County’s most exclusive beach town debates response to rising sea level

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DEL MAR, Calif. -- The Del Mar City Council on Monday voted not to include "planned retreat" along the beach, a strategy of removing structures and roads from the path of the rising sea.

It's an unpopular approach for many locals -- residents have said that acknowledging that homes and businesses near sea level may have to be systematically moved or destroyed in the future will hurt property values today.

Monday night, the council members voted 4-1 to adopt the Adaptation plan without including "planned retreat."

“It says no managed retreat for Del Mar for private property, it’s clear, it’s succinct and unambiguous. So people are happy with where this stands now," said Terry Gaasterland, a resident. "Management Retreat is still in there for public property -- we can lift our sewer lines, we can change our infrastructure, we can even try to influence NCTD to be very careful with the railroad, so people are happy with where this stands now."

But the California Coastal Commission requires all seaside cities to have a plan for rising sea levels that includes planned retreat as a possibility.

The city council decided to push the decision of how or if the plan will be included in its local coast plan to the meeting in July.

Should the city fail to comply, the Coastal Commission could decline to certify Del Mar's Coastal Development Plan and take over the authority of approving building permits along Del Mar's prized oceanfront.

The exclusive beach town has about 600 homes on ground low enough to be affected by a possible seven-foot rise in sea level by 2100.

The City Council last discussed the issue at its April 16 meeting but postponed the final decision until this week. Retreat will only be considered as a last resort, according to the most recent version of the city's strategy.

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