Coastal Commission considering halting Pismo Beach private seawalls


The California Coastal Commission is raising objections to property owners potentially constructing private seawalls for their Pismo Beach homes, plans which have gained approval from the South County city. [New Times]

Existing plans call for building seawalls for a pair of Pismo Beach homes that are situated atop erosion-prone bluffs. Both seawalls would cover entire beach bluffs.

James Gentilcore plans to construct a 120-foot long and 40-foot high textured and colored seawall in front of his home. Pismo Beach residents Tony Hyman and John Okerblom plan to build the other seawall in front of their private property.

The Pismo Beach Planning Commission voted to approve the seawalls. Approvals the Coastal Commission appealed.

Commission staff found substantial issues with the seawalls, including that they do not conform to local coastal program (LCP) requirements. The LCP only allows shoreline reinforcement to protect structures that have existed since 1977. The Gentilcore and Hyman-Okerblom homes were completed in 2003 and 2013 respectively.

At a Dec. 17 meeting, Dan Carl, the Coastal Commission’s Central Coast director, said Gentilcore built a house in a known hazardous area, based on a 100-year evaluation of the site. Now, 20 years later, Gentilcore is telling a different story following an estimated 10 feet of erosion having occurred during that time span, Carl said. 

Kevin Kahn, the Coastal Commission’s Central Coast district manager, said the proposed seawalls would affect public resources like beaches and public coastal views. The city of Pismo Beach does not have the authority to challenge the Coastal Commission’s decision on the issue, Kahn said. 

“The project raises issues of regional and statewide significance, given that climate change and sea level rise-related effects (such as coastal erosion) impact the entire coastline, and the issue of how to address them has become a top regulatory and policy priority for the state of California,” according to a commission staff report.