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Surfrider Foundation Concerns about Proposed Coastal Development

April 21, 2009

embassysuitesmapPaul Jenkin, Environmental Director, for Surfrider Foundation, Ventura County Chapter sent me an email today letting me know that the Ventura City Council will be making a decision on the Embassy Suites hotel proposal tonight; he encourages people to come out to speak against the proposal which you can read about here:  http://venturaecosystem.blogspot.com/2009/03/coastal-development-at-c-st.html

The Surfrider Foundation concludes that the project should undergo further environmental review based on the information below.embassysuites1

Tonight is an opportunity to tell elected representatives that you are concerned about the impact of coastal development and climate change to our coast.

City Council meets at 6pm – this is Item 5 and will likely not be heard until after 7:00 pm http://www.cityofventura.net/publicmeetings/councilagendas

Here’s Paul’s letter to the Council. You can use it to help frame your own thoughts about the proposal. You can email your words to Council “ventura  council”<council@ci.ventura.ca.us> (you don’t have to be a resident or local–let them know that people beyond the city limits care about what goes down (and up!) on the coastline.

Or even better, come to the meeting and speak your mind! (They have wifi so bring your laptop!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

City of Ventura
City Council
501 Poli St
Ventura, CA 93001

RE: Embassy Suites Hotel/T J Mian & Associates Mitigated Negative Declaration # 2278

Dear Councilmembers;

The Surfrider Foundation has reviewed the MND for the proposed new four-story hotel to fill the vacant 2.74-acre parcel at the corner of Figueroa and Harbor Blvd. in Ventura. We are concerned that this project will not provide the long-term economic benefits as outlined in your staff report, and will increase the taxpayer burden to maintain the beach and coastal infrastructure.

The MND does not address climate change impacts.

The information that we have submitted to the Planning Commission, and that are also submitting here, provides evidence that significant climate change impacts may occur. Therefore, an environmental impact report must be prepared for this project.

Impacts of the project on climate change:

The MND does not address the impacts of the project on climate change.  For instance, what is the expected greenhouse gas contribution from the proposed building?  An assessment of the current occupancy rate of existing similar hotels in the city, and cumulative impacts from the operation of another large building should be conducted.  Similar facilities include the Crown Plaza Hotel, Four Points Sheraton, and the Ventura Beach Marriot.  Large hotels consume resources whether fully or partially occupied. It is unlikely that the planned facility will draw additional visitors to Ventura, but rather detract from occupancy at existing facilities, while increasing net emissions.

Impacts of climate change on the project:

Flood Hazard Zone: The MND uses outdated 1986/1987 flood maps to assess the coastal hazard zone. This section of the document should be revised to reflect new information.

Although there is considerable uncertainty regarding the impacts of Climate Change, the State of California has passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that recognizes the threat of climate change.  On March 11, 2009, the Pacific Institute released a report commissioned by the State that addresses potential impacts to the coast of California due to sea level rise as a result of climate change.  Using a very conservative 1.4m increase in sea level elevation over the coming century, the study estimates that the cost of building new or upgrading existing coastal structures is estimated to be at least $14 billion (in year 2000 dollars), with an additional $1.4 billion per year in maintenance costs.  The UN has predicted even greater and faster sea level rise, so this impact could be much greater.

Permitting a large development on the coast will increase the future need for taxpayer subsidies to protect this property. While we recognize the need for re-vitalization of the local economy, we want to ensure that the true cost of coastal development is not passed on to future generations.

Coastal Infrastructure Shortfalls:

Although the beaches of Ventura are considered a valuable community asset, funding is often not available to maintain this asset.  Examples include:

Surfers Point Improvements  (CIP 93959)                   $ 9,800,000

Promenade Beach and Stair Improvements (CIP 93980)          $ 3,653,000

$14,453,000

Other underfunded programs include ongoing Pier Maintenance and Repairs, the Pierpont Sand Management program, as well as Beach Water Quality  As the Pacific Institute report

Improvements. The current combined shortfall/taxpayer burden for maintaining our beaches is well over $10 million. suggests, this cost will increase in the future as sea level rise increases the extent of damages.

In 1969, the Crown Plaza Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn) was constructed concurrently with the Promenade and seawall.  Did this development help fund the promenade and seawall?

We suggest that, if this project is approved, a mitigation bank be established to provide funding for coastal maintenance.   Tax revenues or a separate coastal mitigation fee should be established for all new commercial development within the future inundation zones of the California coast.  Alternatively, the project should be bonded to provide funds for its removal, should that become necessary in the future.

Note that there is already precedence for coastal funding in other coastal communities.  For instance, the City of Santa Barbara designates a portion of their Transient Occupancy Tax to fund clean water projects.

Planning for the future:

On April 9, 2009, the California Coastal Commission conducted a workshop on Sea Level Rise.

The presentation included recommendations that the commission take action immediately to evaluate how to address sea level rise impacts by:

·   Evaluating future development and redevelopment setbacks

·   Evaluate permitting of future structures

·   Update hazard requirements of LCPs and LUPs

The City of Ventura is already leading the way with the Surfers Point Managed Retreat project which will become a demonstration for relocating damaged coastal infrastructure.  In the future, the city’s Surfers’ Point parking lot will also be affected by coastal erosion.  It may become necessary to relocate this popular facility to maintain beach access as required under the California Coastal Act.  But if the shoreline is fully developed there will be nowhere to go, and the public will lose coastal access.

It is clear that coastal development is not ‘free.’  The future burden for maintenance of our beaches and coastal infrastructure should not fall on the taxpayer.  There is currently no mechanism in the City of Ventura to fund the beaches, which always seem to come last on the list of priorities.

For the reasons outlined above, it is necessary that an EIR be performed for this project.

Sincerely,

A.    Paul Jenkin

Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation – Ventura County Chapter

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2009 1:22 pm

    A big tip of the hat to you for posting this letter and letting those who can take action know how to do so. My late friend Pam was a tireless advocate for the environment and affected real change through her efforts. It’s always worth taking the time – one person can definitely make a difference!

  2. I am afraid to put my real name permalink
    April 23, 2009 12:36 am

    First of all I have nothing to do with the proposed project. That said I’d like you to know that thousand of scientists have signed petitions that they do not believe there is man-made global warming and that in fact there might not even be global warming at all. The earth has been cooler for the last number of years. The various proponents of this false science have various agendas and self-serving partiality. The billions in government grants wasted by being doled out to colleges around the country with their hands out for money to fix this non-problem is disgusting.

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