The Cambrian

Approved affordable housing project in Cambria hits another snag with Coastal Commission

People’s Self-Help Housing’s proposed affordable-housing units at 2845 Schoolhouse Lane in Cambria have hit another snag: California’s Coastal Commissioners agreed Sept. 11 that they want a full review of the development before it can proceed.

Commissioners will decide later about whether the long-planned, reconfigured Cambria Pines Apartments project (32 affordable-housing apartments and a manager’s unit) should move forward, given Cambria’s current water-supply issues and other concerns. No date has been set yet for that “de novo” hearing about the project’s future.

The commission could have held that definitive hearing on Sept. 11, but People’s Self-Help Housing had asked for that portion of the process to be postponed.

In April, county supervisors had approved a permit for the affordable housing project, denying appeals filed against it then. But three Cambria women (Mary Webb, Christine Heinrichs and Leslie Richards) appealed the supervisors’ decision, which tossed the issue into the Commission’s lap.

The appeals have pitted two critical Cambria needs against each other in the small coastal community: A severe lack of worker housing and not having enough water for development, despite the services district’s brackish-water-treating Sustainable Water Project (SWP), which is itself caught up in the county-permit process. The SWP was built under an emergency permit during a long California-wide drought, and the plant must have a permanent permit to be able to operate in non-emergency conditions.

The commissioners’ decision to require a full hearing was a quick action without a formal vote (“No objection? OK. It’s unanimous.”), based on commission staff’s written report and recommendation, and without any public/applicant testimony or commissioner comments.

In a nutshell, commissioners heard Deputy Director Dan Carl’s one-paragraph reasoning for the recommendation, based on Cambria’s water-shortage issues and the requirements of the Local Coastal Program, and then agreed with his conclusion.

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