I. MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS
A. Substantial Issue Determination
Staff recommends that the Commission determine that a substantial issue exists with respect to the grounds on which the appeal was filed. A finding of substantial issue would bring the CDP application for the proposed project under the jurisdiction of the Commission for de novo hearing and action. To implement this recommendation, staff recommends a NO vote on the following motion. Failure of this motion will result in a de novo hearing on the CDP application,
and adoption of the following resolution and findings. Passage of this motion will result in a finding of No Substantial Issue and the local action will become final and effective. The motion passes only by affirmative vote of a majority of the Commissioners present.
Motion: I move that the Commission determine that Appeal Number A-3-CML-15-0033 raises no substantial issue with respect to the grounds on which the appeal has been filed under Section 30603 of the Coastal Act, and I recommend a no vote.
Resolution to Find Substantial Issue: The Commission hereby finds that Appeal Number A-3-CML-15-0033 presents a substantial issue with respect to the grounds on which the appeal has been filed under Section 30603 of the Coastal Act regarding consistency with the certified Local Coastal Program and/or the public access and recreation policies of the Coastal Act.
B. CDP Determination
Staff recommends that the Commission, after public hearing, approve a coastal development permit for the proposed development. To implement this recommendation, staff recommends a YES vote on the following motion. Passage of this motion will result in approval of the CDP as conditioned and adoption of the following resolution and findings. The motion passes only by affirmative vote of a majority of the Commissioners present.
Motion: I move that the Commission approve Coastal Development Permit Number A-3-CML-15-0033 pursuant to the staff recommendation, and I recommend a yes vote.
Resolution to Approve CDP: The Commission hereby approves Coastal Development Permit Number A-3-CML-15-0033 and adopts the findings set forth below on grounds that the development as conditioned will be in conformity with the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea Local Coastal Program policies and Coastal Act access and recreation policies. Approval of the permit complies with the California Environmental Quality Act because either 1) feasible mitigation measures and/or alternatives have been incorporated to substantially lessen any significant adverse effects of the development on the environment, or 2) there are no further feasible mitigation measures or alternatives that would substantially lessen any significant adverse impacts of the development on the environment.
CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION
Portola Plaza Hotel
2 Portola Plaza
Monterey, CA 93940
2 Portola Plaza
Monterey, CA 93940
SUMMARY OF STAFF RECOMMENDATION
The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea approved a coastal development permit (CDP) to allow the City to install 26 fire rings on Carmel Beach and to implement a new Beach Fire Management Pilot Program (Program) along the south end of Carmel Beach, seaward of Scenic Road between Tenth Avenue and Martin Way. The City’s CDP decision was appealed to the Commission, with the Appellant alleging Local Coastal Program (LCP) conformance issues with respect to hazards, public safety, public access and recreation, air and water quality, public views, and community character. After reviewing the local record, Commission staff believes that the approved project raises a substantial issue with respect to the project’s conformance with the City’s certified LCP and the public access and recreation policies of the Coastal Act.
