Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rules About Contests at Swamis

This is the sort of stuff that good cities would include in their staff reports. It should be the basis for the first deliberations on holding contests at Swamis. We do it the Encinitas Way instead.

Submitted to the City by Bill Weedman:


Recent discussions within the City of Encinitas have focused upon evaluating the potential to allow private parties to hold special events at Swami’s Park, a beach access point. The following analysis looks at various City of Encinitas documents and their relationship to the evaluation of the potential of special events at Swami’s Park. It is not the intent of this analysis to weigh the pros and cons of any specific event, but to look at special events in general.

I. Encinitas General Plan
The Encinitas General Plan has been referred to as the constitution of the City of Encinitas. As all laws within the United States of America have to be consistent with the Constitution of the United States of America, all laws and regulations within the City of Encinitas need to be consistent with the Encinitas General Plan.
The Recreation Element of the Encinitas General Plan is one of seven elements within the Encinitas General Plan. Each element is composed of Goals and Policies that were adopted by the City Council with the stated purpose to …“serve as a blue-print for the long-range physical planning of the City. The Plan contains stated community goals and policies designed to shape the long term development of the City, as well as protect its environmental, social, cultural and economic resources.” Goal 5 and related policies refer to beach areas within the City of Encinitas and establish the intensity of use expected at each beach facility:
GOAL 5: The City will continue to provide or coordinate with the State to provide for coastal/shoreline recreation areas, with effective access, including signing; and will designate various beach areas for high, medium and low intensity levels of use based upon the characteristics of the beach resource and support facilities, and character of adjacent neighborhood. (Coastal Act/30211/30212/30212.5/30214)

POLICY 5.1: The City recognizes Cardiff Beach State Park, San Elijo Beach State Park, South Carlsbad Beach State Park and Moonlight Beach (future City) State Park, as the major visitor destination beaches in the Encinitas area. The City will work with the State to upgrade and promote access to these State beaches, and will act to upgrade and promote access to Moonlight Beach, in order that they may receive an increased proportion of visitor uses. (Coastal Act/30214)

POLICY 5.2: The City shall act and coordinate with the State to implement an effective system of shoreline access signing based on uniform standards (i.e., size, material, symbols). (Coastal Act/30212.5)

POLICY 5.3: The areas of South Carlsbad Beach State Park, Moonlight Beach State (future City) Park, Cardiff Beach State Park and San Elijo Beach State Park shall be designated as high intensity beach recreational use areas. (Coastal Act/30212.5/30221)

POLICY 5.4: The City will classify the beach areas related to the following access points for a Medium Intensity use level:
- Beacons
- Grandview
- Swami's Park
- D Street (access to Moonlight Beach)

And the City will classify the beach areas related to the following access points for a Low Intensity use level:
- North Sea Bluff Village (no current access)
- Encinitas Beach (Athena - no current access)
- "I" Street Vicinity (Vista Point)
- Stone Steps access (Coastal Act/30212.5)

POLICY 5.5: The City will adopt beach recreation facility standards, and will encourage the State to apply similar standards to its beaches, regarding the existence of lifeguard facilities, restroom facilities, showers, water fountains, parking facilities (and a number of spaces for different level uses), fee access, trash facilities, beach maintenance schedules, signing, picnic facilities, bicycle facilities, security patrol, etc. In addition, the City shall assure that existing public parking lots for public beach access points are maintained and that no reduction in the number of existing public parking spaces shall be permitted. (Coastal Act/30212.5/ 30223) Policy 5.5 amended 5/11/95 (Reso. 95-32)
The recreation element provides the following definitions for intensity of use at beach areas:
High Intensity: This beach category represents the highest intensity for both utilization and improvements. Active recreational activities are encouraged in both the beach and tidal areas. Lifeguard stations, game courts, picnic areas, parking lots, restroom facilities, showers, water fountains, and facilities that provide access are among the improvements permitted on these beaches.
Medium Intensity: Beaches in this category may still be used for active recreation though improvements are nominal. Improvements may be restricted to lifeguard stations and facilities providing access.

