NC Times Thursday 9-27-12

Seawall proponents, opponents pack into City Hall
Blue shirts battled yellow ones as opponents and proponents of coastal seawalls faced off Wednesday night at a Solana Beach City Council meeting.

About 100 people packed into City Hall to hear the council debate what response to give the state Coastal Commission, which in March approved a much-revised version of a local planning document that’s been years in the making.

The state’s changes included a 20-year permit timeline for seawalls and limitations on how much coastal homes could be renovated.

Council members had four choices —- they could reject all the state’s changes, adopt some and agree to continue working with state staff members on others, take no action, or adopt all the modifications. Deliberations continued late into the evening.

Early in the night, before the council began taking public comments on the item, several council members indicated that they thought a meeting between city staff members and state employees on Friday had gone well.

“It seems like you’ve made some progress with coastal staff,” Councilman David Roberts told City Manager David Ott.

Ott called it a “productive discussion” and said that state employees appeared willing to make some changes, so more sessions might be useful.

So many people came to Wednesday night’s council meeting that they filled all the available seats. When they started leaning against the walls, sheriff’s deputies ordered them out to overflow areas.

The yellow shirts —- members of the Beach & Bluff Conservancy residents’ group —- appeared to be in the majority. They captured more seats inside the council chambers than the blue-shirted members of the Surfrider Foundation.

While the members of the two groups strongly differed on coastal seawall issues, rank-and-file members of each group could agree on one thing —- they didn’t like a speaking compromise worked out by the city and the leaders of the two groups.

It called for the leaders of each group to get 25 minutes of speaking time, and their supporters to get no time at all. People on both sides of the issue grumbled about that decision. Several seawall supporters wondered aloud why they had bothered to come, and one seawall opponent said he was going to demand that the council listen him.

Before the two leaders spoke, several people affiliated with other groups voiced their views.

Daniel Powell, a Solana Beach resident, urged the council to “tell the Coastal Commission to go pound sand” by rejecting its proposed document changes.

But Marco Gonzalez, an environmental attorney who has fought seawall projects for more than a decade, said the time had come for Solana Beach to end this long-standing battle. He compared it to the children’s game Candyland and said that the city doesn’t want to get a bad roll of the dice now and end up back at the beginning again.

“Nobody’s got what they wanted … everyone in this room has had to compromise,” he said, asking the city to live with what the state has decided.

Call staff writer Barbara Henry at 760-901-4072.