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Kayak concession given leeway

Billy Fried is gambling that his kayaking business will not prove damaging to the beach ambience at Treasure Island Park and will go unchallenged by the California Coastal Commission.

The City Council approved a five-month temporary use permit Tuesday to La Vida Laguna to stage, rent and launch kayaks at the beach below the Montage Resort and Spa. Conditions imposed on the business by the Planning Commission to reduce at least the appearance of commercialism on the beach were eliminated.

“We are neighbors of the largest ocean in the world, and we’d like to share it,” said Rosemary Williams, a kayak tour guide.

Fried successfully appealed the conditions imposed by the Planning Commission that prohibited storage of the kayaks at the approved launch site near, but not off of, Goff Island; no monetary exchange on the beach or in the public Treasure Island Park; and allowed no signage advertising the business. But the appeal may come back to bite him.

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“The Planning Commission did him a favor,” City Manager Ken Frank. “They tried to craft an approval that would avoid a [California] Coastal Commission appeal. The commission is just waiting to see what happens tonight. There is a better chance of an appeal if [kayaks] are launched off of Goff Island.”

Fried contended that the kayakers do not set foot on the island.

“I am willing to test it through August,” Mayor Kelly Boyd said. “But if the commission ties it up, he loses the whole summer.”

However, opponents were more concerned with the commercial aspects than the launch site.

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Resident Armando Baez read a letter signed by Ginger Osborne, president of Village Laguna, which opposed what was described as the “privatization or commercialization of a beach area.”

“The city has rightfully denied commercialization of its beaches for decades and we are confident you understand this is a public policy decision that enjoys broad community support,” Osborne wrote to the council.

But supporters of the appeal outnumbered the opponents at the council meeting by six to two.

“We are a beach town, not a boating town — we are a swimming town,” Village Laguna founder Arnold Hano said.

Boyd recalled the days of his youth before the city bought Main Beach and developed the “Window to the Sea.” He said rafts and umbrellas were rented out and beaches were designated for surfers.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who has favored approval of the kayaking business from the first hearing, said the council was only approving a temporary permit, not a conditional use permit, and argued for the elimination of the Planning Commission conditions that Fried appealed.

“I think the restrictions on the permit are onerous,” she said.

Supporters said schlepping the kayaks from a staging area to the launch site would put a dreadful burden on the business. And not being able to accommodate walk-ups who wanted to pay at the site was also detrimental.

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Community Development Director John Montgomery advised the council that Goff Beach is in Planning Area 1, which prohibits commercial and staging activities and Fried’s proposal is only permissible in Planning Area 2, Treasure Island Beach.

An appeal of the council approval to the Coastal Commission must be filed within 10 working days of the decision.



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