CEQA EIR Required? Geology and Soils – Septic Tanks

CEQA EIR Required? VI. GEOLOGY AND SOILS — Would the project:

e) Have soils incapable of adequately supporting the use of septic tanks or alternative waste water disposal systems where sewers are not available for the disposal of waste water?


Status Quo

Wastewater (from the “Land Use” Section)

  • Wastewater systems do not need to be designed and maintained for the number of guest who may be there. STR’s are advertising[i]available occupancy levels far beyond the design capacities of LUP area water and septic systems . . . the fragile and hazardous nature of the coastal and wildland areas of our communities are susceptible to severe damage of even a single adverse event such as a sewage spill or wildfires.
  • A single sewage spill can do lasting damage to The Monterey National Marine Sanctuary, The California Sea Otter Game Refuge, Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area, Pt. Lobos State Marine Reserve, Pt. Lobos Marine Conservation Area.

[i]e.g. VRBO, Airbnb, etc.)

History and Analysis

Summary:

STR’s are advertising[i]available occupancy levels far beyond the design capacities of LUP area water and septic systems . . . Even with reasonable restrictions applied to any new ordinance(s), the fragile and hazardous nature of the coastal and wildland areas of our communities are susceptible to severe damage of even a single adverse event such as a sewage spill (many of the current illegal and potentially permitted STR’s operate septic systems directly adjacent to the National Marine Reserve), and other activities like recreating in sensitive tidepools that are damaging to the protected but unsupervised coastal environment.

 

Rules:

Conflict with Monterey County Coastal Implementation Plan (Chapter 20.146.050):

Proof of adequacy of septic systems may be required as a part of the permit application process. This proof of adequacy must document that the system is in working condition and is adequate to serve both the proposed and the existing use.[ii]

Any parcel in the Land Use Plan area proposed for up-zoning shall be tested and approved by the county Health Department for suitability for waste disposal systems prior to approval of the new zoning. Such testing shall be at the expense of the applicant.[iii]

Dual leach fields are required for any new development in Carmel Highlands and other areas in the Camel area Coastal Segment which are not expected to be served by sewers or package treatment plants.[iv]

 

Our community has been under moratoriums of additional water connections, water rationing (see enclosed Carmel Riviera Mutual Water Co. water conservation notices), new septic system operation and construction restrictions and other development limitations (see the Carmel Highlands Onsite Wastewater Management Study.[v]

Carmel Highlands Onsite Wastewater Study

Analysis:

“I . . . highlight the water and septic issues as there is a body of evidence showing environmental concerns under the current land use provisions and “infer” that the addition of STR’s at the level of occupancy being considered will exacerbate an already existing environmental problem. My evidence is in the County’s own documents like the Carmel Highlands Wastewater Management Plan (http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=14904 ) and the CalAm decision of record not to permit new water connections in the Highlands. These environmental impacts have to be based on the assumption of increased occupancy and infrastructure stress, or at least, temporary occupancy beyond the limit of existing infrastructure capacity.

In the Carmel Highlands, there has always been a fairly high number of non-resident property ownership. It has ranged between 20% – 30% over the years with most of these properties having historically been either very occasionally or seasonally used vacation properties for their owners. Therefore, for most of the year these properties used to sit vacant and did not have substantial impacts on the environment or local infrastructure. These are the very properties that we now see being utilized as illegal vacation rentals – therefore, causing a higher level of use than existed before with the consequent increased level of environmental impacts. . .

The County is using generally accepted HUD Fair Housing Guidelines to inform their two persons per bedroom occupancy standards for the STR ordinance. These are not firm limitations and HUD has decided on many occasions to allow/enforce higher occupancy limits to redress what they determine to be illegal discrimination. One of the few arguments that can be successfully employed to limit occupancy is the lack of basic infrastructure capacity (water, sewer, etc.).

[Editor note: In the Home Stay the owner and his family live there.  Any vacation/short-term renters will be an additional use.  Also the demographic evidence is 3 persons per home avaerage.  Renters would be in addition to that.  It should also be noted that Monterey residents were particularly good at conserving water, especially during the drought.  Tourists from other areas use significantly more septic system capacity, and water.]

The Carmel Highlands community is completely surrounded by Federal, State and local parks plus natural preserve/protected areas including a number of ocean reserves. I’ve put forward additional anecdotal arguments for increased environmental impacts based on reported behaviors of STR tenants and the lack of adequate supervision and enforcement abilities in these sensitive habitat areas in and around the Carmel Highlands. . . .  For example, we have observed tenants collecting specimens from tide pools and other onshore/nearshore habitats, climbing down and damaging hazardous and environmentally sensitive cliffs, starting campfires in illegal locations and trespassing onto private property that contain sensitive habitats and cultural artifacts.”

(By Michael Emmett of Mal Paso Property Owners Association)