Coastal Element (Public Hearing Draft, 5/1/13)
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Coastal Access and Recreational and Visitor-Serving Opportunities

Maximum public coastal access is a fundamental goal of the Coastal Act and a key part of San Clemente’s charm. But the Coastal Act goes beyond just ensuring physical access. It also emphasizes the importance of recreation and visitor-serving land uses that meet a wide range of incomes and interests.

As identified on the Coastal Access Map and descriptions, San Clemente offers many opportunities to use and enjoy the coast. These include many public beaches, the historic Municipal Pier, the Ole Hanson Beach Club, ocean front parks, the California Coastal Trail, which includes the City’s Beach Trail. The Beach Trail parallels Amtrak and Metrolink train facilities in San Clemente and connects to public access trails that link the community with the Pacific Ocean. San Clemente also provides visitor-serving commercial uses in the Coastal Zone, particularly within Los Molinos, North Beach, El Camino Real, Del Mar/T-Zone, and Pier Bowl areas. Visitor-serving facilities include hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns, a youth hostel, time share units, campgrounds, restaurants, public parking lots, specialty retail, and other commercial recreational development.


GOAL:

Create and maintain outstanding public access and recreational and visitor-serving opportunities in the Coastal Zone, consistent with effective resource conservation practices and the protection of private property rights.

POLICIES:

