A Message From the Field

By | Blog

Hi, my name is Gemma Luther and I am interning for CERF this summer monitoring water quality. This past week I took a walk along the Escondido Creek bike path to find a monitoring access point and get a sense of this part of the Creek and its tributaries. While there was little to no trash in the Creek, I was appalled by the green layer of algae that seemed to coat the bottom of the concrete-lined channel and the amount of sediment build-up along the sides. Both of these are strong visual indicators that the Creek receives excess nutrients and sediment, likely from prohibited discharges. The excess nutrients can trigger sudden and rapid blooms of plants, bacteria, and algae that are harmful to the aquatic environment. While this is not uncommon, it’s also not acceptable. Nutrients occur naturally, but an influx of nutrients into water bodies such as Escondido Creek comes from human activities and sources. Two of the major sources of nutrients are fertilizers and soaps which enter water bodies as runoff from storm drains due to over irrigation. Along Escondido Creek, storm drains were flowing into the Creek, indicating potential over irrigation upstream since it hadn’t rained recently. The Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits these types of non-storm (rain) water flows.

So what can we do to fix this? First and foremost, the quality of impaired water bodies in San Diego needs to be more closely monitored so that the CWA can be properly enforced in order to protect our clean drinking water supplies, water recreational activities, and wildlife. In addition to programmatic changes, as individuals we can take small steps that make a big difference. At home, minimize use of fertilizers and check for outdoor leaks and overwatering. Better yet, replace lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping. Instead of washing your car at home, take it to a car wash where the soapy water can be conserved, recycled, and contained onsite. These small changes limit the amount of nutrients and other pollutants entering water bodies.

This summer, I will be doing my part to try to fill in water quality monitoring gaps in order to help inform CWA enforcement and policies. Check back soon for updates!

Along Escondido Creek (33.1316396147047, -117.06768748883388)


About Gemma: I am an incoming Senior at the University of Miami majoring in Marine Science and Biology with a minor in Ecosystem Science and Policy. I was born and raised in San Diego and grew up with a large appreciation for the ocean. I hope by doing water monitoring I am able to help fill gaps in data so the Clean Water Act goals of fishable, swimmable waters can be attained.

Fun Fact: My favorite marine mammal is the vaquita and is the reason I am interested in going into environmental policy!








Suit Filed Against City of San Clemente in Effort to Halt Unlawful Zoning Regs

By | Cities

On Nov. 26, 2018, Coast Law Group LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Plaintiffs San Clemente Coastal Access Alliance and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation against the City of San Clemente. The groups challenge the City’s enforcement of its short-term lodging unit restrictions within San Clemente’s coastal zone.

Plaintiffs challenge the City’s unlawful enforcement of its Short-Term Lodging Unit (STLU) Zoning Regulations without the required approval from the Coastal Commission. Not only is the City’s enforcement of the regulations unlawful, it negatively impacts the public’s access to vacation rentals, which are often used by visitors seeking low cost accommodations. According to a recent statewide study conducted by Probolsky Research for the California Coastal Conservancy, while 51 percent of white California residents say they stay overnight when they visit the beach, 74 percent of Latinos, 70 percent of Asians and 64 percent of African-Americans say they do not, with price being the main reason.

The City declined Plaintiffs’ settlement offer at its December 18th meeting, opting instead to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on attorney fees. Plaintiffs will seek a preliminary injunction to stop the City from enforcing its regulations until the Coastal Commission has a chance to review and approve them.

Plaintiffs’ Petition for Writ of Mandate can be accessed here. 

Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the enforcement of environmental laws, raising public awareness about coastal environmental issues, encouraging environmental and political activism, and defending natural resources in coastal areas.

San Clemente Coastal Access Alliance is a community group that was organized for the purpose of representing the interests of the public in assuring compliance with the State’s environmental and land use laws and the Coastal Act.