Beach shuttle hits the brakes


A greatly modified version of the city’s proposed Point Dume beach shuttle plan won tentative approval by City Council members Monday after the council heard a torrent of objections from irate residents.

The council quickly backed off from an original proposal for an 18-passenger shuttle to run daily during the summer on a 4.9-mile route on Point Dume’s residential streets and down to Westward Beach. Councilman Tom Hasse said it was never the council’s intention to implement such an extensive program, but one resident reminded him that he had signed something to that effect. Hasse said the council’s alternative shuttle plan was a point-to-point, small passenger van, with handicapped access, that would take people from Westward Beach up Birdview Avenue to the Headlands entrance and back.

An anonymous flier had been circulated that misdescribed the shuttle plan and its purpose as giving tourists easier access to Westward Beach and the Point Dume Headlands.

City Manager Harry Peacock explained during a short recess that the beach shuttle proposal was drawn up by staff to be included with the city’s plan to rework its Dial-A-Ride program, which cost $142,000 last year. The shuttle was not intended to be anything other than a proposal for a 15-minute loop in summer, Peacock said, and would take residents from their homes to the beach and to the local shopping center, thus mitigating traffic.

Apparently, the idea escalated into a possible solution to the city’s long-term legal dispute with the Coastal Commission over parking on Point Dume and access to the beach and headlands.

John Cross, a new resident, questioned whether the point-to-point shuttle would satisfy the commission if their mandate is to improve beach access. “As a visitor for years, I was always pissed off there was no place to park,” Cross said. “Now that I’m here, I want it that way.”

Paul Major noted that on weekends there are 52,000 people looking for parking or tramping over the headlands. “These things shouldn’t be decided at an emergency meeting. This should be a long-term plan. The shuttle is too costly. State Parks should provide their own shuttle.” Major got a rousing cheer for his closing remark: “Why is one person speaking for residents without getting their opinion first? I think some people have been on this council too long.”

Sam Hall Kaplan said, “The shuttle is not a planning solution. It puts the headlands at risk. What it is is a political solution to appease the Coastal Commission. . . . It’s a case of bureaucratic bungling. The Coastal Commission is so off base, it’s time to tell them that.”

Joan Plummer, a 25-year resident, said the designation of Point Dume Headlands as a state preserve was part of the enabling legislation when the state bought the property (see box). “Now we understand that coastal says it never should have been a preserve. … The state has done a complete turnaround. Their lawyer is the attorney general, so they don’t care. We can’t afford to litigate.”

Attorney Mark Weinberger said any settlement with the commission should include assurances they won’t come back with more demands for future compliance with the Coastal Act when the city submits its Local Coastal Plan.

In the end, residents agreed they favored any plan that would help preserve the fragile ecosystem of the headlands and limit access to Westward Beach.

Council members Joan House and Harry Barovsky specifically opposed continuing litigation with the Coastal Commission. “The chances of success are not good, and we could lose the ability to regulate parking on Point Dume,” Barovsky said.

The council voted unanimously on negotiating points for Weinberger to take to the commission: the small, point-to-point shuttle; docent-guided tours of the headlands, either paid for by State Parks or conducted by volunteers (Walt Keller’s suggestion); two or three handicapped parking spaces on Cliffside Drive; other parking restrictions (signs and boulders) to remain in place; and that the agreement would satisfy coastal access for Point Dume so that issue is not on the table when the Local Coastal Plan is reviewed.