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    Court ruling reversed; new lifeguard tower to be built in South Mission Beach
    Mar 28, 2017 | 5850 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    The three-story tower will replace a 40-year-old wooden structure (above) that is too small to serve Mission Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    The three-story tower will replace a 40-year-old wooden structure (above) that is too small to serve Mission Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    An appellate court ruled March 28 that a Superior Court judge erred when she blocked construction of a new lifeguard tower for South Mission Beach in 2015. The ruling clears the way for construction of the long-planned public-safety project. In a complete reversal of the lower court, the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that the lifeguard tower’s Site Development Permit was valid and had not expired as the project opponent had claimed. The appellate court also ruled that the plaintiff’s suit was filed too late. The case could have been reversed on either of those grounds, it ruled. The City Attorney’s Office argued both of those points in 2015, but to no avail. The adverse ruling from Superior Court Judge Katherine A. Bacal in December 2015 kept the project from being constructed last year. The three-story tower will replace a 40-year-old wooden structure that is too small to serve Mission Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the nation. The new tower will provide better views of the water and accommodate additional lifeguards and equipment. “This is an important victory because it means better lifeguard coverage on one of our busiest beaches and safer swimming conditions for our residents and visitors,” City Attorney Mara Elliott said. “Just as important, it reaffirms earlier rulings that unequivocally support the city’s right to move forward with public projects as financing and approvals allow.” The first public workshops on the project were held in 2003 and it received unanimous support from the Mission Beach Precise Planning Board in 2005. City permits were approved in 2006, but momentum was slowed by the economic downturn of 2008. Nonetheless, the city moved forward with the project, which was regarded as a public-safety priority. A leading opponent of the project had complained in 2015 that the new tower was directly in his residence’s ocean view, and proposed moving it further to the south. The case was handled for the city by Deputy City Attorney Jana Mickova Will, at the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals.
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    March 28, 2017
    Sorry Ken Giavara!
    Opinion: What can bayside communities do about rising sea levels?
    Mar 28, 2017 | 5091 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    A blue heron in Mission Bay. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    A blue heron in Mission Bay. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    Communities with coastal management programs in place may feel they are ready for whatever sea level change may throw at them (within reason). Should the level rise, they can adapt by increasing the height of the beach and dunes to compensate for both higher tides and stronger storms. But for those communities who are on islands or barrier beaches or bays, what about the non-beach side? Is it ready for any rise in tides? What other vulnerable areas need to be looked at? It does you no good to have a high-and-dry beachfront if your mainland access is under water. Communities around the country are facing the very real sea level change impacts already, as flooding that once was rare now becomes far too common. Often, these calamities make themselves felt on the non-beachfront side first, in a variety of subtle ways that can easily sneak up on you due to their slow progression. How will you know there’s a problem – and what (if anything) can be done? - Flooding: First and foremost, increased flooding (in both depth and frequency) is a dead giveaway that sea level is on the rise. Often the first indication there is a problem is that streets inundated more frequently, by waterfront properties complaining that their lawns are being attacked by seawater, and by seeing flood levels creeping higher and higher are clear warning signs. What can you do? Elevate, of course, buildings, roadways, you name it; improve drainage in low-lying areas (assuming your drainage is not being similarly affected); even consider ways to create either barriers or distance on the non-beach side between high water lines and upland structures or infrastructure using wetlands, vegetation or other soft or hard structures. - Septic systems: If your community still relies on these systems for wastewater treatment, changes in sea level that push the groundwater levels higher will soon have an impact on their effectiveness. Most septic systems rely on drainfields to treat waste and must have significant separation (24 inches, as a rule) from the underlying groundwater. If those drainfields are inundated or holding tanks are sitting in ground water, you have a problem. What can you do? Nothing cheaply… moving to so-called performance systems (which clean wastewater above ground before releasing it into the ground) are pricey and take a lot of work to keep them running effectively. The alternative may be a move to sanitary sewer, which is a major public works effort requiring both time and money aplenty. - Potable or irrigation water: Wells also feel an impact from rising ground water, either through salt water intrusion or increased pressure on the freshwater “lens” or aquifer your wells are accessing. What can you do? Move away from relying on wells or expect to install desalination devices on them. If you’re not on a central water system now, you will be soon… and either looking for a purer source or figuring out your options to remove the salt. That may also push your community toward a re-use or “gray water” system, to avoid having to use increasingly expensive potable water for irrigation. - Stormwater management and drainage: If levels are higher and storms are stronger, your community will need to be able to hold back higher levels or water… or retain more stormwater before needing to drain it immediately away. And if some of your current drainage outfalls are starting to go under water, their ability to work when needed will be increasingly compromised. What can you do? Higher berms for retention or to forestall flooding, move outfalls higher and install one-way gates so water goes out but will not be drawn back in. - Non-beachfront barriers: Holding back any rising tides on the bay side will take either barriers or buffers (as noted above). But you’ll also need to look at what’s already in place to see if they’ll be able to stand up to higher water levels. What can you do? If you’re using seawalls, they may need to be modified to both go higher and to avoid failure through overtopping or undercutting. And hard structures may need to be replaced with “living” shorelines, which create both a better buffer and give you the ability to move them further inland as waters push them there. - Natural vs. human resources: An island is finite and, as waters around it rise, there’s less land to go around. Prized coastal ecosystems that rely on a delicate mix of conditions – especially between fresh and salt water – will be squeezed… hard. What can you do? It will be necessary for your community to eventually make some tough choices to balance natural and human needs… and these will not be just environmental choices but economic ones, should rising water levels start pushing costs equally higher. It’s better to start that conversation sooner, before options are limited and change is imminent. Some coastal experts may quibble about how much sea level is likely to change, but no one ever says there won’t be change. So coastal professionals charged with keeping their communities safe and prepared for any pending sea level change must look at all the potential vulnerabilities in order to be effective at their jobs. In many communities, the most vulnerable points may be far away from the sandy beach – and the solutions may be both complicated and costly to implement. This makes it even more imperative that your community begin the planning process now. Developing a management plan will be even more critical in years to come. That’s why understanding these pressure points for sea level change is crucial, and having a clear-eyed assessment of vulnerability and timeframe is essential. Founded in 1926, the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is a nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org.
