Club wins court victory in Luers case
Club is pleased to announce that the judge in Sierra Club vs. California
Coastal Commission, in the matter of the Luers development project
slated for the town of Davenport, nine miles north of Santa Cruz,
has ruled resoundingly in favor of the Club.
The Club fought to protect
the San Vicente Creek riparian corridor, habitat for both state-
and federally-protected steelhead trout, coho salmon and California
red-legged frog. San Vicente Creek is the southernmost habitat for
coho salmon in the United States. Despite Club protests, the County
had allowed a zero-foot buffer and a zero setback from the riparian
corridor. County law requires a 50-foot buffer and a 10-foot setback
for a total of 60 feet.
An exception to these
requirements is allowed when there is no other feasible project
possible on a site. In the Luers case, the County did not explore
alternatives with developer David Luers. The California Coastal
Commission staff repeatedly warned the county Planning Department
over a three-year period that the project did not meet Coastal Act
When the Club appealed
the Planning Commission's decision to the Coastal Commission, Commission
staff wrote a report supporting the Club's appeal and recommending
that the Coastal Commissioners deny the Luers project. Unfortunately,
the Commissioners did not heed their own staff's report, and approved
the project at a late-night hearing held in Long Beach in June 2003.
After the vote allowing the project, Luers put the property on the
The Club filed suit not
only to protect the riparian corridor on San Vicente Creek, but
also to uphold the Coastal Act. If this project could ignore legal
setbacks, what would keep developers throughout the state from ignoring
riparian buffer and setback requirements? If the Coastal Commission
could waive setback and buffer requirements even when alternative
projects were feasible, the Coastal Act might be rendered meaningless.
The judge's decision
stops what could have been a dangerous precedent and preserves the
integrity of the riparian corridor. The property can still be developed
so long as any project complies with legal buffers, setbacks and
other zoning requirements.