Changes to our Coast? The Local Coastal Plan - LCP
By Eric Koenigshoffer
If you are wondering why you should participate in the process now underway to update the Local Coastal Plan let me offer my take on the core reason. The continuation of sound public policy protecting the coast from excessive development while ensuring access to the beach and care of the environment requires commitment. That commitment comes in the form of work…that’s right, work. Doing the work of learning the issues and the process and then showing up.
Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Department (Permit Sonoma) recently released the Draft Update of the Local Coastal Plan (LCP). Meetings seeking community input are now underway. The draft document is available on-line at the PRMD website, https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Long-Range-Plans/Local-Coastal-Program/Public-Review-Draft/. Hard copies are available for review in public libraries around the county. There will be public hearings as the process unfolds.
The current LCP is 270 pages.
The draft update LCP is 424 pages.
In addition to the main body of the document there is also an appendix of a few hundred pages.
The work of wading through hundreds of pages of (let’s face it) sometimes boring text requires tenacity (and lots of coffee!).
One very basic point to remember when reviewing the Draft LCP is that the Coastal Zone is different than any other area of the county. You will see references made to conforming the LCP and the Sonoma County General Plan. Fact is, the two documents can conform with one another in most aspects but not completely. The Coastal Zone is subject to a variety of statewide policies which do not apply to the General Plan. These policies speak to issues which are unique to the coast. Here are a few examples:
At the core of the 1972 Coastal Initiative and reaffirmed in the 1976 Coastal Act is the public’s right under the California Constitution to access the states shoreline. All policies within the Coastal Zone are subject to this fact. Permits issued in the Coastal Zone often have special conditions applied to implement access.
Visitor Serving facilities:
Coastal access results in visitors. Visitors need services. These services include hotel rooms and other lodging, campgrounds, restaurants, groceries, gas stations, electric charging stations, etc. Implementing access to the shore includes making sure these services are available. This is state policy which does not apply elsewhere in the county. Of course, implementing this policy should be mindful of impacts on local coastal residents and communities while meeting state law.
Coastal Dependent use priority:
Use of land in the Coastal zone is subject to policy which sets priorities by type of use. Protecting environmental values and unique natural features is a high priority. Preserving coastal agriculture is too. Housing to meet local community needs is recognized as also important. A notable specific point is that “coastal dependent” uses are preferred over general commercial uses. For example, visitor serving use such as lodging is preferred over a non-coastal-dependent commercial use.
Update of the LCP and General Plan take place every 20 years or so. This is equivalent to the generally accepted definition of a generation as being 20-years. It is important that each update cycle engage each new generation and explore the policies at issue and the history of how these important policies came to be.
I’m confident Supervisor Hopkins will make sure the public engagement process is truly open and transparent as she’s good about such things!
In addition to exploring the LCP update process I want to also give readers a regular dose of the history of coastal protection in Sonoma County and throughout the state.
The tools we have to protect the coast and guarantee access to the beach began with “The Coastal Initiative”, Proposition 20, which was on the statewide ballot in 1972. Prop 20 passed by a statewide vote of 55.1% YES and 44.9% NO. The campaign battle was fierce and costly. But in the end Californian’s stepped up and Prop 20 became law. Implementation was an arduous undertaking which involved numerous lawsuits and much political tension. More on that in a future issue.
A closer look at the vote is interesting.
Remarkably many Republican elected officials supported the initiative (see the political ad “Visit the Original Sunset Strip”) including then Mayor of San Diego and future Governor Pete Wilson. Other interesting groups in support included the PTA and the League of Women Voters.
Prop 20 passed in Sonoma County with a vote of 54.8% YES and 45.2% NO. All coastal counties delivered a YES vote except the counties north of Sonoma (the NO vote in each was Mendocino 64.8%, Humboldt 64.2% and Del Norte a whopping NO vote of 82.5%).