Coastal Commission blocks seawall construction in Pismo Beach

December 31, 2021


The California Coastal Commission is raising objections to property owners potentially constructing private seawalls for their Pismo Beach homes, plans which have gained approval from the South County city. [New Times]

Existing plans call for building seawalls for a pair of Pismo Beach homes that are situated atop erosion-prone bluffs. Both seawalls would cover entire beach bluffs.

James Gentilcore plans to construct a 120-foot long and 40-foot high textured and colored seawall in front of his home. Pismo Beach residents Tony Hyman and John Okerblom plan to build the other seawall in front of their private property.

The Pismo Beach Planning Commission voted to approve the seawalls. Approvals the Coastal Commission appealed.

Commission staff found substantial issues with the seawalls, including that they do not conform to local coastal program (LCP) requirements. The LCP only allows shoreline reinforcement to protect structures that have existed since 1977. The Gentilcore and Hyman-Okerblom homes were completed in 2003 and 2013 respectively.

At a Dec. 17 meeting, Dan Carl, the Coastal Commission’s Central Coast director, said Gentilcore built a house in a known hazardous area, based on a 100-year evaluation of the site. Now, 20 years later, Gentilcore is telling a different story following an estimated 10 feet of erosion having occurred during that time span, Carl said.

Kevin Kahn, the Coastal Commission’s Central Coast district manager, said the proposed seawalls would affect public resources like beaches and public coastal views. The city of Pismo Beach does not have the authority to challenge the Coastal Commission’s decision on the issue, Kahn said.

“The project raises issues of regional and statewide significance, given that climate change and sea level rise-related effects (such as coastal erosion) impact the entire coastline, and the issue of how to address them has become a top regulatory and policy priority for the state of California,” according to a commission staff report.

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Nature bats last.

Check out the photo that accompanies this article, showing the bluff in question. It looks to me that properties adjacent have bluff armoring of some type that has exacerbated the erosion of the non-armored Bluffs nearby. This is a classic example showing why a seawall can be like a cancer, forcing property after adjacent property to have to armor itself.

As I mentioned elsewhere, there are properties in Pismo/Shell Beach that have unpermitted bluff armoring.

This is just gov’t getting in the way of itself. Private property rights are eroding faster than that shoreline. Have your regulations. Have your plans approved, checking all the boxes as to how it looks and could impede anyone. Have your outlandish fees. Then if the homeowner wants to proceed, you let them do it. Holding to climate control and rising sea levels as a barrier is remarkably foolish. There’s data. Lots of it.

For the record, the last I checked, there were quite a few properties in the north end of Shell Beach with unpermitted seawalls and bluff armoring directly below homes. They are mostly “out of sight out of mind“ because the only way the public is likely to see them is if they trespass on private property or hike along the beach at extremely low tide. But the effort is worthwhile for anyone interested in seeing seawalls that are likely illegal and have been there for quite some time. And like just about all Seawalls and coastal armoring, they surely exacerbate erosion farther on down the coast. The fact is Seawalls generally breed the need for more seawalls and we are left with less beaches and more ugly armored Bluffs.

But we also must have compassion for the people who own homes on the Bluffs and fear their investment will be eaten up by the Pacific Ocean.

They let them build their homes, they should let them protect their homes.

Didnt realize it was a city’s responsibility to determine if building a certain house was a wise endeavour, just that whatever type, size, design and such of house a person wants to build meets the city’s guidelines. Same would be for buying a house, it’s not the city’s responsibility to determine if its a wise thing to do just that all guidlines are meet. Would almost seem this could be the banks responsibility if a loan was involvled or the title company if a title check is done, but certainly not the city.

Oh, but you are mistaken as it is in part the City’s responsibility. They require myriad documents, approvals, inspections and FEES. All of this means they have skin in the game so they have an ethical, and professional obligation to work with a property owner who played by the rules.

The property owner should have know what they are buying.

Everyone knows rules are for poor people

Is that a seawall on house to the right or natural colored ground. Doesn’t look like any of these houses are on very good soil. The city was fine with taking their money for permits and thought it was fine to build there at the time. The cities issue permits and inspect buildings with no care for some obvious problems ahead. Take Los Osos where they let people build houses in a low lying part of land that flooded all the time and still does.

Wasn’t the Coastal Commission involved in approving these residential developments when they were first proposed? Did they not express their concern for natural beach erosion then?