Low Intensity: Beaches designated for low intensity use will contain few improvements and recreational activities, and will be more passive in nature. This category encourages the maintenance and preservation of these beaches in their natural state, as much as this is possible.
The recreation element provides the following standards related to access/vista points:

Specific standards concerning the access/vista points are difficult to generalize due to the considerable variation among these facilities. The following standards that apply to these facilities are more concerned with public safety and reducing potential impacts on adjacent properties and the bluffs.

• Landscaping shall utilize ground cover and drought-resistant plants to minimize the possibility of over-watering.
• Appropriate signage (with careful consideration given to color and material) should identify the facility as a public access or vista point.
• Benches or picnic tables and trash cans should be provided at all facilities.
• A barrier should be constructed at all facilities that will be effective in preventing small children from falling from the bluffs.
• Use of facilities near residences should be restricted to minimize noise and other impacts on those residences.

Please note in Goal 5 that the City “will designate various beach areas for high, medium and low intensity levels of use based upon the characteristics of the beach resource and support facilities, and character of adjacent neighborhood”. The sole City operated park or beach area designated as High Intensity is Moonlight Beach Park. The Medium Intensity Use level includes four “access points” including Swami’s Park which is bordered on the immediate south by single family homes and on the north by the grounds of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). The SRF grounds include housing for monastics, retreat facilities that are used by SRF members from around the world and the meditation gardens that are used by hundreds of Encinitas residents and visitors on a daily basis. Encinitas residents and visitors to Encinitas visit the meditation gardens in order to experience the peace that is achieved after spending moments in the reflective environment.
The standards for “…access/vista points are more concerned with public safety and reducing potential impacts on adjacent properties and the bluffs.” Among the standards that authorization of a special event would need to be consistent with is the standard requiring that the “use of facilities near residences should be restricted to minimize noise and other impact on those residences”. With consideration given to the proximity of the adjacent single family homes to the south of Swami’s Park and the nature of the use of the SRF grounds to the north of the park, any use that would promote an organized concentration of users and noise generation more intense than would exist during the normal use of the park would not be consistent with the General Plan standards.

II. A Guide to Encinitas Parks, Beaches, Trails & Recreation Areas
The guide to Encinitas parks, beaches, trails and recreation areas can be obtained from the Parks and Recreation Department and from the web site of the department. The guide is a map showing the location, hours of operation and rules of use for parks, beaches, trails and recreation area. Pertaining specifically to Swami’s Beach, the guide indicates that the facilities include an area for picnics, phones and restrooms. Parking and surfing are other features at the site. At Moonlight Beach, which again is shown in the General Plan as a High Intensity Use site, there are handicap facilities, play areas, picnic areas, restrooms, phones, volleyball and tennis. Moonlight Beach can, as shown on the guide, be reserved for special events. Given the limited facilities at Swami’s, the small amount of parking compared to the parking available at Moonlight Beach, and the fact that Swami’s has not been an access point or beach area that could be used for special events historically, the change to allow special events could result in additional impacts to the surrounding uses and the users of the access point and beach area that have been able to access the beach and surf on a daily basis as weather permits.

III. City Policy PR A005: Recreation Facility Use
City Policy PR A005: Recreation Facility Use was the city policy that offered guidelines for the use of city recreation facilities such as city parks and beaches. This policy, in addition to specifying procedures for obtaining reservations and uses of parks, beaches and overlooks, listed the facilities that can be reserved and the uses that could take place at the facilities. Neither Swami’s nor other access points were listed in this policy, thus the access points could not be reserved for a special event. There were several viewpoints that were listed, but the uses permitted at those sites were restricted to smaller weddings and other similar gatherings.

Policy PR A005 was replaced by the present City of Encinitas policy effective January 1, 2006, which requires a Special Event Permit for all facilities eligible for a special event permit when used by a group.

