In California, there is an underground, statewide policy in favor of so-called “managed retreat.”  Fifteen years ago, this policy was a whisper.  Now, it’s openly discussed as an important statewide initiative.  Proponents of managed retreat, namely the California Coastal Commission, the Surfrider Foundation, and like-minded local governments, believe that structures along the oceanfront should be relocated or removed once they become threatened by coastal erosion or rising sea levels in order to accommodate increased public demands on coastal resources.  To effectuate managed retreat, proponents are working, openly and behind the scenes, to implement coastal development policies and laws that will, over time, make it more difficult and expensive, and someday impossible, to build, maintain and protect oceanfront property.

The most potent tools that the Coastal Commission uses to effectuate managed retreat are the Local Coastal Program (LCP) certification process, promotion of legislative changes, constant pressure on local governments to impose more restrictive coastal management policies, and, perhaps most notably, the threat of potential sea level rise. 

We are constantly seeing new laws and policies throughout the state which impose prohibitions on all new development (including remodels) within 80 or 90 feet of the bluff edge, requirements to create or protect public coastal views and viewpoints, requirements to waive the right to build seawalls, forced public access over private coastal property, the removal over time of private beach stairways, huge seawall mitigation fees, and a complex regulatory environment that makes coastal ownership onerous and expensive relative to non-coastal property.



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