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please contact:

Liz Fuchs, AICP
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California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont St. Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

(415) 904-5287
FAX: (415) 904-5400

Right Column

Monterey/Santa Cruz ReCAP: Report Summary

The Monterey/Santa Cruz ReCAP was the Commission’s pilot project for establishing a regional periodic review of Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) and assessing the cumulative impacts of development on coastal resources. From this pilot project, the process has been refined and carried out in other areas of the California coast. The Monterey/ Santa Cruz ReCAP covered the area from the San Mateo/Santa Cruz County line, to, and including Point Lobos State Reserve in Monterey County (see map above). The analysis focused on evaluating responses to shoreline erosion, and on evaluating the impacts of development on public access and coastal wetlands. The analysis generally focused on development reviewed under the Coastal Act or LCPs between 1983-1994.

Shoreline Erosion and Armoring: Much of the shoreline in this area experiences shoreline erosion. Since the Coastal Act allows shoreline armoring if necessary to protect existing development, regions of the shoreline have been armored with a variety of seawalls and revetments. Between 1978-1994, approximately 2.4 miles of armoring was authorized in this ReCAP area. With continued implementation of existing policies, an estimated 27 miles, or approximately one-third of the ReCAP coastline, could be armored in the future. One of the major findings of the ReCAP analysis was a need for regional analysis when addressing shoreline erosion. ReCAP recommended the development of regional plans to help address regional concerns and ensure a full review of alternatives to shoreline protective devices. Armoring of the coast also affects public access through the physical encroachment of seawalls and revetments onto beaches, and by affecting sand supply. Armoring in the region (through 1994) covered an estimated 25 acres of beach; five acres of this total had been authorized since the inception of the Coastal Act in 1978. Other issues analyzed through ReCAP include the use of the emergency permitting process to allow shoreline armoring and the effectiveness of using setbacks to reduce the need for future armoring. ReCAP recommendations included methods to better mitigate impacts from armoring on public access, improving the emergency permit process to ensure that alternatives to armoring and mitigation measures for armoring are addressed, and improving the use of setbacks to reduce the need for future shoreline armoring.

Public Access: Public access to the coast is an important issue for the Coastal Commission. ReCAP found that providing adequate access to the coast includes not only the need for physical accessways to and along the shoreline, but also other factors including adequate support facilities, distribution of access, a variety of recreational sites, and maintaining adequate site quality. In the ReCAP region, the amount of physical access to the shore increased dramatically between the early 1980s and 1994. However, use in the region and the diversity of activities undertaken also increased, leading to pressures on existing access sites. A primary mechanism used to mitigate the cumulative impacts of development on access was the use of access easements. Generally, these easements are provided through an offer-to-dedicate (OTD) land for public use; the offers must be accepted by a local government or a non-profit entity before the area can be made available to the public. ReCAP documented that while the development requiring these offers proceeded, the offers had often not yet been accepted. Another issue ReCAP analyzed was the conflict between access and the protection of sensitive resources. Many areas of the coast in this region support sensitive habitat or species. In many cases, these areas also support public access or are potential future access areas. While policies in the Coastal Act and many of the regions LCPs require the protection of sensitive resources, impacts from access were identified at some locations. ReCAP recommendations include the need for better monitoring and enforcement of policies to improve the protection of sensitive resources. Other issues analyzed in the ReCAP report are accessibility to the coast, and the need to respond to changing demographics and demands for different types of access opportunities.

Wetlands: ReCAP’s analysis found that the most significant adverse impacts to wetlands in the region pre-date the Coastal Act. However, ReCAP also identified on-going impacts to coastal wetlands in the Monterey Bay area. While the Coastal Act prohibits fill of wetlands except for limited uses specified in the Act, some development, under specific situations, is allowed in wetlands, if mitigated. ReCAP found that often the required mitigation for a project was unsuccessful, or created a different habitat type than that which was lost. Inadequately identifying and delineating wetlands, inadequate monitoring of wetlands, and inadequate buffers around wetlands, were also identified as issues leading to cumulative losses. Other factors affecting the overall health of wetlands, and leading to cumulative impacts, include changes in hydrology, degraded water quality, and changes in biodiversity at specific sites. Both development directly adjacent to wetlands and overall development within the watershed can contribute to these impacts. ReCAP found that virtually all wetlands within this ReCAP area had been altered by human activities, including dam building, road construction, urban development, and agricultural development. Although many of these changes occurred prior to the Coastal Act, the resulting impacts to wetlands continue. Since many of these impacts to wetlands need to be addressed on a watershed level, ReCAP staff recommended the development of a comprehensive wetland and watershed management framework. Other recommendations include instituting a more consistent approach to delineating wetlands, revising LCPs to include specific provisions to maintain and manage hydrologic processes, ensuring that non-point source pollution is addressed in all development proposals, and improved monitoring and information management.

Information Management: A major issue throughout the ReCAP process was a lack of readily available monitoring information. Analyzing cumulative impacts requires the ability to synthesize information from previous, on-going, and foreseeable future projects, and apply that information to understand how projects contribute to overall resource trends. This information is also critical in helping local governments keep their LCPs current and guiding the development of regional plans. Historic information, and consistent data sources and methods, were often not available for ReCAP’s analysis. As a result of the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay ReCAP, the Commission made significant progress in improving its information management, particularly through the upgrading of computers and by creating easily accessible databases and information tracking systems. The Commission has also continued to work with other agencies in the area to further enhance information sharing. Each subsequent ReCAP also improves the Commission’s, and local governments’ information management and sharing.

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