California Coastal Commission Said SeaWall Life is Limited in Encinitas Permit Application for Andre Hurst

​​On March 7, 2019, Coastal Commission Staff denied Andre Hurst the permit to rebuild his 70-year-old home. In analyzing the staff report, the coastal commission staff asserts that seawalls only last 22 years. 

In the opinion of Andre Hurst's attorney, the claim that the useful life of the existing seawall is 22 years is not supported by the evidence. In the coastal commission staff report on page 29, it states that the design life of the existing seawall was 22 years. The 22 year period was used solely to calculate a sand mitigation fee. In 1995, the Staff proposed a sand mitigation fee on CDP 6-93-05 (Auerbach) and others, based on retarding 75 years of potential erosion. The applicants at that time disagreed with the sand mitigation fee being based on the speculation of sand contribution loss over 75 years, and on the extraordinary amount of the fee. To resolve potential litigation, the design life for the purpose of calculating the sand mitigation fee was agreed to be 22 years. On January 16, 2004, the Commission approved the existing shoreline protective device at 808 Neptune in CDP No. 6-03-048 (Sorich & Gault). CDP No. 6-03-048 explains the same sand mitigation fee based on 22 years. The Commission findings in CDP 6-03-048 explain "(i) the sand mitigation fee is for loss of sand which would otherwise erode from the bluff, (ii) why 22 years is used for the calculation, and (iii) that the purpose of returning in 22 years is to pay additional sand mitigation fees if the useful life is longer than the initial 22 years. In addition, mitigation for impacts to sand supply are based on the estimated 22-year design life of the seawall and, therefore, the proposed in-lieu fees and replenishment plan only mitigates for the initial design life of the structure. The seawall, however, might outlast its design life. To address the impacts of the seawall on shoreline sand supply that will occur if the seawall lasts for more than its design life, Special Condition #1 requires that the applicants or successors in interest apply for an amendment to the subject permit within 21 years of issuance in order to either remove the proposed seawall or to provide additional mitigation for the additional years of design life that occurs to the seawall.” (Findings, CDP 6-03-048, p.20)

Andre Hurst submitted the monitoring report of Soil Engineering and Construction, Inc. dated May 2017; the report of Geosoils, Inc. dated March 5, 2018; and the report of Terra Costa Consulting Group dated May 30, 2017. Each report signed by separate geotechnical​ experts attests that the existing shoreline protective structure, properly maintained, will have a useful life of not less than 75 years. Street and Ewing agree. The Soil Engineering and Construction monitoring reports also show no erosion to the bluff edge over the past 17 years. The 22-year figure was used in CDP 6-05-30 (Okun) for the seawall at 824-828 Neptune Avenue. But in 2012, the Commission approved CDP A-6-ENC-09-040 (Okun) and CDP A-6- ENC-09-041 (Okun), for new development at 824-828 Neptune Avenue relying on the uncontradicted expert opinion that the seawall and upper bluff stabilization would protect the new Okun homes for 75 years with a 40-foot setback. The seawall at 808 Neptune Avenue cannot be removed without endangering the houses on either side of 808 Neptune at 816 and 798 Neptune Avenue. The 808 Neptune seawall is part of a continuous seawall which extends from 788 Neptune Avenue to 858 Neptune Avenue, protecting 10 houses including 808 Neptune Avenue. The upper bluff retention structure cannot be removed without great alteration to the natural contours of the bluff and severe damage to the stability of the bluff affecting adjoining properties.

The LCP and Public Resources Code § 30235 requires approval of protection of existing structures in danger from erosion. This does not mean that the protection is limited to the property on which the structure is located. Hurst's seawall and upper bluff protection are as important to the neighboring properties as it is to Hurst. It will be maintained and cannot be removed.

Source: California Coastal Commission