Bill aims to give Coastal Commission teeth
July 16, 2013
A 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.”