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    Torrey Pines Gliderport searching for new operator
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Mar 26, 2017 | 7794 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Several paragliders in action at Torrey Pines Gliderport. /PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
    Several paragliders in action at Torrey Pines Gliderport. /PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
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    Want to operate a gliderport? Here's your chance. The city has a request for proposals out for an operator for the oceanfront 6.74-acre Torrey Pines Gliderport on the bluffs at 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive. The RFP was issued Feb. 22 and applicants have until April 10 to apply. The gliderport property is a San Diego designated historical resource and is on the National Register of Historic Places, the State Register of Historic Sites, and is a dedicated National Soaring Landmark. It is contiguous to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course, UCSD campus and the Salk Institute. The gliderport site is wholly within largely undeveloped Torrey Pines City Park, which had a master plan approved for its future development in 2012. Established in 1899, the 57-acre Torrey Pines City Park is renowned for its contributions to the development of wind-powered flight. In the city's RFP, use of the site is: limited to the operation and maintenance of a gliderport; can be used only by non-powered aircraft and radio-controlled models (take-off and over-flight); allows sale of hang gliding, paragliding, and sailplane parts and accessories and sale of related merchandise; as well as operation of a small food retail site (café). Applicants should have a minimum three years’ experience in the past five years conducting similar operations, and lease terms of only 10-plus years will be considered. There is also a stipulation that applicants “shall not provide to its customers any prepared, takeout, or supplied/resale food in polystyrene foam packaging, nor will any such customer food packaging be allowed at or on the property.” Annual rent is $3,412. But there currently is no on-site power supply, water, or sewer, the cost of which would have to be picked up by the tenant. Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board, which included stakeholder groups appointed by the mayor including non-motorized aviators, environmentalists, UCSD and surrounding community advisory boards, drafted the conceptual master plan for the city park that was adopted by the City Council. That master plan calls for redeveloping the city park, but not “overdoing” it by bringing in water, electricity or other infrastructure. Instead, the advisory board recommended conserving the 44-acre park’s coastal bluffs and native habitat, while protecting site access for all users, especially gliderport pilots requiring flight clearance. The conceptual master plan envisions adding an additional 18 acres of plantings, including some Torrey pines, to 18 existing acres of native vegetation, while retaining all of the 565 parking spaces on the park’s unpaved bluff top. Project improvements to implement the new park master plan were estimated to cost $12 million to $15 million five years ago when it was adopted. Two members of the Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board which worked on crafting the master plan, architect Michael Stepner and consultant Laura Burnett, commented on it. “The Torrey Pines City Park General Development Plan was prepared to meet strenuous environmental requirements and a vision as bold and unique as the park,” said Burnett. “It included recommendations for phased implementation, and remains a tremendous opportunity for San Diego’s leaders and entrepreneurs to both protect the resources and enhance a world-class park. It needs to be operated and managed like the unique priceless treasure that it is.” “It was part of an extensive process to really look at Torrey Pines Gliderport, its historical importance, and its importance as a regional park,” said Stepner. “The plan was adopted with lots of input from different interest groups and stakeholders.” Meanwhile, Robin Marien, the gliderport's current operator for the past eight-plus years, said he's been running the facility on a month-to-month lease for nearly that long. “I've been patiently waiting for eight years,” said Marien, of his negotiations for a long-term lease on the city-owned property. Of his job as leaseholder of the gliderport property, Marien said, “I'm here practically seven days a week.” Marien added it's a big responsibility. “You've got to keep an eye on all the flyers and make sure they're following all the rules — we've got no road pilots,” he said, adding, “I'm the one with my head in a noose for what happens out here.” Of the non-motorized aviation business, Marien noted, “It's one of the busiest places of its kind in the world. It's a unique job for sure. It has its moments.” For more information, email roswithas@sandiego.gov or call 619-236-6721.