Carmel Beach is a significant local and regional beach access destination. Its wide expanse of white sand extends along a mile of the City’s shoreline, and attracts beach visitors from far and wide who come to walk, sit, and play on the beach and in the ocean waves offshore. Many beachgoers also come to sit around a beach fire in the early afternoon and evening. These beach fires have long been a part of both the cultural fabric and recreational utility associated with Carmel Beach, and are called out as an important part of the beach recreational experience here in the City’s LCP. Per the LCP, beach fires are only allowed on the beach south of Tenth Avenue.1
The City’s Program is in response to concerns raised by the City and its residents that these beach fires are leading to both health issues and beach degradation. The former is associated with the smoke from beach fires, and the latter associated with the debris left on the beach, including because the beach currently does not have any fire rings and fires are made directly on the sand. The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District (MBUAPCD), in concert with the City, has been monitoring smoke levels (actually PM2.5 levels)2 inland of the beach since late May of this year, for a total of 140 days monitored.3 Data from the smoke monitor shows that there was one exceedance of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 24-hour PM2.5 standard during this time, which occurred on a day when wood beach fires were not allowed. Otherwise, the data shows PM2.5 levels to be fairly constant during the week, and generally increase on weekends, with ‘spikes’ in smoke levels roughly corresponding to spikes in the numbers of beach fires.4 Based on EPA guidelines for the 1-hour PM2.5 concentrations,5 the monitored smoke levels have predominantly fallen into the “good” air quality category 98% of the total number of hours in the monitoring timeframe, but there are instances when the ‘spikes’ have fallen into the “moderate” air quality category (1.3%), and even times where the data indicates “unhealthy”6 air (0.7%) (see Exhibit 7).7 Thus, and although there is a need for more robust data collection and development,8 it is clear that the monitor has identified some PM2.5 levels that extend into unhealthy ranges, and it is clear that there is an air quality problem in the surrounding Carmel Beach area to which beach fires appear to contribute that needs to be understood and addressed.
Originally, the City’s approved Program was based on limiting and managing beach fires to address these concerns, including no longer allowing unlimited fires directly on the sand, and instead limiting such fires to 26 fire rings. However, in the time since the City’s approval (and subsequent appeal of that approval to the Commission), the City instituted an “emergency” prohibition on beach fires on weekends and holidays, issuing an emergency CDP (that has since expired) and an urgency ordinance (which cannot authorize development under the Coastal Act and the LCP).9 In addition, the City has taken steps towards declaring a public nuisance and banning beach fires altogether.10 Instead of managing beach fires as the City originally proposed, the City’s modified approach would be to prohibit wood beach fires, but to allow propane fires on Carmel Beach. The City’s new proposal would provide for six City-provided propane-fueled fire rings in the area between Tenth Avenue and Martin Way along the beach,11 and unlimited propane fires south of Tenth Avenue on the beach if provided privately by the user. Fires would only be allowed in the City-provided fire rings from one hour before sunset to 10 p.m., and the user provided fires from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Staff does not support the City’s proposal.
Staff concurs with the City that there are numerous problems associated with the current beach fire situation at Carmel Beach, including on air quality, water quality, and scenic resources, and that management measures are necessary to address and abate those problems. However, staff does not believe that the City’s proposed course of action to abate those problems is LCP and Coastal Act compliant, and therefore raises a series of coastal resource protection issues. In other words, there appear to be many ways to address the identified problem, but to institute a complete ban on wood beach fires at this time is not an appropriate solution, particularly considering the fact that a complete ban is inconsistent with the City’s own LCP, which expressly allows for and encourages beach fires. Furthermore, the City’s proposed propane-only program cannot be approved because the LCP explicitly prohibits flammable liquids (like propane) on the beach. In addition, the City’s post-prohibition monitoring data does not even show that such a proposal would make a significant difference in PM2.5 levels and spikes, thus undermining the justification for imposing a complete ban.12 To staff, a more appropriate response at the current juncture would be something more in line with the fire management Program previously approved by the City (i.e., the approval that is the subject of this appeal). Although this Program as approved by the City lacks needed detail (including in terms of the type, size, and design of the fire rings; the timing on seasonal removal/restoration of the rings; maintenance provisions; public education; and monitoring requirements), it can form the basis for an approved program that can be used to address the identified problems while continuing to provide for the rich experience and recreational utility associated with fires as has historically been the case at Carmel Beach.
Thus, staff recommends approval of a CDP that provides for the 26 fire rings originally approved by the City, and that provides associated parameters for the placement, signage, use, monitoring, and maintenance associated with those rings, including in terms of monitoring air quality. Staff believes this to be an appropriately measured response, and one that can allow for monitoring and adaptation over time to adjust Program parameters as warranted.13 Such a Program would appropriately limit beach fires (i.e., 26 allowed as opposed to the unlimited number of fires that are currently allowed), and can strike an appropriate balance to the issues presented. It will also address all of the other issues associated with unlimited fires built directly on the beach sand by confining them to 26 fire rings that can be appropriately maintained to avoid beach degradation.
