Coastal Commission loses bid to fine property owners
September 16, 2013
A bill seeking to provide the California Coastal Commission the authority to issue fines for the first time in its 37-year history failed.
The measure would have allowed the commission to fine people who block access to public beaches, destroy wetlands or build coastal homes without permits, instead of taking the violators to court.
AB976, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, sparked a contentious debate between environmentalists looking to protect the coastline and business groups who distrust and dislike the commission’s “bureaucratic rules.”
Proponents of the bill said that while the agency investigates alleged violations, it rarely takes any action. Currently, the agency has 1,837 backlogged cases, some dating back 20 years. In the past decade, the agency has taken only four violators to court.
Opponents of the measure, led by the California Cattlemen’s Association, argued that the bill would allow commission staffers to make life miserable for farmers and property owners who want to put up fences, grade roads or make any changes to coastal land.
The bill’s demise was sealed when three Democrats, who several months earlier voted yes, abstained in the final vote because of a last-minute change in the bill. That change would have permitted the commission to collect millions in fines from property owners for minor violations.