Call to Action to Support Santa Cruz County’s Plan for Sea Level Rise Adaptation to Protect Property Owners

Santa Cruz County’s proposed policy update to address sea level rise hazards will soon be heard for certification by the California Coastal Commission. 

The Coastal Commission staff does not support Santa Cruz County’s proposed Local Coastal Program Amendment (LCPA) to protect the shoreline, bluffs and existing development, particularly in the area in which your property is located along the coastal bluffs and will likely be recommending denial to their Commissioners on October 14. 

Expressing your support for the County’s proposed policies through written comment for the certification hearing will be vital to helping the County protect its residents while planning for sea level rise. Without strong public support, the Commission is unlikely to compromise with the County, which would set local adaptation action back by years.

Please use the form on this page to send a pre-written message, with a personal story if you have one, to the Coastal Commission, urging them to support Santa Cruz County's proposed Local Coastal Program Amendment.


The following summarizes how Santa Cruz County’s proposed policies will protect your property, why the upcoming certification hearing is so significant for sea level rise adaptation both locally and statewide, and how you can support the County at the certification hearing on October 14, 2022.


  • The proposed LCPA is part of the local land use regulations governing the county’s Coastal Zone.
  • Santa Cruz County began background studies in 2011, collaborated with key stakeholders (including CPOA-SC), held public hearings, and developed several drafts of the LCPA between 2018 and 2020.
  • The Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the LCPA on September 15, 2020.
  • After 5 years and roughly $500,000 of focused work, the LCPA requires approval and certification by the California Coastal Commission (CCC), the state agency that oversees land use in the Coastal Zone.
  • The LCPA cannot become effective and enable the county to implement sea level rise adaptation policies for its beaches, bluffs, public areas, and neighborhoods, without certification by the CCC.
  • At the CCC Hearing on October 14, the Coastal Commissioners are expected to deny Certification of the County’s LCPA, based on CCC staff recommendations.  A denial of the LCPA may halt or delay further coastal development in Santa Cruz County, as all applications for Coastal Development Permits would have to be approved by the CCC.


Proposed County Policies:

  • Reject managed retreat where it is infeasible along developed portions of the coastline.
  • Permit protective strategies for existing private property and public access.
  • Create a Shoreline Protection Exception Area (SPEA) to permit and fund community-wide bluff protection projects to protect existing homes.
    • Starts along East Cliff Drive, extending approximately 1.4 miles from Soquel Point (APN # 028-304-72) to the Capitola City border.
    • Your property is located within the SPEA.
    • Permitted projects would minimize beach footprint, maintain or improve public access, and stabilize the eroding bluffs.
    • Projects would resemble the bluff stabilization walls constructed between 32nd and 36th Avenues and at The Hook at 41st Avenue that protect East Cliff Drive and adjacent homes, which were approved by the CCC in 2007.
  • Define “existing structures” to include but not be limited to the Coastal Commission interpretation
    • The California Coastal Act permits the use of shoreline protective devices to protect “existing structures” (Section 30235).
    • The CCC has interpreted “existing” to include only structures built prior to the effective date of the Coastal Act, January 1, 1977. This interpretation is not constituted by law or regulation.


Local Importance:

  • Certifying the LCPA is absolutely critical for Santa Cruz County to proactively plan for sea level rise.
  • The SPEA provision and inclusive definition of “existing structures” enable a coordinated adaptation response to protect developed communities and coastal accessways that have nowhere to retreat.
  • Your property directly benefits from the SPEA.


Statewide Significance:

  • If certified, the LCPA will serve as a statewide precedent for sensible, fair, and community-wide adaptation, especially through the innovative SPEA provision.
  • Jurisdictions in similar positions withdrew their LCPAs prior to certification hearings last year (Santa Barbara County and the City of Del Mar).
  • With Santa Cruz County set to argue its proposed policies on October 14, this is a significant opportunity for Coastal Commissioners to hear directly from local residents and county staff on why the community needs the LCPA to be certified with provisions for protection.


Public Support for the LCPA:

  • CCC staff has pushed back against the LCPA, particularly the SPEA and “existing structures” provisions, but the Coastal Act specifies that the local jurisdiction itself determines the “precise content” of its Local Coastal Program (Section 30500c).
  • It is crucial that the Coastal Commissioners hear the widespread public support for the LCPA, as this will augment the county’s detailed arguments for why the protective policies comply with the Coastal Act and are necessary to effectively address sea level rise in your community.


You can support Santa Cruz County’s LCPA by submitting written comments for the October 14th hearing. 

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