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News Updates

Coastal Commission Approves Land Use Updates

During its May 11 meeting in Newport Beach, the California Coastal Commission approved a number of updates to the provisions about how land can be used in the coastal zone of Carlsbad. The provisions are part of the city’s Local Coastal Program amendment, which is one of the steps in the implementation of the city’s recently approved General Plan update. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, the Coastal Commission approved a new name for land uses designed with tourism in mind. This land use had been separated into three different designations, “travel recreation commercial,” “travel services” and “recreation commercial.” Now they will all be called “visitor commercial.” The Coastal Commission requested more time to consider the change to visitor commercial on two properties, which were the subject of letters and public comments expressing concern. Until a decision is made, the properties will retain their current Local Coastal Program land use designations of “travel services” for the future use of 48 acres of land east of I-5 along the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and “public utility” for the land currently occupied by the Encina Power Station.

“The most critical parts of our Local Coastal Program amendment have now been approved, which helps bring land in our coastal zone into compliance with our updated General Plan,” said Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio. “Although we are ready to provide whatever additional clarification is needed so the commissioners can rule on the items still awaiting consideration, these deferred decisions shouldn’t directly affect any properties in the immediate future.” 

All cities in California are required to have a General Plan, which is like a blueprint for how land will be used in the future. Cities must also update their General Plan from time to time so it stays current with changes in regulations and community needs and values. The Carlsbad City Council approved the latest General Plan Sept. 22, 2015. 

Since Carlsbad includes land along the coast under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission, the state agency must act on amendments to the city’s Local Coastal Program that are needed to fully implement the updated General Plan in the coastal zone. The amendments were submitted to the Coastal Commission last November for review. 

In April, Coastal Commission staff requested that three items be deferred for further evaluation. One of the deferred items was the addition of mixed use residential land uses in areas designated as visitor commercial. According to its application, the city made the change to allow more flexibility in project design, assist in the viability of commercial developments, promote housing close to shopping and jobs through mixed use projects and meet demands for a greater variety of housing choices. 

According to city planners, the visitor commercial title change does not alter the primary purpose and intent of the land use designation. The change was made to more closely reflect the Coastal Act’s land use priorities and to more clearly differentiate it from the city’s other commercial land use designations. The addition of residential uses, under limited mixed use circumstances, was the only substantive change to the land use. Mixed use residential uses are allowed in the city’s other commercial zones. 

The city had agreed to the three deferrals prior to Wednesday’s meeting. A timeframe has not yet been established for when the deferred items will be considered. 

Measure A, the Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan, which was defeated during the Feb. 23 special election, proposed new land use designations on 203 acres along the south shore of the lagoon. One of the designations was called “visitor-serving commercial,” but it had a different definition than the General Plan’s visitor commercial designation. Since Measure A did not pass, the General Plan land use designations are still in effect.

The General Plan update was the result of an eight-year process that engaged thousands of community members in an extensive conversation about how they want their city to look and function in the future. The city received more than 300 comment letters on the draft of the plan and associated environmental impact report, which were made available on the city website, libraries and city hall. 

In addition to outlining where homes and businesses will be located, the General Plan influences how people will move around the city, called “circulation” or “mobility,” and how the city will meet community needs for parks, arts and culture, safety, recreation and sustainability. The City of Carlsbad’s updated General Plan meets the requirements of the city’s voter-approved Growth Management Program and state housing mandates.

The City of Carlsbad’s General Plan was last updated in 1994, during a time of significant growth. Most of the development in the City of Carlsbad has taken place since then, and the new General Plan includes changes in some areas that are either vacant or underdeveloped, but existing land uses will not change in most of the city. 

For more information
Jennifer Jesser, senior planner, 760-602-4637

May 13, 2016