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Why Del Mar Needs to Amend its Local Coastal Program

On Monday, the Del Mar City Council will consider whether to move forward or withdraw its draft Local Coastal Program Amendment (LCPA), which is scheduled to be considered by the Coastal Commission on June 10. 

Surfrider is urging City Council to proceed with Coastal Commission review of the document. The Coastal Commission is the authority legally responsible for approving these documents because of its specific adherence to the Coastal Act, which ensures a balanced approach to development along the coast.

Del Mar’s City Council has already withdrawn the plan from the review process in the past, due in large part to concerns that a state-approved plan would limit local control over coastal management decisions. Surfrider is imploring Del Mar to understand that the opposite is true.

LCPs provide the planning forum for cities to prepare for sea level rise. Del Mar’s last LCP was approved in 2001 —  sea level rise science has advanced considerably since then and Del Mar has specifically completed its own local vulnerability assessment. It is now understood that the next ten years provide a brief moment of opportunity to prepare before sea level rise begins to dramatically accelerate. 

Without formal implementing guidance incorporating these updates, there will be less certainty around development decisions (and decisions that impact or preserve the beach.) More coastal decisions are likely to be appealed and; as the impacts of sea level rise become more visible,  future legislative and regulatory standards are not likely to be kind to Del Mar when it comes to flexibility for developing in the coastal zone. Del Mar has the chance now to formalize its vision for the future and to avoid such damaging uncertainties. 

Updating the LCP as soon as possible is particularly important when it comes to projects concerning the railroad. SANDAG is proposing a large length of seawall to stabilize the bluffs from 11th to 15th street, which will mostly if not entirely erode the beach in that area. Multiple agencies are involved in the management and planning around relocation of the tracks off the coastal bluffs. The City needs approved guidance to exert its priorities in these processes.

Fortunately the City has documented its priorities — which include maintaining walkable beaches and coastal access, and alerting property owners in floodplains of the impending hazard — through a community adaptation process initiated in 2014. Updating the LCP would formalize the important priority-setting work achieved in this process as city policy.

The City of Del Mar is aware of its extensive coastal risks and has a responsibility to participate in the public discourse around managing them. If you visit or recreate on the Del Mar beaches and waves, we encourage you to attend the June 7 City Council meeting beginning at 4:30 PM.  To voice your comments in advance, email with the subject title 'Red Dot: June 7 City Council Meeting Agenda Item 12,' and let them know why planning to protect the beach should be prioritized.