Citing the presence of the California red-legged frog and other sensitive habitats, the California Coastal Commission unanimously denied the application of NorCal Surf Shop owner Shawn Rhodes to expand his business into two new buildings on San Pedro Road in the Pedro Point neighborhood.
The Coastal Commission staff report noted the presence of environmentally sensitive habitat and wetlands as well as the potential for coastal hazard impacts over time. It also cites habitat for the California red-legged frog. Coastal Commission ecologists said building there would violate the California Coastal Act.
Commission staff noted other violations of the Coastal Act in the project plans having to do with shoreline retreat, sea level rise, wave run-up and potential for flooding. Given the popularity of Pacifica State Beach, the project did not provide enough parking, staff suggested.
Pacifica residents, including one San Francisco State University ecologist, provided photos of the frogs, now listed as federally “threatened.” The frogs are in San Pedro Creek which connects to a nearby watercourse near the arroyo willows on the site. Rhodes’ study concluded the threatened frogs would not live there successfully over time, but other experts said the habitat remained worthy of protection.
Commissioner Mike Wilson said he liked the concept of Rhodes’ business for a skatepark and surfboard shaping classes, but couldn’t get past the presence of the frog and other environmental factors. When he voted “no” he said it was “painful.”
“I like this project. This is an interesting spot but there are so many environmental factors that exclude it from being built,” he said. “Would there be a way to mitigate? I don’t know how I can drag the rest of the Coastal Commission into this.
““I feel terrible about this,” Wilson said. “This is a cool project.”
All of the other commissioners supported denying the project based on habitat at hand.
Commission Vice Chair Donnie Brownsey addressed Rhodes’ attorney’s jurisdictional challenge.
“He knew it was within the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction when he purchased it in 2011,” Brownsey said.
The commissioners asked Coastal Commission staff about dredging found on the property as reported by neighborhood residents. The staff member replied that is an ongoing investigation the commission is undertaking with the city of Pacifica.
There is no danger of a “takings” in staff’s view as Rhodes will be able to develop the one building already approved by the city of Pacifica, a two-story residential building with retail on the bottom floor and two residential units on the top.
Coastal Commission staff said it would address the wooden skate ramps on the property, which it said were in violation of the Coastal Act.
Speakers in favor of the Rhodes project outnumbered those opposed by one.
Ross Mirikami, a former Coastal Commissioner said he supported Rhodes’ project. “I stand in support of this project and the Coastal Commission process,” he said. “Approve this project. You will see the environmental merits of this.”
Elias Jweinat spoke in favor of Rhodes’ project as well.
“Shawn has been a part of this community for many years,” he said. “NorCal is our anchor store. He’s done a great job in business. He’s been a good proponent for the environment. His project would bring more people to town to enjoy the outdoors.
“Some businesses are becoming really endangered. The money leaves our community. He can offer more for Pacifica,” Jweinat said. “I’m in support of keeping the money in our town.”
Not everyone was in favor, however.
Margaret Goodale thanked Rhodes for all his work, noting she has known him for a long time.
“But your project is in the wrong place,” she said. “Deny his permit. The city ignored both our Local Coastal Plan and the red-legged frog habitat. City staff has not done enough to protect species.”
Stan Zeavin also supported Coastal Commission staff and their consultants and the final recommendation.
“Recent history suggests there has been a theme in our city to approve every LCP application in which Pacifica participates. There is a rubber stamping of approval that goes against research and engineering reports. There is no rigor,” he said. “We have a City Council who doesn’t follow any of the rules that are important around the coast. Reject this.”
In rebuttal, at the end of the public speakers, Rhodes’ attorney Kassouni said, “The issue of jurisdiction is fundamental to the Coastal Commission hearing. Legal challenges can be raised at any time.”