Santa Cruz County to finalize Coastal Sustainability Project, requests public input

Santa Cruz County Planning Department has held a number of Public Hearings to solicit public input on their Coastal Sustainability Project. This project includes a review of the impact of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Beaches and Bluffs, housing, public infrastructure and public beach access, as well as erosion of inland properties due to climate change, more severe and frequent storms and fires.

Rio Del Mar, Beach Dr. Property Owners win lawsuit against the County

Property owners of 200 – 300 Beach Dr., (29 properties) won law suite against County of Santa Cruz for unlawful seizure of walkway in front of the homes. The judge ruled that the County did not hold title to this walkway, had previously declined claim of public right of way, and did not provide any maintenance or improvements to protect the public right of way. Therefore, the County could not claim any rights to the walkway.

Coastal Encroachment Program, approved by the County may force property owners to remove fences, walkways, patios and landscaping which encroaches on public access to the beaches

Since the Live Oak Parking Program was abandoned in 2019, the Coastal Commission has required the County of Santa Cruz to develop a Coastal Encroachment Program, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors, to identify and address any existing or proposed encroachments to public right- of-way, roads and easements which provide access to the public beaches. As a first step, a survey conducted by the County Parks Department, has identified access encroachments along 24th, 25th and 26th avenues off of East Cliff Drive, where property owners have built fences, patios, and installed landscaping which is encroaching on public roads, limiting parking and access to the public beaches. Letters were recently sent to the property owners along these streets, to request they remove the improvements, or pay the County Parks Department and “Encroachment Fee” of $5,000 – 20,000 or more each year. A special meeting between the property owners and Supervisor Manu Koenig will be held in January, 2022 to review the survey’s findings and possible solutions for property owners.

Board of Supervisors supports Parks recommended changes to beach access and Park fees

The board unanimously approved ordinance amendments related to parkland dedication, or in lieu, fees, park impact fees and trail and coastal access dedication. The fees, lower than that of neighboring jurisdictions, have failed to meet the rising cost of acquiring parkland and construction for more than 20 years. The fees are used to develop new or existing parkland facilities to accommodate the county’s growth, Gaffney explained in his report. Because the fees have not been increasing with the costs, the county’s Capital Improvement Program in this fiscal year identified more than $94 million in unfunded projects that could aid mitigation of increased population and, therefore, increased park demand. In terms of trail and coastal access dedications, the word “beach” will now be changed to “coastal access” throughout and the minimum public shoreline access easement width is increased from 5 feet to 10 feet. It appears that easements for current beach access paths for Public Parks will be widened from 5 to 10 feet, to access costal beaches. This would impact beaches such as Twin Lakes, Blacks Beach, and Moran Lake.


Petitioners are five property owners with a private driveway easement on Geoffrey Drive,
Santa Cruz, located on a bluff above Twin Lakes State Beach. Petitioners challenge the Coastal
Commission’s jurisdiction to (1) reverse the County’s exemption determination on their
application for a Development Permit to install a gate and fence on their easement; (2) require
Petitioners to either remove the gate and fence or apply for a Coastal Development Permit
(CDP); and (3) impose civil penalties if Plaintiffs refuse to remove the gate and fence to allow
public access to Twin Lakes State Beach. The CA Superior Court ruled that the CA Coastal Commission does not have the authority to impose unreasonable fines and fees to an approved application for Coastal Development Permit, after it has been approved by Santa Cruz County in accordance to it’s approved Local Coastal Plan.