proposed changes. The Sierra Club letter can be seen here.

Santa Cruz County overview map Oct 2022