New Planning Guidelines for Coastal Zone Homes

Sarah Conner casts a vote.
Photo by Christian Monterrosa

By SARAH CONNER | Special to the Palisadian-Post

On Thursday, Feb. 22, President of Pacific Palisades Residents Association Sarah Conner successfully persuaded Pacific Palisades Community Council’s Land Use Committee to widen its brief and review proposed building developments under Coastal Commission guidelines. The following is what she said.

The mission of PPCC is to be a voice for Palisadians on issues that are critical to our community. One of the most critical issues is land use. This Land Use Committee is tasked with reviewing new development projects on behalf of our community, and the committee’s guidelines should clearly reflect the issues we need to consider in addressing new development projects.

Most of the Palisades is in the Coastal Zone, which means we are a dual permit jurisdiction. Development projects in the Coastal Zone need to be approved by the city of Los Angeles, under city law, and by the California Coastal Commission, under the state Coastal Act and the Commission’s Regional Interpretive Guidelines, which the Commission put forward to assist local communities in evaluating projects for Coastal Act compliance.

I have spoken with several thousand Palisadians in recent years about land use issues, and the overwhelming majority of them believe that we need to preserve the special unspoiled character of the Palisades as a Coastal Zone community.

Unfortunately, the city has too often given short shrift to the Coastal Act, Regional Interpretive Guidelines and relevant decisions of the Coastal Commission. This burdens Palisadians with legal costs, wasted time and community tensions that would not be necessary if coastal issues were properly addressed from the outset.

This should not be controversial. 

California Legislature, city of Los Angeles, Coastal Commission and West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission have all required that the Coastal Act, Regional Interpretive Guidelines and relevant decisions of the Coastal Commission be considered in evaluating new development projects. 

The Coastal Commission and Area Planning Commission have further made clear that departures from the guidelines must be justified by specific findings, and where there is a failure either to justify a departure from the guidelines or to consider the guidelines at all, decisions to move forward will be reversed and the process restarted.

The conscience of our community says: Let’s do things right the first time. In order to do so, Land Use Committee must consider the Coastal Act, Regional Interpretive Guidelines and relevant decisions of the Coastal Commission just as it weighs the impact of city ordinances, zoning and regulations. There is every reason for us to state this clearly, and no reason to be vague or unclear. We don’t need the land use version of “Groundhog Day,” endlessly re-living the same debate over the rules and guidelines to be considered. 

The Approved Motion: Given that a large portion of Pacific Palisades lies within the Coastal Zone, LUC will consider coastal issues when reviewing development projects within the Coastal Zone. Consistent with PPCC Guiding Principles, LUC will consider applicable state and local laws, regulations, guidelines, and relevant precedential decisions affecting development in the Coastal Zone (including, but not limited to, the ordinances, regulations and relevant decisions of the city of Los Angeles, as well as the California Coastal Act of 1976, Regional Interpretive Guidelines and relevant decisions of the California Coastal Commission). While our review cannot be exhaustive, and it will not replace the city or state process, it will be considerate of the coastal laws and regulations.