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Sierra Club Submits Letter Opposing Monterey Bay Shores Resort to CA Coastal Commission
Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon have drafted comments for the upcoming hearing at the California Coastal Commission scheduled for April 9, 10 and 11. Chapter members will be attending the hearing and speaking on our behalf. This massive development will occur on beachfront land currently undeveloped and used by the western snowy plover, a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Photo: This graphic shows the negative impacts of the Project in the dunes on western snowy plover nests. It also gives the areas of predicted coastal erosion from sea-level rise. Data provided by conservation biologists. (Graphic design by Steve Zmak).
Due to significant concerns with the Project detailed in our attached comments (see PDF. See also comments from Peter R. Baye Ph.D.), these groups urge the Commission to deny Project approval because the Commission has failed to meet its obligations under CEQA by not analyzing all Project impacts on the plover, including increased public access to western snowy plover habitat, beach erosion, sea level rise and cumulative impacts from neighboring property. The Commission has also failed to adopt all feasible mitigation measures for the Project and the Project, as currently proposed, will result in the likely "take" of the threatened western snowy plover, an important coastal resource.
Our letter also states that if the Commission chooses to grant approval for the Project and issue a Coastal Development Permit, we urge the Commission to condition the approval on a requirement that prior to the start of construction, the developer must apply for and obtain an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for the Project's likely "take" of western snowy plover and that a comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should replace the developer's inadequate Habitat Protection Plan.
Without an ITP and HCP in place for the western snowy plover, the Coastal Commission could be implicated in any resulting "take." The Commission's statutory duty to protect coastal natural resources from adverse impacts from development gives the Commission the authority to include an ITP and submittal of a HCP to the USFWS as a project condition.
Sierra Club, Ventana Chapter
Monterey Bay Shores Eco-Resort Decision May Go to Appeals Court
In early July, Judge Harold Kahn of the Superior Court in San Francisco decided in favor of Security National Guaranty (SNG) in its litigation against the California Coastal Commission for denying their proposed mega resort a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) in 2010. The Monterey Bay Shores Eco-Resort has plans for 341-unit mixed use development on thirty nine acres of fragile coastal dunes west of Highway 1. The entire site is sensitive habitat area and supports threatened and endangered species such as the Smith's blue butterfly, Monterey spine-flower (shown here) and nesting western snowy plover. For over twelve years, Ventana Chapter has opposed this project and retained attorney Larry Silver to represent us as intervenors in all litigation related to this case.
The Court held that the Commission had misinterpreted the Sand City Local Coastal Plan (LCP) in a number of respects relating to the Commission's authority to protect the fragile sand dunes on site including a concern for coastal erosion caused by inadequate setback and the negative impacts from development grading. In essence, the Court rewrote ambiguous provisions of the LCP and made its own interpretations.
The Commission is now considering an appeal of Judge Kahn's decision by the end of the year. While the appeal is pending, which can take up to a year at least, SNG cannot proceed to ask the Commission to once again review the project and grant it a CDP. Even if it wins the appeal, SNG will still have to go back to the Commission to apply for a CDP.
The Club will continue to support the Commission in this case. We believe that if constructed this so called "eco-resort" would be one of the largest resorts ever built in the California coastal zone, and would be located directly on top of some of the rarest, most environmental sensitive sand dunes left in the world.
Photo: Monterey spine-flower (Chorizanthe pungens var. pungens), a federally-listed threatened species found in coastal dune habitat in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. Photograph: Rod Yeager