The Board of Supervisors postponed its decision to approve the latest batch of amendments to the Local Coastal Program on Tuesday, granting a request from District Four Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who hoped to provide a larger window for public consideration. The newly scheduled hearing is now slated to take place next Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 1:30 p.m.
At that time, the board will consider approving two out of seven amendments that together replace the 1980 program before sending them back to the California Coastal Commission for certification. When planning commissioners considered largely the same language this October, they expressed unanimous approval for the two amendments, which county staff had altered to address a wave of public disapproval last summer over compromises they had made with the coastal commission.
According to the Planning Commission, the county’s staff managed to resolve many of the remaining issues, which pertained to agricultural definitions, changes in village zoning and building restrictions. The commission took special care in analyzing the remaining concerns from the public, but ultimately dismissed many of them as misunderstandings of the language slated for the new document. Nevertheless, Jack Liebster, the longstanding county expert on the L.C.P. who presented to the board on Tuesday, said in the last month his staff had unearthed a couple of areas for clarification and had since tailored the language. Now it is clear that within areas classified as APZ, or agricultural production zone, accessory structures like barns are allowed even if there isn’t a house on the property; that if an agricultural operation qualifies as “ongoing,” it does not need a coastal development permit; and that some private projects that expand water use must complete an additional service capacity analysis.
Some groups that were historically critical of the update have now come around, such as the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “Our main concern is moving forward so that we can all reap the benefits of an updated L.C.P. that will finally address climate change,” Ashley Eagle-Gibbs, the conservation director for the group, said on Tuesday. Though the tweaks she proposed in October were not adopted, she nonetheless encouraged the board to finalize the two amendments so the county can move on to the final two, which pertain to environmental hazards.
Only after those are certified will Marin cease to be guided by the current antiquated plan. Broadly speaking, the Local Coastal Program identifies the location, type, densities and other ground rules for development in the coastal zone.
There has been tremendous back-and-forth between the county’s staff and the coastal commission, which many stakeholders in West Marin have criticized for favoring visitor access over the interests of residents and agriculturalists. Indeed, a few farmers spoke up during the public comment portion on Tuesday, appealing to the supervisors to consider how the two amendments under their consideration—numbers 3 and 7—pose threats to agriculture.
At one time, the county had hoped to exempt farmers from needing a coastal permit for their operations; now, there is a list of instances in which they would need to apply for permits. Albert Straus, owner of Straus Family Creamery, pointed to one provision that requires farmers to get a permit for the “installation or extension of irrigation systems.” “We have to put irrigation in for our wastewater,” he said. “Having a state authority who has a very slow process to get involved in ongoing ag is going to be very restricting, and will ultimately chip away at agriculture.” A public hearing to consider the two amendments to Marin County’s Local Coastal Program takes place at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11 in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Civic Center, in San Rafael.