UNION-TRIBUNE PUBLISHING CO.
Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Dec 1, 2006
SOLANA BEACH — With negotiations at a standstill, lawyers for an environmental group that sued the city over sea walls are offering a compromise they say would protect both property owners and the coastline.
Marco Gonzalez, an attorney representing the Surfrider Foundation, hand-delivered a settlement proposal to Mayor David Powell at a City Council meeting Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, I’m doing everything I can to save time, money and goodwill for the elected officials of Solana Beach,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez had not received a formal response by yesterday afternoon.
The settlement offer relates to an appeal the Surfrider Foundation has filed in a ruling issued by a Superior Court judge last January. Gonzalez lost most of his arguments in the initial lawsuit, but won a key point that has forced Solana Beach to stop permitting sea wall construction while it writes new erosion- control regulations.
The settlement offer would end the litigation, protect the beaches and save the city from paying his legal fees, Gonzalez said.
Solana Beach City Attorney James Lough said the settlement offer may have come too long after the judge’s ruling.
“We’ve done all the work to do that, not only in the court case, but remedying the problem,” Lough said. “The timing seems a little late.”
The city already has written one planning document, called a Local Coastal Plan, and voted Wednesday night to send it to the California Coastal Commission for approval.
The city also is close to revising its master environmental impact report, the primary document that guides development along the coast, he said. (Finding 5 that we have been talking about. Ann)
Nonetheless, Lough pledged to study the offer and present it to elected officials in closed session. “If the council wants to pursue settlement options, we’ll do it,” he said.
The Surfrider Foundation lawsuit alleged that Solana Beach routinely violated its own bluff-protection ordinances by allowing property owners to build sea walls and other erosion-control devices. The practice harms beaches, the lawsuit claims.
In January, Superior Court Judge Michael Anello rejected most of the Surfrider complaints but directed the city to rewrite a portion of its master environmental impact report that pertains to erosion prevention.
The order effectively has prevented property owners from building any new sea walls until the plan is amended.
Gonzalez has appealed the judge’s ruling that the master environmental impact report could be revised, and wants it scrapped.
Under the settlement offer, Surfrider would drop the appeal if the city produces a new master environmental report.
At the same time, property owners worried about bluff erosion could build temporary rock walls called rip-rap to protect their homes until appropriate permits could be issued, Gonzalez said.
He said the only reason property owners might reject such an agreement is that installing temporary erosion controls would likely be more expensive.
“You put in rip-rap then you take it out, that costs a lot of money,” he said.
Lough said he is confident the city will withstand the appeal and not be ordered to rewrite the master planning document from scratch or to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
“We’re not the ones appealing,” he said. “We were fine with the decision.”
Credit: STAFF WRITER