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Local Coastal Programs Help Communities Rise to the Occasion with Successful Mitigation
Bill Chapin

For decades, the Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) that govern land use along the California coastline were focused on conservation and recreation, but not mitigation. That’s changing thanks to a state grant program that has made millions of dollars available for local communities to update their LCPs, with priority given to those that address sea-level rise, increasing erosion, and other effects of climate change.

For those communities that are taking a fresh look at their LCPs, the process presents an opportunity to implement elements of their Local Hazard Mitigation Plans (LHMPs). For example, San Francisco’s LCP amendment is focused on responding to persistent, worsening erosion along the south reach of Ocean Beach. The LCP would facilitate several coordinated projects designed to stabilize this portion of the city’s coastline—which also happens to be one of the actions identified in the city’s 2014 LHMP.

LCPs are planning tools, developed by local governments in partnership with the California Coastal Commission, designed to govern land use along the coast and guide development. Each LCP includes a pair of plans: a Land Use Plan to define where specific kinds and intensities of uses are allowed, and an Implementation Plan to put the Land Use Plan into action through such mechanisms as zoning overlays. Once an LCP is certified by the commission, a city or county may approve coastal development permits with limited oversight from the commission.
 
An LCP can serve many functions, but increasingly they are being viewed as a way to enact policies that reduce the risks posed by natural coastal hazards, including future flooding due to climate change. The 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy and its 2014 update, Safeguarding California, specifically identified LCPs as integral mechanisms for implementing climate adaptation strategies along the state’s coastline. In 2015, the Coastal Commission adopted a new Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance document that included a chapter on how to incorporate planning for climate change into LCPs.
 
Most of the 76 LCPs currently in effect, however, were certified in the 1980s and ’90s. Many didn’t address coastal hazards at all. The City of Pacific Grove in Monterey County is a typical case. Back when the city’s Land Use Plan was approved, the Berlin Wall was still up and Madonna ruled the pop charts. The plan contains zero references to climate change or sea-level rise.
 
Today, Pacific Grove is among 29 communities working on updates to their coastal programs thanks to the Coastal Commission’s Local Assistance Grant Program. The commission has awarded $6.8 million in grants since 2014, with special consideration given to those LCP updates that address the effects of climate change. Pacific Grove’s planning staff is currently revising the draft Implementation Plan to address comments from the Coastal Commission. Other communities from Humboldt County on the Oregon border to the City of Imperial Beach on the Mexican border are at various stages in the update process. Most of the grant recipients have included a sea-level rise vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning as part of their updates.
 
The Orange County community of San Clemente has already had its Land Use Plan certified, and the city is now working on its Implementation Plan. The Land Use Plan contains 60 policies specifically related to coastal hazards and sea-level rise. These include the establishment of setbacks, structural and landscaping requirements, and conditions for additional studies and review. The ultimate goal is minimizing risks to life and property without exacerbating erosion or altering natural landforms.
 
Pacific Grove’s draft Land Use Plan has nearly tripled in size since the 1989 version. Its risk reduction policies call for prohibiting new major public infrastructure within the area potentially at risk due to future hazards and relocating existing infrastructure outside those areas. Other strategies include considering the lifespan of proposed developments, preparing adaptation strategies as part of an update to the city’s Coastal Parks Plan, and monitoring sea levels and adjusting the protected Coastal Zone as necessary.
 
San Francisco is updating its Western Shoreline Plan, which serves as the city’s LCP and currently does not address coastal hazards at all. The amended plan would codify the recommendations for sea-level rise and coastal erosion found in the Ocean Beach Master Plan and Ocean Beach Open Space Design Summary, a pair of non-regulatory guidance documents developed by the nonprofit San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). In addition to monitoring sea-level rise and limiting new development, the amended plan specifically calls for a managed retreat along the south reach of Ocean Beach by rerouting the coastal highway. The beach would then be restored and stabilized with natural vegetation. The San Francisco Planning Commission has approved the LCP amendment; it will next go to the Board of Supervisors for approval, and then to the Coastal Commission for certification.
 
This new generation of LCPs represents a renewed focus on local land use planning to address coastal hazards and climate change in California. In that capacity, they form a natural complement to coastal communities’ LHMPs. Given their ability to regulate development in areas at risk of flooding, erosion, and sea-level rise, LCPs can be a useful tool for implementing mitigation actions and ideally should be integrated with the community’s mitigation strategy.
 
In addition, communities taking a renewed look at their LCPs or LHMPs can take advantage of new, detailed coastal engineering analysis and mapping through FEMA’s Open Pacific Coast Study. Updated Flood Rate Insurance Maps are in at least the preliminary stage for all 15 of California’s coastal counties. Data can be downloaded from FEMA’s Map Service Center by searching by community name. The database will be listed under either Preliminary, Pending, or Effective Products based on what stage the new maps are currently in. You can also visit FEMA’s Open Pacific Coast Study page and select county-specific links to learn more about the mapping timeline for a specific county.
 
The Coastal Commission’s Local Assistance Grant Program webpage (https://www.coastal.ca.gov/lcp/grants/) is updated regularly with information on grant opportunities. It also offers guidance, information on technical assistance, and other supplemental materials.

 

The City of San Francisco is updating its Local Coastal Program to address climate change, sea level rise, and coastal erosion. The amended LCP will adopt the recommendations of the Ocean Beach Master Plan, which lays out a strategy to protect infrastructure, enhance ecology, improve public access, and restore natural coastal processes.

 

 Coastal Beat Story Archive

 
collapse Year : 2012 ‎(7)
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<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=6'>FEMA Leverages LiDAR</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=14'>FEMA’s CCAMP Studies and Our Coast, Our Future</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=18'>Region IX to Conduct First Flood Risk Review Meeting for CCAMP</a>
collapse Year : 2013 ‎(19)
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=27'>FEMA Partners with Oceanweather and Scripps Institution of Oceanography to Bring Modeling Expertise to CCAMP OPC Study</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=29'>FEMA Region IX Holds Meetings for the California Coastal Analysis and Mapping Project / Open Pacific Coast Study</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=33'>Primary Frontal Dune Coastal High Hazard Area Mapping Requirements</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=47'>FEMA Holds South Bay Workshop to Kick-off Detailed Analysis in the South Bay Counties</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=50'>Translating Coastal Flood Hazard Modeling Results into Floodplain Mapping</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=60'>Terrain Modeling in FEMA’s California Coastal Flood Studies</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=62'>Join FEMA’s Community Rating System Program Using California’s Statewide Floodplain Management Activities</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=54'>Coastal Flood Processes Along the California Coast</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=56'>FEMA’s Annual Risk Awareness Survey: Findings from Previous Surveys and the Focus for the 2013 Survey</a>
collapse Year : 2014 ‎(9)
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=64'>E386 Residential Coastal Construction</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=68'>Engaging Stakeholders to Help Communicate Impacts of BW-12</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=70'></a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=74'>California Coastal Storm History Part Two – Ventura County</a>
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=76'>Redelineation: What does it mean for me?</a>
collapse Year : 2015 ‎(2)
<a href='http://www.r9map.org/Pages/EbulletinStory.aspx?storyID=78'>FEMA increases community access to draft floodplain mapping data </a>
collapse Year : 2016 ‎(6)
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  • Local Coastal Programs Help Communities Rise to the Occasion with Successful Mitigation

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