Peter Douglas steps down from Coastal Commission

August 11, 2011

Peter Douglas

After 26 years as executive director of the California Coastal Commission, Peter Douglas, an outspoken opponent of coastal development who helped write the state’s landmark Coastal Act, announced his retirement Wednesday. [Los Angeles Times]

Douglas, 68, has been fighting lung cancer, and will go on sick leave beginning Monday. He will retire Nov. 1. It’s his second bout with cancer. In 2004, he overcame throat cancer.

Douglas has been the muscle behind the nation’s strongest coastal protection law and agency; he’s spent 41 years making sure the public has access to the state’s 1,100-mile coastline, while keeping developers at bay, preserving view sheds and habitats.

His work has earned him the love of conservationists while raising the ire of developers and property owners who have fought the 12-member commission over beachside projects and public access.

State Senate President Darrell Steinberg said the preservation of California’s magnificent coastline wouldn’t have happened without Douglas, whom he called “the driving force in creating the nation’s most comprehensive coastal protections.”

“Without Peter’s unwavering voice for environmental protection and public access,” Steinberg said in a statement, “millions of Californians and visitors from around the world would have been denied the enjoyment of our pristine coastline.”

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But the result of CC actions is a preserved environment while the absence of CC actions is degradation of it. It’s the one time a little hardcore gov’t action pays off big. What’s bigger? Nothing.

Unless you take the term “developement” literally.

I gave that belief up decades ago.

Shave ALL the houses within a quarter mile of the water. Let alone let anymore build near the water. Why do I have to lose a view of the water because someone has a ton of money to pay to someone one else. It’s even worse to put a for profit biz on the water like Moron Bay’s ridiculous buildout.

Want ocean? Pay me. Nuts.

Definitely a lightening rod. Whether you thought he was a saint or a criminal seems to depend largely on whether you owned real property in his fiefdom or not.

R.Hodin, despite speaking in support, stated it perfectly: “It’s mandate for coastal protection has been continually re-interpreted and expanded by Douglas without legislative review or mandate.”

No one opposes reasonable protections. The Coastal Commission frequently operates without reason, oversight or legislative backing. They are good, and many, many times evil–even vindictive. The unilateral power of Douglas will not be missed. This day is long overdue but we can surmise his replacement won’t be much better.

Surprise response from Kevin Rice

All commissions should have oversight. Should be mandatory.

“No man is an island”…

I just knew when i saw this the haters would come out

“….and many, many times evil…..”

nothing like a little foam at the mouth hyperbole

get well, Peter, thanks for your work

When government agents come to your house with police and a warrant to inspect and don’t even allow you to record the inspection on your own property… don’t come looking for sympathy.

Yeah, upstanding career, Pete.

He’ll leave a large power vacuum behind. We can’t afford any posers replacing him. It always bothered me how much resistance they put up with. It’s the ocean and it’s spiritual effect on people that’s to be protected, not sold off.

Douglas helped craft the legislation which created the CC, which created his position, so one could say that he is indeed, for better or worse, “Mr. Coastal Commission” with power far beyond any one commissioner, and one of the most influential unelected or unappointed bureaucrats ever in the history of the state.

The commission certainly has a mixed record for the state. It’s been chronically underfunded, which contributed to it’s reputation of molasses-speed project & appeal reviews; It never had the teeth to require all coastal areas to comply with the mandate to create coastal conservation plans; It’s mandate for coastal protection has been continually re-interpreted and expanded by Douglas without legislative review or mandate. Since it’s area of work is in opposition to private interests, the list of criticisms against the commission is long and bitter.

In my lifetime, I’m very grateful to have been able to see the progress of the commission and Douglas’ many accomplishments, the good it has done for the state. If you’ve ever been to other coastal state without such protection, you know what it means.