In Santa Cruz County, the coastal zone extends about five miles inland from the North Coast. From Natural Bridges to 41st Avenue in Capitola, it extends about 0.6 miles inland. From Capitola to the south County boundary, it extends to Highway One.
Within the Coastal Zone, a person who wishes to do any sort of land development must obtain a Level 5 development permit. Development, amongst other things, includes construction, grading, subdividing land, changing the density of land use, and harvesting of major vegetation (except for agriculture). There are also seven areas along the coast that are subjects to special design standards to preserve their unique qualities. If you are thinking of buying and/or developing property in the Santa Cruz Coastal Zone, visit this website and ensure you understand the rules, regulations, and permitting requirements in this unique area. In addition, we highly suggest you go to the Santa Cruz Planning Department and discuss your project with a planner.
According to a seasoned land planning consultant with over 10 years working for the County of Santa Cruz Planning Department, working with the Coastal Commission can significantly increase the time and cost to complete a project. One of her more poignant statements was: if you want to buy a beachfront property, either expect to live in that house, or have your children inherit the property after you improve it, because it could take that long to finish the project when the Coastal Commission is involved. Why?
The Coastal Commission is orchestrating a planned retreat from the ocean over the next 50 to 100 years. The National Research Council (NRC) projects that by Year 2100, sea level in California may rise by 4 to 56 in (10 to 143 cm) for areas north of Cape Mendocino and 17 to 66 in (42 to 167 cm) for areas south of Cape Mendocino (NRC 2012). If you are in what the Coastal Commission considers a future-hazardous zone, you are going to have a very difficult time finishing your project. This is not to say it’s impossible to develop property in the Coastal Zone, but thorough research is a must before buying an investment property in this area.
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