IV. Special Event Permit

The following information is copied from the front two pages of the Special Event Permit application and briefly outlines the conditions when a Special Event Permit is required:

A Special Event permit is required for use of public recreational facilities if ANY of the following conditions apply:
Celebrations, festivals, fairs or similar events that have a significant impact on normal use of public or private property
Disruptions to the normal flow of traffic or access to public property
Use of live or amplified music and/or a stage
Utilization of booths and vendors
Greater than 500 expected attendees
Any organized or competitive aquatic event (i.e. surf contests, swim contests, kayak competitions or similar events)

The following conditions apply to use of park and beach facilities as a Special Event venue:
Limit one special event per day
Facilities are reservable from 8am to 10pm
90-day advance notice and permit review required
“Jumpers” or other inflatable play equipment not permitted
Generators are not permitted
Full cost recovery to be determined during the permit review process
(restroom cleaning, trash, Lifeguards, Sheriff’s, etc.)
Reservations available up to six months in advance
Proposed events for usage of Moonlight Beach during the peak summer months (Memorial Day through Labor Day) must have City Council approval
Pollution prevention may be required
A separate permit from the Encinitas Fire Department may be required. See Fire Prevention section on Checklist for more information.

A Special Ceremony Permit is available for use of Moonlight Beach Overlook (at C Street), J Street Viewpoint or Encinitas Viewpoint Park. Moonlight Beach is not available as a Special Ceremony venue. Special Ceremonies include weddings, memorials and other ceremonies as approved by the Parks and Recreation Department. The following conditions apply to use of these facilities for Special Ceremonies:
Available first and third Saturday of the month throughout the year only (Holiday weekends excluded)
One ceremony per day
Available in a three hour block
Facilities are reservable from 8am to 10pm
90-day advanced notice and permit review required
Maximum number of participants 50-75 (dependent on location)
Reservations available up to six months in advance only


Special Events may be subject to City Council approval. Notification will be made upon permit approval and can take up to 90 DAYS. PLEASE PLAN ACCORDINGLY.

When determining whether Swami’s would be a site that could be used with issuance of a Special Event Permit, the City of Encinitas should consider several factors that are unique to Swami’s, including, but necessarily limited to: limited room for exhibits given the limited parking area available, all of the parking lot should be used for parking and emergency access; access to the beach is via a single, steep stairway which may limit emergency response; the popularity of surfing at Swami’s could result in conflicts given that the Special Event Permit does not grant exclusive use of the parking area, access or beach.

V. Encinitas Municipal Code
Encinitas Municipal Code Section 30.46.035c provides that a Coastal Development Permit may be required for a temporary use by the Director of Planning and Building under specified conditions:

C. The Director may determine that a temporary use shall be subject to coastal development permit issuance, even if the criteria for exemption under paragraph A or B of this Section are met, if the Director determines that unique or changing circumstances exist relative to a particular temporary use that have the potential for significant adverse impacts on coastal resources. Such circumstances may include the following:

1. The event, either individually or together with temporary uses scheduled before or after the particular use, precludes the general public from use of a public recreational area for a significant period of time;

2. The event and its associated activities or access requirements will either directly or indirectly impact environmentally sensitive habitat areas, rare or endangered species, significant scenic resources, or other coastal resources;

3. The event is scheduled between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day and would restrict public use of roadways or parking areas or otherwise significantly impact public use or access to coastal waters;

4. The event has historically required a coastal development permit to address and monitor associated impacts to coastal resources.

Should the director determine that a Coastal Development Permit is required under the conditions cited above, the applicant for the project will need to consider the necessary time for processing of the Coastal Development Permit and the potential of an appeal or appeals, including the potential of an appeal to the State Coastal Commission. Items 1 and 2 in Section 30.46.035c could potentially be a reason to require a Coastal Development Permit for a Special Event at Swami’s given the limited access, limited beach area, limited parking and limited coastal resources should the special event seek to use the beach for structures or otherwise limit public access.

