By Sara Hall | NB Indy
The odds for beach goers snagging a stay in the coveted historic cottages in Crystal Cove State Park will improve some following a state board’s approval this week to renovate the remaining 17 now dilapidated structures.
California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a coastal development permit Wednesday, March 8, allowing the state parks department and the nonprofit organization Crystal Cove Alliance to move forward with the project.
Alliance Vice President Laura Davick called the action historic.
Restoration of a portion of the 46 historic beachfront cottages began several years ago. The 17 remaining unrestored cottages will yield a total of 22 overnight rental units and is estimated to cost $30 million, much of it from private fundraising. The existing rates range from a $35 shared room to $245 for a large cottage.
“We need participation from the entire community to make this last piece a reality,” Davick said in an interview Thursday.
Project costs are about equally divided between restoration and infrastructure, she said, which includes installation of
underground utilities, sewer system, retaining walls, boardwalk and additional sea level rise protections.
The California Coastal Commission provided $5 million in mitigation funding to assist with the final phase of the rehabilitation project, with the majority pledged towards funding infrastructure. “Truly, without it, this phase three project may not be moving forward,” Davick said during the meeting in Ventura.
Cottage income should fund future maintenance in the park.
Alliance President Alix Hobbs also explained an education initiative in the park, which he described as a perfect laboratory to introduce students to sea level rise, coastal adaptation, climate change, and civil and environmental engineering.
“These extended overnight experiences will give students who, frequently, have not visited the beach before, the chance to develop their own personal relationship to California’s coast,” Hobbs said.
The new program is being developed with the University of California, Irvine.
Coastal staff cited policy conflicts within the proposal, which involves the demolition and reconstruction of cottages on bluff faces considered a hazardous location. Staff made an exception in recommending approval because the renovation also improves public access and increases education opportunities for underserved students.
“We recognize the many challenges this project presents under the Coastal Act, and perhaps atypical stance that staff has assumed on policy areas in this case,” said Karl Schwing, the commission’s south coast district manager. He predicted that future sea level rise will make of the cottage unusable.
State parks officials were questioned about improvements to a reservation system, which will come online in August. It currently is on a month-to-month system that opens on the first of the month at 8 a.m. and is typically booked up within three minutes.
The aim is to find the most equitable way to distribute available nights, said Orange Coast District Assistant Park Superintendent Jim Newland.
Countless hours of work has been poured into this project, said Commissioner Donne Brownsey.
“I can’t tell you, as a sister citizen of California, how deeply I appreciate that and how honored I am that you’ve been able to bring this project to fruition, particularly for those children, for whom access to the beauty of our state is so restrictive and it opens their minds in such an extraordinary way,” Brownsey said.
The article “Renovation of Crystal Cove Cottages Moves Ahead” in the March 10 edition imprecisely described a statement by Karl Schwing, a Coastal Commission manager, because a word was inadvertently omitted. The sentence should have read: He predicted that future sea level rise will make some of the cottages unusable.”
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