Coastal Commission has repeatedly denied seawall for home called ‘poster child’ for managed retreat

Solana Beach has a weak spot in its armor, and the California Coastal Commission is refusing to let homeowners fix it.

Most of the city’s seaside abodes sit nearly 90 feet above the beach behind a carefully crafted, faux-rock sea wall that protects the base of the cliffs from the erosion of the surf.

At high tide, Solana Beach has no beach. The waves crash against the concrete walls almost everywhere except Fletcher Cove, which the town fathers carved out from the bluffs with fire hoses during a development boom in the early 1920s.

But on the northern end of town, there’s a 50-foot gap where one house has no sea wall and, on Sept. 10, 2020, the Coastal Commission board again denied property owners permission to build one. Only houses in place before the state passed its Coastal Act in 1972 are allowed to build or replace sea walls.

Commission staffers will present additional information to support that decision at the agency’s virtual meeting this week, but the board’s position is unlikely to change.

One board member, Commissioner Roberto Uranga of Long Beach, said at the September meeting that the Solana Beach house is “a poster child” for managed retreat. The often-controversial policy advocates moving buildings away from vulnerable spots on the coast and letting nature take its course.

Other commissioners said it was disturbing that the property that would get the most benefit from the sea wall, 245 Pacific Ave., was not included in the recent application. Instead, it was submitted by owners of the neighboring properties to the north and south.

“It just smells funny to me,” said Commissioner Mike Wilson, a resident of Eureka and member of the Humbolt County Board of Supervisors.

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