Staff should consider review of Encinitas Municipal Code Chapter 23.06 to ascertain whether the discretionary Special Event Permit is subject to a Citizen Participation Plan. Given the Zoning Code definition for development, it appears that a Special Event Permit activity may require a Citizen Participation Plan given that the special event is an extension of the use of the land beyond the normally recognized use and the impacts, even though temporary in duration, could be significant upon the surrounding neighborhood and the general public, especially related to potential traffic impacts, noise and limited use of the site of the special event.

“DEVELOPMENT shall mean the division of a parcel of land into two or more parcels; the construction, reconstruction, conversion, structural alteration, relocation, or enlargement of any structure; any mining, excavation, landfill, or land disturbance, and any use or extension of the use of land.”

23.06.020 Applicability
A. Every application for development or construction that requires a discretionary permit or administrative review shall include a citizen participation plan that must be implemented prior to the first public hearing or notice of public review and comment period on an administrative application. Every City-sponsored capital improvement project shall also include a citizen participation plan that must be implemented before final approval or award of a construction bid.

This concludes the analysis of City of Encinitas cited documents and their relationship to the evaluation of the potential of special events at Swami’s Park. Based upon the foregoing analysis, there is sufficient reason to find that the consideration of allowing special events at Swami’s Park would result in a conflict with the General Plan and potential conflict among the special event sponsors and the general public. Special events, other than weddings, memorial services and similar uses cannot be held at similar access points or viewpoints. Limited facilities at Swami’s including parking, emergency and regular access via a single stairway and popularity of Swami’s as a daily surfing area would preclude the issuance of a special event permit. The Encinitas Municipal Code contains regulatory language that could result in additional permits and processing time for any special event permit and future applicants and city staff should consider the potential total processing time of any special event permit.

From a previous post: We’re talking about public resources,” Dalager said. “Are we going to have a system of law, or are we going to have little local tribes that decide what everybody can do?”


  1. Nice work, Bill.

  2. Which on the council even care about the general plan? Do they follow the general plan?

  3. All do.
    And yes.

  4. I bet the only one who ever has looked at the General Plan is Teresa.

    The others think their ideas trumph anthing in the general plan. Afterall, they are council!

  5. This is like watching a who-dun-it only it's a "will-they-do-it".
    I hope not.

  6. Dalager will try and do it and and the press should run an article about he is exploiting public resources for private gain.

    That guy poops on the public every chance he gets.

  7. James Bond stated in a council meeting that he had never read the General Plan.

    In response to Anonymous at 5:09 pm, certain councilmembers routinely ignore the General Plan when it doesn't support what they want to do. Stocks and Dalager are the worst offenders. Then Bond goes along with them, and he's never read the GP. That's how the 3-vote majority passes things in Encinitas.

    I agree with Bill's analysis. But there is enough wiggle room in the GP to allow the council to permit the contest. There are too many "mays" and "at the discretion of the staff or director." When Houlihan and Dalababber are working with Linda Benson, it sure looks like the council will approve it.

  8. Excellent analysis! I would send it directly to the city so they have no excuse not to be thorough. Ask them to respond now as to whether or not your analysis is correct, and if they disagree make them spell out specifically what is incorrect. They will try to ignore you so keep sending emails pestering them to respond and cc City Manager (who job it is to make sure staff responds to the public) and council (who job it is to make sure the city manager is managing staff). Let us know what they say.

  9. I still want to know what will happen if the bluffs collapse like they did at Half Moon Bay? Will Linda be liable or the City? What about the ADA? Or the Coastal Commission. Does she need a permit from them? I could go on which is why I voted NO to begin with.

  10. What a great resource!

  11. From the press release about the results of the longboard contest run at the OB pier yesterday and the day before:

    The four women's finalists of the Ocean Beach PLA Pro presented by Gidget opted not to surf and evenly divide the ratings points and prize money due to the day's brutal conditions.


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