Shrinking Violets

Coastal Commission staff recommend any project (including interiors) in the dunes must come with a plan to mitigate damage.

The Asilomar Dunes neighborhood in Pacific Grove is home to Menzie’s wallflower, Monterey spineflower and black legless lizards. It’s also home to dozens of residents and vacation homes. The tension between protecting endangered species in the fragile and shrinking dunes habitat and property owners’ rights has grown ever since the California Coastal Act took effect in 1977.

The conflict is scheduled to clash July 11 at a California Coastal Commission meeting in San Luis Obispo, where around 10 homeowners and Pacific Grove city officials hope to convince the commission to reach a compromise on development issues embedded within the city’s Local Coastal Program. The city is seeking approval of an update to its 1989 program, as well as to obtain approval of an implementation plan. If approved by commissioners, that plan will allow the city to make decisions on developments in the coastal zone on behalf of the commission.

Dunes resident Kathryn Poling says Coastal Commission staff recommendations are too strict and might prevent maintenance projects like repairing termite damage or replacing roofs. There is the potential to force homeowners to reduce the size of existing homes, backyards or driveways.

The commission’s staff report – while acknowledging constitutional property rights – states that there are impacts to sensitive habitat “from even seemingly minor residential remodeling projects within existing residential footprints.”

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“We realize how special our neighborhood is, and we want to preserve the dunes, just like the Coastal Commission,” Poling says.

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