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    Scientists, wildlife groups and fishermen discuss local Marine Protected Areas
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Mar 25, 2017 | 13505 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    The coastline of Bird Rock, which is in the South La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    The coastline of Bird Rock, which is in the South La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    Stakeholders heard what's going on with baseline studies of existing fish and other marine species in Marine Protected Areas along the Southern San Diego coast including La Jolla and Pacific Beach on March 20. The public meeting at Marina Village Conference Center was held by California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Ocean Protection Council and Ocean Science Trust. It drew scientists, fishermen and other consumptive ocean users, as well as grad students eager to hear about progress being made with MPAs. Required by the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act and in effect since Jan. 1, 2012, MPAs were created to help repopulate dwindling fish and other marine species. Known as “underwater state parks,” MPAs set aside sensitive ecosystems via creation of no-fishing zones to allow marine life and habitats an opportunity to recover and thrive. Some fishermen and other consumptive ocean users have been critical of the MPA concept. They questioned its viability, arguing it crowded their commercial interests while threatening the local marine-oriented economy. MPA supporters countered that they are absolutely essential to allow fish and marine species adequate time to recover from commercial fishing, as well to help restore degraded marine ecosystems. “We're here to provide you the key findings of the baseline monitoring work being done on our South Coast MPA region,” said Becky Ota of California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We're here to provide this information as a spring board into what needs to happen for further monitoring of MPAs as a whole.” Marine ecosystems change over time, and baseline monitoring to determine existing conditions of ocean species is a critical first step in documenting the status quo of San Diego ocean conditions. Scientific data gathered during South Coast MPA baseline monitoring will guide future ocean management practices regionally. Baseline monitoring analysis will also improve understanding of fish, lobster and other key marine species, while tracking their numbers, size and movements. La Jolla has two adjoining MPAs at the South La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area and South La Jolla State Reserve, which together cover 7.51 square miles, stretching from Palomar Avenue to Missouri Street in Pacific Beach. They are two of 36 new Marine Protected Areas adopted by the California Department of Fish and Game Commission as part of the Marine Life Protection Act. Additionally, the historic Marine Protected Areas at La Jolla Shores, stretching to the Scripps Pier, was also retained. Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine ecologist Ed Parnell and diver Danielle Muller of Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System, gave slide presentations. The goal of MPA monitoring, noted Muller, is for biologists to know “how many plants and animals there are, and where they're at.” She added ocean conditions – winds, waves and currents – as well as topographical features on ocean bottoms, help guide researchers' studies. She added the location and movements of many ocean species are “driven by the temperature and salinity of the water.” In his talk, Parnell detailed his studies on the local spiny lobster, a species important to the local commercial fishing industry, located in and around La Jolla MPAs. “We wanted to study the lobster populations, comparing their numbers in protected MPA areas versus unprotected areas outside MPAs,” said Parnell noting lobsters were caught, tagged, released and recaptured in metal commercial traps. Parnell said studies thus far have shown that lobsters tend to be larger, and grow faster, as you head north up the coast from San Diego. Parnell suggested the north-south size differential of lobsters might be attributed to fishing outside MPAs, which depletes the number of larger-sized lobsters allowed to be legally taken by commercial anglers. To learn more about South Coast MPA baseline monitoring, and to access data, visit oceanspaces.org/scsotr.
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    America's Schooner Cup returns to San Diego in April
    Mar 22, 2017 | 22246 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    America's Schooner Cup 2016 winner Lively leads Rose of Sharon into San Diego Bay. / Photo by Cynthia Sinclair
    America's Schooner Cup 2016 winner Lively leads Rose of Sharon into San Diego Bay. / Photo by Cynthia Sinclair
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    Historic ships from throughout the country’s history will be showing off in San Diego Bay for the 29th running of America's Schooner Cup on Saturday, April 1. Hailing from Southern California and the Pacific Northwest, more than 12 schooners are expected to take the starting gun. The schooners range in length from 35 to 150 feet. Spectators may watch the start and finish off Shelter Island. No registration is necessary for those viewing from Shelter Island. Spectators should arrive at 11:15 a.m. Three groups of schooners will each start between 11:30 and noon. The race runs from Shelter Island, out of the bay and back and typically takes 2-3 hours. For those who want to be part of the action, three vessels will be taking a limited number of guests: - Californian – California's official state Tall Ship – a great option for those who want to participate in the race – sdmaritime.org; - Bill of Rights – a 136-foot replica of a 19th century coastal schooner – another lively option for those who want to participate in the race – schoonerbillofrights.com; - San Salvador – a replica of Juan Cabrillo's ship that first visited San Diego in 1542 – a fun option for spectators – sdmaritime.org. The race is hosted by Silver Gate Yacht Club, with all proceeds going to the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society – a nonprofit whose mission is to help Navy and Marine families. The event will be supported by Star Clippers, a worldwide cruise ship company featuring tall ships.
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