Staff recommends that the Commission find that the appeal raises a substantial issue and that the Commission take jurisdiction over the CDP application. Staff further recommends that the Commission approve a CDP for a modified pilot program at Carmel Beach. The motion is found on page 6 below.
1 Fires are not allowed on the rest of the beach, meaning beach fires are already currently limited under the LCP to roughly 35% of the beach frontage.
2 The City and MBUAPCD are monitoring PM2.5, which is a type of particulate matter. Particulate matter is a generic term for particles suspended in the air, typically as a mixture of both solid particles and liquid droplets. PM2.5 is particulate matter with a diameter that is 2.5 micrometers and smaller. For purposes of comparison, a human hair is about 60 micrometers in diameter.
3 The monitor is located in the backyard of the house located at the corner of Scenic Drive and 13th Avenue, inland of the beach area where beach fires are allowed.
4 The City documented the number of beach fires occurring on weekends over a roughly 5-week period in late June 2015 through July 2015.
5 Based on the Revised Air Quality Standards for Particle Pollution and Updates to the Air Quality Index (US EPA December 14, 2012). There are no State or Federal standards for 1-hour PM2.5 concentrations, only these guidelines.
6 In terms of the 1-hour average, the monitor found PM2.5 concentrations to be at 153 one time, and thus in the EPA’s “Unhealthy” category, and the monitor also found 5 instances where the PM2.5 concentrations fell into the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category.
7 Standards for 24-hour PM 2.5 are not explicitly set by the California Air Resources Board. Instead, the California Air Resources Board references the National Air Quality Standards.
8 As indicated above, the single monitor is located in a residential backyard inland of Scenic Drive, and it does not collect the type of meteorological data to be able to conclusively demonstrate where the smoke is coming from (e.g., in relation to wind etc.). In addition, the City lacks baseline data against which to compare the current data.
9 The City’s action is being tracked by the Commission as a violation inasmuch as it is not authorized by a CDP.
10 The City Council adopted a first reading of a public nuisance declaration on November 3, 2015, but has not yet scheduled a time to finalize their public nuisance declaration.
11 Although the City’s new program is not completely fleshed out, as staff understands it currently, the City proposes to install six propane fire rings, as well as propane lines and propane tanks in or under the sand. It is not clear whether the City would provide propane for which users would pay a fee, or would provide propane for free, or some other mechanism.
12 Importantly, the monitoring data does not show much of a difference for the time period from before the City started prohibiting beach fires to after. Indeed, there continue to be roughly the same background values and the same types of ‘spikes’ even after beach fires were prohibited. And the one time that federal Clean Air Act standards were exceeded occurred on a Sunday after the prohibition was put in effect. This exceedance may instead be correlated with the Tassajara Wildfire in Carmel Valley that occurred around that time. See Exhibit 7.
13 Including allowing for propane options to be considered should the LCP be modified to allow for same.
CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION
Appeal Filed: 5/27/2015
49th Day: Waived
Staff: Mike Watson - SC
Staff Report: 11/25/2015
Hearing Date: 12/11/2015
APPEAL STAFF REPORT: SUBSTANTIAL ISSUE
DETERMINATION & DE NOVO HEARING
Appeal Number: A-3-CML-15-0033
Applicant: City of Carmel-by-the-Sea
Appellant: Alexis Delehanty
Local Decision: Approved by the Carmel-by-the-Sea City Council on May 5, 2015
(City CDP application number MP 15-100).
Project Location: The portion of Carmel Beach between Tenth Avenue and Martin Way in the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey County.
Project Description: Implement the City’s Beach Fire Management Pilot Program, including installing 26 fire rings and Program signage, implementing new fire management and beach maintenance
provisions, and monitoring Program effectiveness.
Staff Recommendation: Substantial Issue Exists; Approval with Conditions