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Overview Glossary

Coastal Commission Home Page

The Role of Local Governments

How local governments fit in to California's coastal management program.

 Local Government's Role

The California Coastal Commission and the local governments along the coast share responsibility for managing the state's coastal resources. Through a unique partnership with the Coastal Commission, coastal cities and counties develop local coastal programs (LCPs). These programs are the primary means for carrying out the policies of the California Coastal Act at the local level. The 74 jurisdictions that are partly or entirely in the coastal zone prepare LCPs in consultation with the staff of the Coastal Commission. After final review and approval by the Coastal Commission, an LCP is certified and the local governments implement the programs.

An LCP includes a local government's (a) land use plans, (b) zoning ordinances, (c) zoning district maps, and (d) within sensitive resources areas, other implementing actions, which, when taken together, meet the requirements of, and implement the provisions and policies of, the Coastal Act at the local level.

Two terms are typically used to discuss the components of local coastal programs. The land use plan, or LUP, is the relevant portion of a local government's general plan or local coastal element which is sufficiently detailed to indicate the kinds, location, and intensity of land uses, the applicable resource protection and development policies, and, where necessary, a listing of implementing actions. The implementation component is made up of the three remaining elements of an LCP: the zoning ordinances, zoning district maps, and other implementing actions within sensitive coastal resources areas. The Coastal Commission typically refers to this as the local implementation plan or IP.

A local government may submit the LCP to the Coastal Commission in various ways. They may submit the entire LCP for review and approval at one time or, they can submit the LCP in two phases, submitting the LUP first, followed by the IP. In addition, a local government may choose to submit LCPs in separate geographic units, consisting of less than its jurisdiction lying within the coastal zone. If a local government chooses the latter option, the commission must first find that the area or areas proposed for separate review can be analyzed for the potential cumulative impacts of development on coastal resources and access independently of the remainder of affected jurisdiction.

When reviewing an LCP, the Coastal Commission evaluates the LUP for conformance with the policies of the Coastal Act. The land use plan must meet the requirements of and be in conformity with the policies of Chapter 3. The Coastal Commission reviews the implementation plan to ensure that it conforms with, and is adequate to carry out, the provisions of the certified land use plan and the public access and recreation provisions of the Coastal Act.

After the Coastal Commission certifies an LCP, the local government gains authority to issue most coastal development permits (CDP). However, some local government CDP decisions can be appealed to the Coastal Commission even after the LCP is certified. If someone files an appeal based on a local government's decision on a CDP application, the permit is not issued until the Commission acts on the appeal. It also is important to note that the Coastal Commission retains permit jurisdiction over certain specified lands (such as public trust lands or tidelands). Only the Coastal Commission can grant a coastal development permit for development in areas of its retained jurisdiction.

Local governments may amend their LUPs and LCPs, but the changes become effective only after approval by the Coastal Commission. To ensure that coastal resources are effectively protected in light of changing circumstances, such as new information and changing development pressures and impacts, the Coastal Commission periodically reviews certified LCPs.


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The photographs above were taken by: Russ Kerr, Chuck Winterhalder, Daniel Darroch, Linda Morrow, David Ranalli and Beth Trauth
2004 State of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor.
Conditions of Use  Page last updated October 19, 2010