Green Light for Twin Lakes Plan

Aug. 14, 2013—In an extraordinarily sensible last-minute move, the staff of the California Coastal Commission has withdrawn its objection to a key piece of the county’s Twin Lakes Beach - East Cliff Drive Plan.

Commission staff had approved the plan to improve public access and parking along the haphazard section of road just east of the harbor, but only under the condition that the county ship in 500 truckloads of sand for construction of a seawall. In an “amendum” released Wednesday, the staff removed that condition.

The original plan, decades in the making, called for using roughly 10,000 cubic yards of “native” beach sand. The staff relied on a rather simplistic, letter-of-the-law argument to justify its demand that the county truck sand to the beach.

A July 31 Sentinel article quoted the staff report: "It has not been the commission's practice to allow the use of native beach sand as construction materials because beach sand is part of the shoreline sand supply system, and its use is directly contrary to the basic premise" of coastal protection.

County Supervisor Neal Coonerty and others pointed out that the Commission staff’s argument ignored the fact that the county dredges upwards of 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the harbor and deposits it on Twin Lakes Beach every year. He also said the costly sand-trucking requirement could kill the project.

Dan Haifley, director of the Harbor-headquartered nonprofit O’Neill Sea Odyssey, called the staff’s reversal “very good news.”

O’Neill Sea Odyssey, which offers hands-on ocean-science education to mostly low-income students at the Harbor and aboard its sailboat, serves more that 5,000 kids a year—most of whom arrive by bus or car. “The problem is being able to get out” of the parking lot, he said.

Haifley also pointed out that the stretch of road is unsafe for bicyclists, pedestrians and disabled people.

He believes the commission staff ultimately made the right decision.

“My view is that a lot of sand moves through that system, thanks to the dredging, and it’s best to use the native sand.”

The Coastal Commission still needs to take formal action based on this recommendation at a hearing in the County Building tomorrow afternoon.

Clark Tate contributed to this article.