The City Council voted unanimously this week to direct staff to move forward with the Local Coastal Program project.
The council discussed the project this week. The Local Coastal Program is one of the oldest projects in Seal Beach. As the Sun reported in October 2010, the California Coastal Commission rejected Seal Beach’s Local Coastal Program in July 1983.
Basically, a CCC-approved Local Coastal Program would transfer some of the permitting authority from the Coastal Commission to your local city government. It would streamline the permitting process for owners of property in the coastal zone.
Certain conditions apply.
Among the conditions, in this instance, Coastal Commission staff wants Seal Beach to plan for rising seas, parking, rules for short-term rentals, and increased public access to Surfside Colony. However, Surfside Colony is private property. The legal authority of the city to compel public access is limited.
Seal Beach submitted a draft of a Local Coastal Program in December 2019, according to the staff report by Interim Public Works Director Barry Curtis.
Coastal Commission staff sent comments on the draft to city officials in March and June of 2020, according to the Curtis report.
Noelle Steele of Michael Baker International is a city consultant on the Seal Beach Local Coastal Program project. She described for the council several of the CCC staff comments. Steele and city staff were seeking council direction on these issues.
Coastal Commission staff want to talk about increasing public access to the privately owned Surfside Colony property.
Steele of Michael Baker International said their recommendation was to clarify the definition of development versus redevelopment.
She also recommended that the city remind Coastal Commission staff that Surfside is within their property rights.
Steel told the council there was an option to “defer certification” of the Local Coastal Program for Surfside Colony.
Deferring certification would simply mean that Surfside Colony projects would have to be submitted directly to the Coastal Commission for approval, rather than go through the city.
Steele said it was just one option the council should be aware of.
She said she thinks the city should negotiate with the CCC concerning Surfside.
She said if there were no way to move forward with the CCC on that issue, the council could defer certification for Surfside.
Short term rentals
One CCC comment included a recommendation that the city include a policy regulation of short term rentals to address the low number of low-cost accommodations in Seal Beach’s coastal zone.
Steele said it was unlikely that short term rentals would be low cost.
Steele said they (apparently Michael Baker International) needed to know the council’s direction if they wanted to discuss opening up short term rentals in Seal Beach or keeping the current moratorium on short term rentals.
District Five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt said there was no mechanism for keeping short term rentals affordable.
Massa-Lavitt said she went through the short term rental issue when she was on the Planning Commission.
“Do we have to open them up again?”
According to Interim Community Development Director Curtis, there was nothing the Coastal Commission can do to compel Seal Beach to provide short term rentals.
According to Steele, the CCC opposes an outright ban on short term rentals.
“Historically, the CCC has opposed bans on vacation rentals within the coastal zone, citing such bans as inconsistent with the Coastal Act,” Curtis wrote in his staff report.
However, he also wrote that CCC supports regulating short-term vacation rentals, including limits on them in certain areas, limits on the number of stays and code enforcement.
District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic said she was at council meetings when short-term rentals were discussed.
“It was not popular at all,” Sustarsic said.
Curtis, responding to a question from District Two Councilman Thomas Moore, said he believed there were 16 grandfathered rentals in Seal Beach.
Steele said one option would be to include in the Local Coastal Program a policy to study the issue further.
Coastal Commission staff also want to talk about parking in Seal Beach’s coastal area.
Police Chief Phil Gonshak recommended bringing the city’s parking consultant into that discussion.
It wasn’t in the staff report, but District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick asked if the city would need to discuss the annual sand berm with the CCC?
According to Steele, the CCC was aware that the sand berm is being built without a permit. She indicated Coastal Commission staff would like the berm to be included in the city’s Local Coastal Program.
She also reminded the council that the city could obtain a multi-year permit for the sand berm.