California Coastal Commission director under fire

January 20, 2016

Morro Bay 4Amid a battle between environmentalists and pro-development commissioners, a move to oust the California Coastal Commission executive director is under way.

On Jan. 14, Commission Chair Steve Kinsey informed Executive Director Charles Lester that the 12-member panel will consider whether to dismiss him at the commission’s February 10-12 meeting. Specifically, the commission will talk about Lister’s employment status and if it is necessary to appoint an interim executive director, according to a media release.

In response, Lester invoked his right to a public hearing rather than having the matter heard only in closed session, according to Capitol Weekly.

In 1997, Lester joined the commission staff. He became executive director in 2012.

According to Capitol Weekly, support for ousting Lester, who is generally viewed as an environmentalist, comes from a group of commissioners including several appointees of the governor. Governor appointees include Erik Howell of Pismo Beach, Wendy Mitchell and Effie Turnbull Sanders of Los Angeles, and Martha McClure of Crescent City.

The February commission meeting will be held at the Inn at Morro Bay.

The Coastal Commission, in partnership with coastal cities and counties, plans and regulates the use of land and water in the coastal zone. Those duties have led to many conflicts between property owners and environmentalists.

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mb business owner

perfect time for morro bay to head back to the coastal commission and complete their wwtp at its current site. since mayor irons, christine johnson and smuckler have made NO progress on a new plant, except for changing the price from 34 million to over 120 million. hey isn’t is just about time for reelection of this hapless group? hello morro bay is anyone paying attention?


Erik Howel lives in his parents house and lives off his Coastal Comission checks and weekends away coupled with his cell phone, stipend and bennies from Pismo Beach.Even his companion has caught the gig and took his spot on the a school district board!


Kaiser Bill

Small cities like Pismo Beach should not give benefits to part time City Council members.

That is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.


This guy has been on the commision far too long, he should have been gone a long time ago, in fact its time for the CC to be throttled back it has far too much to say in our lives.


There is no such thing, ever, as a “pro-development commissioner.”

There are rabid envirowhiners on the commission, and there are semi-rabid envirowhiners on the commission.


Was thinking along the same lines… someone must not have been marching in lock-step with the rest of the board…


The California Coastal commission was put in place to do the hard and unpopular work that our elected officials should be doing but are too cowardly. Either force the commissioners to run for office or Get rid of it! Non elected people with that much power are dangerous.


I do believe that the California Coastal Commission has lost track of the intent of the Coastal Act.


“while performing one of the vital roles of government”, which many feel is create another layer of bureaucracy and to provide a lifetime salary and benefits to another group, some that would not be able to survive in the real world.


Should have been a reply to injustice


Hi Kayaknut. The Coastal Commission does a pretty good job of maintaining beach access and keeping waters clean…….so that you and i can go kayaking. (I cant afford beachfront property)


isn’t that what we pay city councils, county board of supervisors for, why do we need another layer of bureaucracy to do something others should be doing?, except to give another group salaries, benefits and pensions. Given recent articles what we need to be doing is drastically reducing the size of government, and cutting the remaining costs.


Lets just do away with the bloated agency and let common sense un thing like it should.


Erik Howell wants to be reelected to the Pismo City council in 2016. His reelection website claims he is endorsed by developer Gary Grossman, among others. His reelection website photo shows a serene coastal backdrop. I’m wondering why it does not show a construction site or some finished condos where the ocean used to be. Oh wait, that would be truth in advertising.


…and please dont misunderstand. Im not against all development or even Mr. Grossman, per se. My career has depended on development for most of my life. I just want to assure that the Coastal Commission is able to perform its role, as intended by the majority of California voters. It makes the regulatory process more homogeneous across the state’s coastline (and this actually facilitates developers), while performing one of the vital roles of government, protecting our “commons” from over exploitation for the benefit of only few.


EXCUSE ME… but you haven’t even ascertained where Erik Howell sits on this matter before taking him to the woodshed. The article doesn’t specifically indicate, and I don’t think you should be presuming.

That said, Lester needs to go.


I think we can learn a great deal about a person based on the company they keep. Mr. Howell is also advertising an endorsement from Matt Guerrero, Director of Oceano CSD. Readers here at CCN are very aware of the OCSD klown kar kleptocracy.

Judging by some other reader comments regarding Mr. Howell, it looks like voters are paying attention and will indeed be watching how he votes.


FYI– The CCC performs a draconian role FAR BEYOND the original proposition passed by voters, and without any check or balance. Portraying any check or balance as a rampant bulldozing of environmental protection is falsehood. There exists an in-between, a too much, and a too little. Every restrained decision does not equal coastal destruction.

Kaiser Bill

Erik Howell is a tool. He claimed to be pro-schools while on the Lucia Mar board.

Then Howell tried to rip off the Lucia Mar schools from the Redevelopment money they were entitled to while he was on the Pismo Council.

Howell is a lawyer and it is little surprise that he congregates with another form of subhuman life, a developer like Gary Grossman.