Coastal Commission chief fired in Morro Bay

February 11, 2016


At the conclusion of a jam-packed meeting in Morro Bay, the California Coastal Commission voted 7-5 to fire its executive director, Charles Lester.

Hundreds of environmentalists and supporters of Lester converged upon the Morro Bay Community Center Wednesday in an attempt to save his job. For about seven hours, speaker voiced support of the Coastal Commission chief.

Lester is widely considered an environmentalist. In advance of the meeting, reports circulated in the media saying pro-development commissioners, particularly those appointed by California Gov. Jerry Brown, supported ousting Lester.

On Wednesday night, all four of Brown’s appointees to the commission, including Pismo Beach Councilman Erik Howell, voted to fire Lester.

Before the meeting and during public deliberation, several commissioners said the move to fire Lester had to do with his job performance and nothing to do with pro-development sentiments. Commissioners cited poor communication by staff as one of the reasons the board had been considering terminating Lester for more than a year.

Lack of diversity in the commission staff, poorly organized meeting agendas and problems with taking direction were also raised as issues.

Lester invoked his right to a public hearing, but the vote on his firing occurred in closed session. Most of the commissioners who voted to fire Lester did not publicly explain their votes.

After the vote was announced, Lester said he was disappointed but thankful for being able to serve. Police officers then escorted some of the commissioners out of the community center.

Lester had worked for the commission staff since 1997. He became executive director in 2011.



  1. fishing village says:

    This is a black eye for Morro Bay, as we all look around and enjoy our open space we assume it will always be like this, but that isn’t so! If we don’t stick up for what is beautiful, open and wild it could be covered with housing projects, a shopping center and who knows what else with the ‘economic development’ current council on the run. We must be careful of wave generated electricity and what will be built out at sea (wind turbines have a terrible reputation with bird life. (kills them). So, we have a pro development Coastal Commission which has always stood between our beautiful open spaces, available to the whole population (regardless of money, some areas you have to pay to go to the beach) there are a lot of projects coming before the CC , so we can only guess many more will rush to submit them now that the word is out. Environmentalists need to read the agendas for the CC and speak up or our lives may change–for the worst! We have a pro development Council in Morro Bay, so having the Director fired here must have pleased them! I think it is a black eye for Morro Bay. Peter Douglas, former Director, helped Dr. Lester become the best man for the job. What could Gov. Brown have been thinking? I thought he cared about open spaces and a beautiful coast, I GUESS NOT. Stay tuned those who care.

    (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
  2. Gordo says:

    The Coastal Commission is a nightmare to deal with. They take absurdity to new levels and Dr. Lester was the architect.

    I am not talking about fat cat millionaires wanting to build a beach house. The commission has been the bane of every coastal government trying to maintain its coastal infrastructure.

    Case in point, San Simeon CSD has a stairway that is eroding and could collapse. On one hand the commission wants coastal access and thretens fines if it is not maintained and yet on the other hand they throw up hoops and hurdles to getting the stairwell fixed because it involves excavation, backfilling, etc.

    I hope firing Lester will make the commission more attentive to helping local government promote public safety, health and coastal access when coastal zones are involved.

    (14) 34 Total Votes - 24 up - 10 down
  3. racket says:

    It is telling that Lester is universally revered by the enviro-activists. Perhaps too cozy a relationship.

    (9) 39 Total Votes - 24 up - 15 down
  4. pasodowny says:

    Maybe Lester and his crew should have been more objective when it comes to Oceano Dunes. Instead they were spoon fed lies and innuendo by the APCD.

    (19) 45 Total Votes - 32 up - 13 down
  5. Rambunctious says:

    I couldn’t find a place to park my car in town all damn day. All of that carbon….the horror!

    (19) 37 Total Votes - 28 up - 9 down

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