Effort to Stabilize Coastal Bluffs and Preserve Beach Access Gains Bipartisan Momentum

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee today heard Senate Bill 1090 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would help prevent further tragedies on public beaches such as the Encinitas bluff collapse that killed three people in August 2019. The committee did not vote on the bill. Instead, the committee’s chair, Senator Henry Stern (D-Calabasas), announced that he will work with Senator Bates to try to pass bipartisan legislation before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn the 2020 legislative session on August 31.

“I welcome today’s outcome as my effort has always been about saving lives and preserving beach access for all Californians,” said Senator Bates. “I appreciate the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee for giving me an opportunity to rebut the claims of critics who have grossly distorted my bill. Working with Senator Stern, I look forward to continuing the conversation on how we can best protect public safety, preserve beach access, and safeguard private and public infrastructure.”

As currently written, SB 1090 would require the Coastal Commission to approve a public agency’s or homeowner’s application for erosion mitigation efforts for planting, drainage, and seawall or shoreline protective device installation – but only if certain requirements for coastal mitigation are met. If the Commission grants a permit to an applicant, the applicant would also pay for a specified amount of sand replenishment and permit processing costs.

The Commission would be required to respond to such a request within 30 days. Unless an application constitutes a substantial threat to public safety, coastal erosion mitigation projects would move forward under specific regulations. If a project is denied, the Commission would need to respond within 30 days with the reason and documentation for the denial.

SB 1090 would also require the Commission to identify plant species native to Orange and San Diego Counties, and specifies that a property owner would not be required to obtain approval from the Commission or a local government for the planting of those identified species, which would help mitigate further erosion.

The Encinitas tragedy in August 2019 followed similar bluff collapse fatalities in 1995, 2000, 2002, and 2008. In October 2018, a concrete beach walkway near the back of Capistrano Beach collapsed because of ocean driven erosion. In November 2019, a major bluff collapse in Del Mar put the entire coastal rail-line in jeopardy and will now cost $100 million to repair.

To learn more about why Senator Bates authored Senate Bill 1090, click here to read her op-ed in the Coast News.