pacific grove coastline

A couple rides a tandem bicycle along the coastal trail near Lovers Point.

After more than four years of study, public input and political wrangling, Pacific Grove is almost near the finish line it has worked hard for: a coastal development plan certified by the California Coastal Commission.

Commissioners unanimously approved the plan, called a Local Coastal Program, on Friday, Nov. 15, in Half Moon Bay. The plan will go back to the Pacific Grove City Council for its own vote. Once both sides agree to the plan, it will then be certified, which means developers and homeowners in the coastal zone will be able to go through the city for approvals, rather than having to go through both the city and the Coastal Commission. 

Friday's hearing was relatively short compared to a contentious hearing in July, when the city and residents of the Asilomar Dunes neighborhood were at loggerheads with Coastal Commission staff.

Staff members, led by Commission Executive Director Jack Ainsworth, were insistent that homes in the Dunes be subject to 1977 standards—the year the California Coastal Act went into effect—after a certain level of structural improvements are made. They said it was necessary to protect the dunes, which are considered an environmentally sensitive habitat area. 

Negotiations between Pacific Grove staff and Coastal Commission staff beginning in August led to an agreement that the homes will be subject to standards as of the date of the plan's certification.

Dunes homeowners were adamant on Friday that even with the new date, the coastal plan would bring future destruction to entire sections of homes, including entire second stories, to create a smaller footprint and comply with regulations to protect the environment. 

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"The coastal staff holds enmity towards us for reasons we do not understand," leader of the Asilomar Dunes contingent, Kathryn Poling, said. She asked that commissioners remove development regulations homeowners considered punitive and instead work together on restoration of the dunes.

Commissioners instead insisted that protections were necessary. They stressed the unique situation of Asilomar Dunes as an area where no development would have been approved after 1977, but nevertheless already had homes in existence since 1906 as well as lots already in ownership and slated for future home building.

"I know the homeowners don’t see it this way, but I think this is a generous accommodation," Commissioner Donne Brownsy said of pushing the date forward. She stressed for the record that the plan's approval was not to be seen as setting precedent for development in other environmentally sensitive habitat areas in the state. 

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