C-1.01. Coastal Access. We establish, maintain, and, where feasible, expand public coastal access to the shoreline, beaches, tidelands, and recreational facilities in a manner that:
  1. Maximizes public access to and along the shoreline;
  2. Is safe and feasible;
  3. Includes, where appropriate, pedestrian, hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails;
  4. Provides connections to beaches, parks, and recreational facilities and trail networks with adjacent jurisdictions;
  5. Includes, where appropriate, well designed and maintained support facilities such as parking, restrooms, fire pits, trash facilities, resting/view places, snack bars, picnic tables, and bike racks.
  6. Maximizes coastal views;
  7. Facilitates alternative modes of transportation, such as walking and bicycling;
  8. Is consistent with policies regarding hazards, bluff, resource, cultural resource and wildlife habitat preservation;
  9. Minimizes alterations to natural landforms;
  10. Protects environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHAs);
  11. Meets facility needs to provide public safety services, including lifeguards, fire, and police service;
  12. Is managed to be permanently available;
  13. Balances the rights of individual property owners with the public's rights of access;
  14. Is compatible with adjacent development; and
  15. Is developed in cooperation with the State Department of Parks and Recreation, the State Department of Fish and Game, the State Coastal Conservancy, State Lands, the County of Orange, and private organizations.
C-1.02. Public Access in New Development. Public access from the nearest public roadway to the shoreline and along the coast shall be provided in new development projects except where:
  1. It is inconsistent with public safety, military security needs or the protection of fragile coastal resources;
  2. Adequate access exists nearby; or
  3. Agriculture would be adversely affected.
C-1.03. Where Public Access is Required. New developments lying between the first public roadway and the shoreline shall provide both physical and visual access to the coastline.
  1. Any new development proposed by the private communities listed below shall be required to provide an irrevocable offer of dedication of an easement to allow public vertical access to the mean high tide line. Such offers of dedication shall run with the land in favor of a public agency or private association approved by the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission. Such offers shall be in effect for a period of twenty-one (21) years, and shall be recorded free of prior liens, except tax liens. The access easement shall measure at least 10 feet wide. Development permits will require public vertical access for new development at the following private communities:
    1. Private beach areas between Capistrano Shores and the northern City limit
    2. Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park
    3. La Ladera (La Boca del Canon)
    4. Cypress Shores (Avenida de las Palmeras/Calle Ariana)
    5. Cotton’s Point
    Access dedication requirements shall apply only to the extent permissible under the "takings" clauses of the United States and California Constitutions. (Refer to Shoreline Access Policy IX. 19). New development lying between the first public roadway and the coast which has ownership interests to the mean high tide line shall be required to provide an irrevocable offer of dedication of an easement to allow public lateral access along the beach. Such offers of dedication shall run with the land in favor of a public agency or a private association approved by the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission. Such offers shall be in effect for a period of 21 years, and shall be recorded free of prior liens, except tax liens. The lateral access easement shall extend inland from the mean high tide line to the toe of a bluff. In cases where development is not located on a bluff, but on the beach, lateral access shall extend no closer than 10 feet to a residence to allow for a privacy buffer. In no case shall the area available for public use be closer than ten (10) feet to any residence with the exception that in the event that the area seaward of the 10-foot buffer is impassable. For example, at extreme high tides, the public shall have the right of pass and repass within the 10-foot buffer area.
  2. Where no beach area exists and a residential development of greater than twenty units is proposed along a shore front bluff top lot, public access for view purposes shall be provided rather than lateral access along the shoreline. Such access shall run along the bluff edge, and shall extend a minimum of twenty feet inland from the bluff edge, but no closer than ten feet to any residential unit.
  3. Modifications to the recommended dimensions of bluff top viewing areas shall be permitted in order to maintain public safety (including bluff stability), habitat values and the rights to privacy of the property owner and adjacent property owners. In areas where a residential structure exists in the vicinity of the proposed access, the accessway shall be sited and designed to provide a buffer area between the accessway and the structure. Generally, a 10-foot buffer between the accessway and the residential structure will be adequate to protect the right to privacy of those potentially affected. This dimension, however, may be enlarged or diminished depending on individual site characteristics.
C-1.04. Exceptions to Access Requirements. For purposes of this section, "new development" does not include:
  1. Replacement of any structure pursuant to the provisions of Subdivision (g) of Section 30610 of the Public Resources Code.
  2. The demolition and reconstruction of a single family residence, provided that the reconstructed residence shall not exceed either the floor area, height, or bulk of the former structure by more than ten percent and that the reconstructed residence shall be sited in the same location on the affected property as the former structure.
  3. Improvements to any structure which do not change the intensity of its use, which do not increase either the floor area, height or bulk of the structure by more than 10 percent, which do not block or impede public access, and which do not result in a seaward encroachment by the structure.
  4. Any repair or maintenance activity for which the Coastal Commission has determined, pursuant to Section 30601, that a coastal development permit will be required unless the Commission determines that such activity will have an adverse impact on lateral public access along the beach.
C-1.05. When Public Access is Required. For the purpose of determining when a project is required to provide access, the following shall be considered:
  1. Access dedication requirements shall apply only to the extent permissible under the "takings" clauses of the United States and California Constitutions.
  2. The provision and protection of public access to the shoreline can be considered a "legitimate governmental interest." If the specific development project places a burden on this interest, then the City may have grounds to deny the development or impose conditions on the development to alleviate the burden. The following questions should be addressed to determine whether or not a development project places a burden on public access which would justify either requiring the dedication of public access or recommending denial of the project:
    1. Does the project physically impede or block an area used for public access? Example -- Does the project block access established by an easement or ownership? If the answer is "yes", then the City may deny the project or require that the project be modified to preserve the existing access easement.
    2. Does the project interfere with public access rights that have been "acquired through use"? Example -- Is there reasonable evidence that the project may block a prescriptive easement? If there is evidence of a prescriptive easement, then the City may recommend postponing the project until the landowner establishes clear title. If a prescriptive easement exists, then the City may deny the project or require that the project be modified to preserve the access easement.
    3. Does the project encroach on public land? Example -- Development projects located seaward of the terrestrial vegetation line or bluffs may be located on public trustlands. If the project is located seaward of the bluffs then the City may recommend postponing the project until the landowner establishes clear title. If the project encroaches on public land, then the City may deny the project, or require that the project be removed from public land or require that the project be modified to provide public access.
    4. Does the project individually or cumulatively impact public access to or along the coast? Example --Projects which may create impacts or substantially increase use of the shoreline are the construction of seawalls, an increase in the density or intensity of uses through the subdivision of property, and/or the addition of visitor serving commercial uses on the coast. If the answer is "yes", then the City must make findings supported by evidence which state how the proposed development project negatively impacts public access. These findings may serve as justification for requiring public access as a condition of approval for the project. A yes answer to this question should be accompanied by a yes answer to Question 5 and a no answer to Question 6 in order to create a strong case for requiring access. If the answer is "no", then public access cannot be required as a condition of approval for the development.
    5. Will the proposed regulation or condition alleviate the burden imposed on the public access interest? Example -- There must be a direct connection between the regulation proposed and the burden created by the development. If the answer is "yes", then public access may be justified as a condition of approval for the development. The City should state clearly how the access condition alleviates the burden. If the answer is "no", then public access cannot be justified as a condition of approval for the development.
    6. Does the regulation or condition preclude all reasonable economically viable use of the property? If the answer is "yes", then the regulation or condition may be considered a "taking." If the answer is "no", then public access may be justified as a condition of approval for the development.
C-1.06. Preserving Public Access. We review proposals for coastal land use and development to ensure they do not interfere with the public's right of access by ensuring that:
  1. Public Transit needs are accommodated, as required by OCTA;
  2. Commercial and visitor-serving commercial uses are located near housing to encourage walking and bicycling;
  3. Non-automobile mobility options are provided within new development;
  4. Adequate parking facilities, or a substitute means of serving the development with public transportation, is provided;
  5. Proposals are consistent with public safety and security needs;
  6. Proposals protect fragile coastal resources and effectively mitigate potential impacts;
  7. Public coastal access is provided unless there is a convenient and easily accessible alternative nearby;
  8. Gates, guardhouses, barriers, or other structures that would inhibit public access to and along the shoreline and to beaches, coastal parks, trails, or coastal bluffs are generally not permitted, with the exception of devices associated with safe access along and across the railroad.
C-1.07. Non-vehicular Access. We promote non-vehicular access in the Coastal Zone to minimize parking conflicts and to enhance our ability to serve regional visitors.
C-1.08. Public Infrastructure. We protect, maintain and enhance public infrastructure that provides public access to the shoreline, beaches, coastal parks, and trails, including the City’s Beach Trail.
C-1.09. California Coastal Trail. We support establishment of the California Coastal Trail by others and where financially feasible, assist in its implementation.
Recreation
C-1.10. Recreational Opportunities. We protect, and where feasible, expand and enhance recreational opportunities in the Coastal Zone as addressed in the Land Use Element and Beaches, Parks and Recreation Element.
C-1.11. Lower-cost Recreational Opportunities. We establish and maintain public beaches and parks to provide free and lower-cost recreational opportunities.
C-1.12. Visual Compatibility. We maintain, improve and develop our recreational resources in ways that are visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas.
Visitor-Serving
C-1.13. Visitor-serving Facilities. We protect, promote, and provide sustainably-designed recreational and visitor-serving facilities in San Clemente's Coastal Zone as described in the General Plan Land Use Designations.
C-1.14. Pacific Coast Bicycle Route. We support the continued improvement of the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route and where financially feasible, assist in its implementation.
C-1.15. Recreational Fishing. The City supports recreational coastal fishing.

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