Environmental Questions Put Marblehead Plans On Hold

Times Staff Writer

The developer of Marblehead bluffs on Friday temporarily withdrew the San Clemente project from consideration by the California Coastal Commission, saying it will work with the agency's staff to resolve environmental issues that stand in the way of its approval.

The commission's staff recommended that the latest scaled-back proposal by Irvine-based Lusk Co. be denied yet again because it would disrupt habitat crucial to wildlife, including the endangered California gnatcatcher, and ruin the appearance of coastal canyons.

A September report critical of the development plan led Lusk to ask the commission to delay its hearing. The company then cut the number of homes it proposed building to 314 from 351 and added open space, among other changes. The current plan still includes 141,506 square feet of commercial space on 22 acres.

At its meeting Friday in Los Angeles, the Coastal Commission waived its usual six-month waiting period for the project to be resubmitted, Executive Director Peter Douglas said.

"They've already made some substantial changes, but they didn't go far enough," Douglas said of Lusk. "We want to work with them and see if they can go the rest of the way. They are trying to work with our staff. I'm optimistic that it's going to work."

Jim Johnson, Lusk's chief executive, said the company has been working with commission staff to map out the endangered species habitat area where development would violate the Coastal Act. He said he expects to bring the project back before commissioners by April.

"We anticipate continuing to work with them," he said. "We will minimize these issues."

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