Good Neighbors

When the California Coastal Commission met on July 11, Executive Director Jack Ainsworth drew a hard line in the sand regarding Pacific Grove’s Asilomar Dunes neighborhood. Homes there, in environmentally sensitive habitat, had been in existence since before the 1977 Coastal Act – but according to the law, they shouldn’t be. The law doesn’t allow the Coastal Commission to take the land from homeowners, but Ainsworth’s staff reasoned they can require those homes to eventually have a much smaller footprint.

Residents worried they’d eventually have to lop off square footage to 1977 standards, homeowner Kathryn Poling says. One man told the commission he estimated around 75 homes in the neighborhood would be forced to remove second stories under certain circumstances.

Ainsworth declared his staff’s position on protecting the dunes was “non-negotiable.” Commissioners told him to negotiate anyway.

At that point, Ainsworth’s metaphorical line in the sand met with the crashing wave of political reality. He reached out to Pacific Grove City Manager Ben Harvey in August and began a conversation, Harvey says. The result was an agreement to at least push back the date when homeowners might have to make structural changes.

Poling says homeowners appreciate the city going to bat for them, but the agreement just changes “the when, not the if.” She wants to work out a deal in which landowners can restore the dunes around homes, and keep the structures intact: “We think there’s another way forward.”

Poling and her neighbors are taking their proposal to the Coastal Commission on Friday, Nov. 15, at a meeting in Half Moon Bay. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the agreement with Pacific Grove, part of the larger coastal program the city has been working on getting certified since 2014. It would allow the city to make development decisions in the coastal zone.

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If approved Nov. 15, the coastal program will then go to Pacific Grove City Council for a vote at a later date.

Editor's Note: The print edition reported the date of the Coastal Commission hearing as Nov. 13. The date was changed to Nov. 15, after the Weekly's deadline. 

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