Ocean Harbor House Seawall

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The Ocean Harbor House was concerned over coastal erosion to their property. A seawall was erected to aid in preventing waves from impacting the condominiums. This page describes the process that occurred.

Structure before seawall from CSUMB Review


Construction of temporary rock seawall from CSUMB Review

The Ocean Harbor House is comprised of 172 condominiums and located on Del Monte Beach in Monterey,CA. It was initially constructed in the 1960's and has had various additions throughout the years. Because the condominiums were built in a close proximity to the ocean numerous concerns over coastal erosion, wave impact, storm surge, and property damage accumulated through the years. This led the associated homeowners to investigate protection solutions. Since this project could have potential impact to the surrounding environment it fell under the jurisdiction of CEQA. The homeowners applied to both the California Coastal Commission and City of Monterey for a permit to construct a 585 foot seawall.[1]

Environmental Impact Report

Digital elevation model of Peninsula effect from 2003 NOAA LIDAR data acquired from CSUMB Review

Acting as the lead agency, the Monterey Planning Division of the City of Monterey, created an Environmental Impact Report. It was reported that the proposed seawall would generate a peninsula effect around the structure. The sandy beach area surrounding the structure would erode leaving the structure extending out towards the ocean. This was deemed aesthetically displeasing resulting in a loss of visual character. In addition the beach would no longer be continuous preventing beach goers from full access therefore reducing recreational function and use. Despite these findings, the EIR did not find an alternative method of protection for the structure. To mitigate the loss of beach access, homeowners could allow access through their parking lot so patrons could visit the beach on either side of the structure. The City of Monterey subsequently granted a permit to the homeowners with the conditions of allowing public access through their property and creating the seawall to match the current scenery. [1]

California Coastal Commission Review

Structure after seawall construction from California Coastal Records Project

The homeowners sought approval from the California Coastal Commission (CCC) after receiving the permit through the city. The CCC found that the proposed seawall would contribute to erosion and eventually an acre of beach would be lost. To mitigate this, the CCC found no opportunities for the homeowners to maintain or create a beach in the nearby area. It was recommended that a mitigation fee be used.

Beach Evaluation Methods

Three methods were recommended to denote beach value/mitigation cost which would determine the fee imposed on homeowners:

Sand Replacement Method
  • Fee based on the price of replacing the sand: between $1,031,400 and $1,206,900 (depending on current price of sand)
  • This method failed to incorporate the value of public access and recreational beach use
  • Deemed an underestimation because repeated sand replacements would be needed over the 50 year project
Real Estate Value Method
  • Fee based on comparable value of beachfront property: $1,000,000
  • Used Monterey real estate sales data
  • Large price variability dependent on specific location of land
Economic Recreational Value Method
  • Fee based on economic studies that quantified the recreational value of the beach: $5,300,000
    • State data showed 968,287 annual visitors
    • Averaged value per acre over entire 60.6 acre beach : 15,978 annual visitors per acre
    • Estimated recreational value of Monterey beach at $13 per person per visit: annual recreational value of $207,714 per acre
    • Found only 870 sqft would be lost each year: $4,148 recreational value for 870 sqft
      • The 50 year total was calculated by adding $4,148 to the total from the previous year's total to address cumulative beach loss over time.[1] [2]

The report recommended a $1,000,000 mitigation fee in concurrence with the Sand Replacement Method, but noted this as only partial mitigation and economic analysis shows this is a conservative value.

Homeowner Response

In response to the California Coastal Commission's report at an October 2004 hearing, homeowners saw the fee as an unconstitutional taking. They suggested to pay the $1,000,000 fee to fund a geological hazard abatement district. This district could research local coastal erosion and create a profile to better understand the processes involved and their interaction with property management. When brought before the CCC, the homeowner's claims were noted; however, the CCC found the $1,000,000 to underestimate the value of the beach. The CCC then adopted the $5,300,000 fee for cumulative beach loss in the revised permit application. The homeowners disagreed with the fee assessment, thus prompting a lawsuit.

Judicial Appeal

The homeowners of the Ocean Harbor House appealed the California Coastal Commission's mitigation fee decision in the Court of Appeal of California.

2008 Ocean Harbor House Homeowners Association v. California Coastal Commission

The homeowners' argument for the trial revolved around:

  • A lack of evidence for the magnitude of public use of the specific beach area
  • Claimed the studies used to evaluate recreational value did not have substantial evidence of the Monterey area
  • Declared the fee an unconstitutional taking because there was no link between the imposed fee and the effects from the seawall
  • Argued that the fee was raised from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 arbitrarily
    • Logic for fee increase was generated after fee increase in order to justify it

The court denied the petition, finding the homeowners failed in using all administrative solutions for a lower mitigation fee.

The court found:

  • The mitigation fee to be constitutional
  • An adequate connection between mitigation fee and impact of seawall
  • The CCC was operating in its abilities through the California Coastal Act
  • The CCC fee increase was based upon proper staff analysis which supported the appropriate increased

CEQA Documents

This project was approved after going through the CEQA process. Listed below are the CEQA deocuments associated with that process.

Negative Declaration

  • Received June 24, 2002, SCH Number: 2002061110
  • Review Period: June 24 to July 23, 2002 [3]

Notice of Preparation

  • Received October 4, 2002. SCH Number: 2002061110
  • Review Period: October 4 to November 4, 2002[3][4][5]

Revised Permit Application

  • Revised Findings Staff Report Prepared December 16, 2004
  • Revised Findings Hearing Date: January 13, 2005 [6]

Draft Environmental Impact Report

  • Received October 4, 2002. SCH Number: 2002061110
  • Review Period: June 20 to August 4, 2003[3]

Notice of Determination

  • Received January 12, 2004. SCH Number: 2002061110[3]
  • The Lead Agency approved the project and made the following determinations:
    • The project will have a significant effect on the environment.
    • An Environmental Impact Report was prepared for this project pursuant to the provisions of CEQA.
    • Mitigation measures were made a condition of the approval of the project
    • A Statement of Overriding Consideration was adopted for this project.
    • Findings were made pursuant to the provisions of CEQA.[3][7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ocean Harbor House Homeowners Association v. California Coastal Commission
  2. Collecting and Using Economic Information to Guide the Management of Coastal Recreational Resources in California
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 CEQA Net Database
  4. 08/04/2003 EIR
  5. 1/15/2002 NOP
  6. 01/13/2005 Revised Permit Application
  7. 01/14/2004 NOD



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