Outdoor enthusiasts might be feeling a little dizzy after watching the Pismo Beach City Council’s 180-degree turn on a decision in the ongoing battle over access to the Shell Beach’s scenic bluffs.
The council voted unanimously to uphold the Pismo Beach Planning Commission’s denial of a request by The Bluffs Homeowners Association (HOA) to reroute a popular bicycle path that passes along Bluffs Drive.
The decision comes after a Sept. 6 meeting where the council voted 3-1 to direct staff to modify a proposal to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial.
If the project had moved forward, it would have closed the current gate into The Bluffs, a community of multi-million-dollar homes, on Indio Drive and added a new section of a bike path linking an adjacent public parking lot to Bluffs Drive.
While The Bluffs HOA President Larry Rose argued that the reroute was proposed because of safety concerns, some residents, bicyclists, and local outdoor enthusiast disagreed, characterizing the proposed project as an effort by the HOA to chip away at the public’s right to access the coastal bluffs.
Councilmember Sheila Blake appeared to share that view. Blake was the lone vote in favor of upholding the Planning Commission’s denial at the Sept. 6 meeting.
“The HOA wants [The Bluffs] to be a gated community, but it’s not,” Blake told New Times.
Following the Sept. 6 meeting, many who opposed the reroute began to question whether the HOA had the California Coastal Commission authorization or permit needed to build the existing gate that blocks street access to Bluffs Drive.
“You need to deny this project unless and until The Bluffs HOA provides the city with documentation, including a coastal development permit, showing authorization to construct the gates across the driving surface at the entrance to Bluffs Drive,” Tarren Collins, a local attorney who’s been active in several battles with the HOA over the bluffs, stated in a written comment to the council.
At the Sept. 20 meeting, Mayor Shelly Higginbotham and councilmembers Ed Waage and Mary Ann Reiss joined Blake and Howell, who was absent from the Sept. 6 meeting, in upholding the Planning Commission’s denial of the project.