Santa Catalina Island residents, at a public hearing on a zoning program that one day could dramatically alter some areas of the island, have raised key concerns over development of water sources and public access to Catalina's delicate interior.
Bob Theobald, a county regional planner, said the county will attempt to address those concerns at the second and final public hearing on the zoning program, scheduled for Feb. 5 in Los Angeles. After that hearing, the plan will be submitted to the county Board of Supervisors for approval.
If approved by the board and by the California Coastal Commission, the zoning program, known as the Local Implementation Program, would set into motion a Local Coastal Plan approved in 1983.
More Housing Planned
Theobald said the 1983 Local Coastal Plan will allow for eventual development of the tiny Two Harbors community into a resort town, and the addition of a new residential area in housing-short Avalon.
Doug Propst, president of the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, which oversees and protects the 96% of the island designated as open space, said he wants the county to find a way to restrict public access to the island's ecologically fragile interior.
"We raised our concern over unlimited access and environmental problems we think could occur, and we found the whole tone was good, that the county was very receptive," Propst said.
Control of Visitors
Allowing public access to coastal lands is considered a top priority of the California Coastal Commission, but leaders on Catalina, and county planners, say the island cannot withstand unlimited numbers of visitors.
Theobald said his agency hopes to work out an agreement that would satisfy the Coastal Commission but that would help the conservancy control the number of visitors using the island's trails and inland areas.
"The conservancy needs to know that the island is not overburdened, and we're going to work that out as best we can," Theobald said.
Water is another major issue on the island, where residents have observed strict conservation techniques since the drought of the late 1970s. Water is in short supply because the island's reservoirs are not large enough. As a result, residents must get on a waiting list for a water allocation before they can build a new home or business.
Slow Growth Promised
Rudy Piltch, chief planner for the Santa Catalina Island Co. which owns nearly all of the island's developable land, said that even if the water issue is resolved, "no development is going to happen overnight here."
Piltch told the county that the company intends to adhere to its long-held philosophy of slow growth, particularly in the quiet Two Harbors community where the company eventually plans to build a resort town.
"Two Harbors will be phased in very slowly, so people will get used to it just as they've gotten used to the gradual growth it's experienced in the past 20 years," Piltch said.
"I remember when you couldn't buy a quart of milk in Two Harbors and there were 35 people living there, as recently as 1962," he said. "Now it has a general store and four times as many people, but everybody's pretty accepting of it. That's the kind of slow change we expect to see in the future."