Achieving California Coastal Commission (CCC) permit approval can be complicated, time consuming, and expensive, however communication, clarity, and careful planning can expedite the permit process. Dudek Coastal Planner Alison Evans and Biologist Kam Muri offer 5 tips to ensuring efficient coastal development permit approvals.
- Communicate promptly with the CCC. Once the project has been defined and the basic alternative analysis and any preliminary technical studies have been completed, schedule a meeting in person with CCC staff from the district area that will be processing your permit. This provides an opportunity to receive preliminary feedback and identify any red flags before beginning the formal application process.
- Clarify areas of impact as early as possible. Make sure that you properly assess and delineate the project areas of impact to determine if adequate mitigation is available to offset the impacts of your project. A range of mitigation ratios may apply depending on the regulatory agency (e.g., state-designated wetlands overseen by the CCC vs. federally designated wetlands overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).
Additionally, take stock of any short-term temporary impacts expected to occur for longer than 12 months, as these are often considered long-term effects and require increased mitigation beyond the typical on-site restoration.
“Focus on areas that require additional mitigation or design modification up front rather than waiting until the environmental document is finalized, project plans are complete, and the permit application process is well underway in order to avoid excessive special conditions that can prolong the project schedule and hold up construction.”
- Familiarize yourself with coastal policies. “The more knowledgeable you are of coastal policy interpretation and application, the easier it’ll be to analyze your project’s consistency with the policies, and better understand how the CCC will view different aspects of your project,” says Evans. Retaining a coastal planning expert can ensure your coastal policy consistency analyses are accurate, enabling project approval with minimal special conditions needed.
- Confirm the correct coastal zone jurisdiction and boundary. Coastal zone boundaries can vary between the commonly referenced local coastal plan maps versus the official “post-certification map” approved by the CCC. Often agencies will make assumptions that the two boundaries are identical, and will move forward with the application process, only to later realize that there are variances, which must be reconciled in order for the permit to be approved.
- Provide information in a user-friendly format. The CCC must adhere to tight application review timeframes, so providing information in an organized format with references to appropriate coastal policies and implementing ordinances will help the CCC focus their subsequent reviews of the application submittal package to support timely project approval.
Coastal Development Permit Success
SANDAG recently received unanimous CCC approval of a coastal development permit (CDP) for the Mid-Coast Trolley blue line extension project in San Diego. The new track will span 11 miles, including 3.5 miles of designated coastal zone. The project is expected to result in a number of benefits for the San Diego community, including shorter travel times, traffic congestion relief, and improved route reliability. It will include nine new stations and connect San Diego’s two busiest business hubs. Biologist Kam Muri supported SANDAG with the biology/permitting for the project, with Coastal Planner Alison Evans leading the CDP effort over the past two years.