Coastal Commission / Conservancy, California, California Coastal Commission, Coastal development, lower cost overnight visitor accommodations, affordable housing


Over the past 40 years, one of the strongest dialogues in the West has been the call to protect environmental resources, particularly access to the coastal environment. For example, in the mid-1970s the State of California created the Coastal Commission / Conservancy to protect, restore, and provide public access to California’s world-renowned coastal environment and marine resources. The California Coastal Commission (“CCC”) oversees all coastal development, manages habitat restoration and protection, and governs natural resource use.

Coastal areas Section 30213 of the California Coastal Act (Division 20 of the California Public Resources Code) requires the CCC to protect, encourage, and, where feasible, provide for lower cost overnight visitor accommodations (“LCOVA”) along the State’s coast. As a mitigation measure per Section 30213, the CCC typically requires hotel and other development projects to include LCOVA facilities on-site, off-site, or pay an in-lieu fee. Despite such measures, the market has produced few LCOVA facilities along the California coastline. The supply of LCOVA facilities has not kept pace with demand, and as a result, coastal lodging facilities remain unaffordable to many Californians.

Section 31104.1, Division 21 of the California Public Resources Code maintains the California State Coastal Conservancy (“SCC”) may, "accept dedication of fee title, easements, development rights, or other interests in lands, including interests required to provide public access to recreation and resources areas in the coastal zone." 

Over the years, the SCC has funded overnight accommodation projects that include a Coastal Development Permit for the Port San Luis Harbor Terrace project, restoration of the Crystal Cove Cottages at Crystal Cove State Park in Orange County, and campground facilities at the Piedras Blancas Motel site within Hearst San Simeon State Park, among others.

Increasing the inventory of LCOVA also has important consequences for cities’ entire housing markets. More available LCOVA units keeps long-term rental units from slipping into the vacation rental inventory (i.e. Airbnb, VRBO, Homestay, etc). Cities with high-cost, high-need housing inventories can utilize LCOVA as a lever to balance long-term and short-term markets and make housing on the whole more affordable. Moreover the preservation of low-cost overnight units can allow for more equitable access to coastal environments and natural resources to broader populations that cannot afford to live in coastal areas.

In this context it is important to understand the mechanism for monitoring and judging supply of LCOVA facilities in high-cost coastal areas, and also to understand affordability within the coastal areas the need-for or surplus-of affordable supply to match demand. This paper develops and pilots a methodology of assembling LCOVA supply data, and explores daily rate and hotel distribution metrics to illustrate supply and demand in the context of the need for LCOVA. Furthermore, it provides ideas of possible synergistic solutions that address coastal access while at the same time helping to address affordable housing and transportation crises in many high-cost, high-need markets.