Bill aims to give Coastal Commission teeth

July 16, 2013

oceanA bill providing the Coastal Commission with authority to issue fines for the first time in its 37-year history is moving through the state legislature.

The 1976 law that set up the commission permits the agency only tocollect money from people who block access to public beaches, destroy wetlands or build coastal homes without permits by taking the violators to court.

Largely unknown to the public, the agency investigates alleged violations, but 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.

The commission staff has dwindled from 212 in 1980 to 135 today and its $19 million budget is half of what it was in 1980.

The bill, AB976, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, has sparking a contentious debate between environmentalists looking to protect the coastline and business groups who distrust and dislike the commission’s “bureaucratic rules.”




  1. pasoman says:

    A government agency with shrinking staff and budget, GREAT NEWS; keep the trend going! We don’t need more government agencies overlapping with other jurisdictions!

    If we want to keep our coastline pristine, lets ALL pony up and buy it. Then we ALL can agree to keep it pristine, that’s the only “fair” way.

    (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • WiserGuy says:

      Why is THAT “the only fair way”? At one point in history nobody owned the coast and its resources were available equally to everyone and anyone. One day that changed. What was “fair” about that?

      We live in a society. To make that society function there needs to be cooperation and compromise and an attitude of that sacrifice for the greater good is something to be appreciated. If everyone operated only according to their own selfish interests, society as we know it would cease to exist and our community would descend into continuous strife, warfare, violence and a general increase in suffering. And a lot less beauty and grace.

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  2. Myself says:

    Between the Coastal comission, the Board of Supervisors, the NIMBY’s, the Greenies, you can’t get much done within a few miles of the coast, the CC needs to have its claws clipped.

    (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
    • WiserGuy says:

      What is it that you or someone you know wanst to do that the Coastal Commission is preventing you from doing, if anything?

      (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  3. Niles Q says:

    More than 1,800 cases? Wow, seems like they need a team of prosecutors, not the absolute power to fine.
    I always thought they turned their cases over to the Atttorney General’s Office for prosecution. That would be the smart thing to do, let the state’s lawyers and experts in bringing criminal cases and civil ones too take over this function.
    In my opinion, the CCC’s powers need a complete review and some changes need to be made.
    For example: why are the commissioners themselves allowed to appeal projects and then have the staff do the reports and sit in on the discussion, and vote on whether to uphold the appeal that they themselves filed?
    To me that is a blatant violation of due process and means the applicant has little chance of a fair and impartial hearing of his case.
    Every matter that comes before them is reviewed through an interpretation of the Coastal Act. Every project goes in against a moving target and you never know which CCC you’re going to get — the helpful, encouraging one or the brick wall.
    What they consider to be of top importance changes over time. Years ago they were focused on coastal access, then protecting farming, then against seawalls and now they seem to be focusing in on climate change and sea level rise, along with tsunami and storm surge hazards — a.k. coastal hazards.
    This issue alone caused the denial of the MB-Cayucos sewer plant project, which will cost the residents and businesses tens of millions more, when the project is moved out of town.
    They have done this without benefit of a public process, which normally includes initial discussions of an issue, public hearings and workshops to scope and then identify an issue — such as coastal hazards/sea level rise.
    The staff then goes out and hires a consultant to draft a policy. That policy goes throgh a full public vetting and throurgh the state clearinghouse — agencies — for comments.
    Changes are made in public, the issue returned a couple of times before being voted into effect.
    Then and only then do the people of the state know what to expect from the CCC and the commission can be held to the “letter” of the law.
    Then due process is assured (with the ability to challenge in court).
    Instead, the CCC is proceding under the recommendations in two climate change studies conducted nearly 10 years ago, with no written policy to guide them. They are literally making this up as they go along.
    So no fining authorrity for the CCC; turn the violations over to the A.G.’s Office; and review the workings and policies of the commission to ensure that policies are kept consistent and people have a chance to obey/follow the law from the get-go.
    I think all everyone really wants or can expect is to be treated fairly and consistently, and that doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

    (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
  4. WiserGuy says:

    I was born in a beach town in Florida and know first hand how horribly ugly and over-devloped the shoreline has become makes me a firm supporter of the California Coastal Commission. In once pristine, beautiful shorelines of Florida, today you literally cannot see the beach or ocean from the adjacent highway because of mile after mile of gaudy “my gawdawful towering business sign will be bigger than your gawdawful towering business sign” advertising and buildings that now line the coast like a Great Wall of China.

    Most people in California have no idea how horribly messed up our California coastline would be if it were not for the Coastal Commission and the mission VOTERS gave to it.

    (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
    • tomsquawk says:

      wg. maybe we can get rid of Oceano Dunes OHV park, put in a golf course and condos

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • WiserGuy says:

        Tom, the Coastal Commission, acting according to the wishes of the majority of California voters, would likely not allow for that.

        (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  5. tomsquawk says:

    r0y…..home run

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  6. grayotter says:

    If you don’t like the CCC move to Florida where the politicians and Big Money allowed their coastline to be filled with multistory hi rise structures, with no free trails to the private beaches and if you actually could get to a beach you’d never find a pot to P in.

    (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down

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