“……acknowledged that readily-available scientific recommendations had not been incorporated in the draft since 2008. She acknowledged that compared to previous Local Coastal Plans, ESHA categories had been reduced from 3 to 1, completely excluding areas of future potentially sensitive habitat……..
……also acknowledged that no other entities of coastal governance had been consulted in the writing of the draft……”
Sonoma Coast in Peril
On Sunday, November 17th, a public workshop hosted by the aptly named Permit Sonoma revealed the extent to which developers have gone in their quest to profit from one of the last natural resources left in the county–the beauty of our coast.
The meeting was presided over by Cecily Condon and two other PRMD Planner-IIIs, Gary Helfrich, (transportation specialist) and Jane Riley (housing specialist).
There was a PowerPoint presentation, an accompanying explanation by Cecily and then about an hour of questions and answers.
Many questions were posed by about 10 of the 40-or-so attendees, primarily regarding the notable absence of maps and detailed information regarding Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA) as well as ambiguous policy language in the draft.
Cecily acknowledged that readily-available scientific recommendations had not been incorporated in the draft since 2008. She acknowledged that compared to previous Local Coastal Plans, ESHA categories had been reduced from 3 to 1, completely excluding areas of future potentially sensitive habitat. She confirmed that no detailed ESHA maps were available except by going in person to the PRMD office to view the single map they have there, despite the fact that the county has access to Geographic Information System mapping and could easily provide them or include them in the Update.
Cecily also acknowledged that no other entities of coastal governance had been consulted in the writing of the draft (eg, no representation from State or Regional Parks or the Marine Sanctuary), nor the California Coastal Conservancy, nor the non-profits that have been educating the public at large for decades (eg, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Landpaths, Surfrider, etc), particularly school children and underserved youth, and which sponsor beneficial coastal events such as marine debris clean-ups. She acknowledged that the Coastal Resiliency Program developed by the Marine Sanctuary had not been consulted, despite the availability of their published, free, up-to-date, best practices guidelines for coastal land management.
It was acknowledged that there is no mention of carbon sequestration or climate change in general in the LCP draft, save for sea level rise. There is no mention of fuel reduction plans for future fire prevention, no mention of documented migratory bird flyways or resting habitat, no statement of support for the preservation of open space, no policy re: hemp/cannabis cultivation, no mention of offshore or onshore oil drilling issues or policies.
There is a new concept of “workforce housing combining zones” being discussed with regard to future coastal housing development, in which industry employees’ housing will be constructed near their place of work. But there was no discussion of prioritizing affordable housing, particularly for the fishing community and service workers in general, or the fact that 53% of total housing on the coast is vacation rentals. Nor any mention in the Plan draft that the population of the coast swells by thousands on the weekends, overwhelming Highway 1 and public services like emergency response teams.
But the main concern for me was ambiguous language in the draft re: a “principle permitted use”, which defines the type of permit required for any sort of development (including events like marathons), the level of review required, the potential for public input and whether it is appealable to the California Coastal Commission. The details of how this concept will be applied is embedded in the new “Administrative Manual” which is supposed to be already included in the LCP draft in some form (in appendices? Under guidelines??). This was not clarified during the meeting.
The Revised Workshop Materials “fact sheets” released on Permit Sonoma’s website 2 days prior mentions this new concept of “principle permitted use” and specifies that there will be a whole other round of zoning negotiations with the public after the Local Coastal Plan is approved and that zoning designations will not be appealable to the California Coastal Commission once they have been approved at the county level.