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.


I don’t think your opinion counts for shit unless you’ve had the experience of groveling before the Commission for the “right” right to use your land.


Coastal Commission staff salaries are “too damn high!”


mb business owner

the significant public participation hysteria was created by groups like surfrider, sierra club and others who told anyone that would listen that with the loss of lester, you would lose all control. failing to remember that lester doesn’t vote, doesn’t make policy and anyone who is the exe. dir. is “ruled” or should be by the coastal act. good to see the change and I look forward to seeing who the new exe. dir. will be.


How true. I love how almost all the people there started out by saying they represented a nonprofit and then railed against “special interest groups”! How hypocritical are these people?


Gotta love it when these people get the mic the first thing the majority of them do is list all of the ways that they are SO IMPORTANT. My name is Moonshine Rainbow and I’m the President of Citizens for Building Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything, Long Beach South Chapter, a volunteer for People Who Artificially Inseminate Dolphins.

No. Body. Gives. A. Damn.

fishing village

who else cares? Naturally Surf Rider and Sierra Club came and spoke. What did you expect?

Jorge Estrada

When I look at this photo I see an orgy preaching abstinence at a sex education convention. Really, just how much of the California Coastline has been protected from development when we are talking about tax revenues? I have learned to always compare reality, the tax funded illusion and the unfortunate bottom line, the business case. It always get down to that when we have to feed a very expensive California Government, the greatest threat to it’s own environment.


It’s a good article but there’s nothing but innuendo as to the motive for this firing. It was the enviros that made it about developers. They might have made a self fulfilling prophecy! The staff might have just thought their boss wasn’t pleasing his boss on procedure. Now maybe they will think it’s about development. But don’t forget to donate a bunch of money to the environmental groups so they can bus people in.

fishing village

the word from one who voted to kick Dr. Lester out said, development projects didn’t get through the CC fast enough for him (think the guy from Pismo?


When citizens have no say in our society, it’s time for drastic measures. Government is at a critical point of erasing our rights completely. If our so called leaders in small town politics refuse to acknowledge a majority, how do we fair against big government who have already openly sold out humans for profit. it’s open courption. Unless we start ridding the vermin as soon as they show their true agenda, the cancer grows. The coastal commission slammed the door on the majority. Time for the majority to follow this thru. Yesterday’s meeting was a clear compass of the direction the commission is heading . They no longer have public support as they clearly are willing to grab their ankles for those entities not in favor of protecting our coastline. Time to evict the commission and seat true environmentalists.


What majority? The majority of special interest shock troops that were bussed in? The majority of Californians or the majority of coastal dwellers?

It’s the commission’s staff that has been trampling on people’s property rights for decades. If this really was a developer coup they had it coming by decades of overreach. In reality, though, it was probably just annoyed bosses and you’re still going to need their ok to change the kind of toilet paper you use if you live in the coastal zone.

What you’re advocating for is called “mob rule.” You think that if a hundred hippies filibuster a meeting that government should give into their every demand? Just wait until it’s your stuff they want. Or maybe one day it would be a mob of angry property owners and developers. Then what? It’s why we have laws.

And please. Surf Rider and the rest are going to raise mucho dinero over this whole thing just to keep the pot stirred, but nothing–repeat–nothing will change.

Francesca Bolognini

As I recall, it was a vote of the majority of the citizens of California that enacted the Coastal Commission. We did not want our coast to continue to be developed. Had the Commission “compromised” with everyone who came to them (the process is called “nibbling” by lawyers in negotiations) there would be NO coastline left by now. Instead, we have the envy of the rest of the country, a feature that attracts people from all over the world. The revenue from this attraction is ENORMOUS and it will only get more valuable as time passes and those locations without protections continue to exclude the public and / or lose their environmental integrity for the benefit of the moneyed few.

Lots of the pressure, from what I gather is coming from oil interests. If you haven’t noticed, they are fracking the crap out of places, shipping the product elsewhere, failing to pay taxes and then declaring bankruptcy and absconding with the cash and leaving communities with the clean up costs. Oh, let’s not forget that Gov. Brown allows them to use the fracking waste water to irrigate your food and it can even still be labeled “organic” Exxon and Shell owned a real estate co. that has some property down south where they wanted to put a massive development and were denied. Not to mention PG&E wanting to seismic test our coastline, which would, according to the reports and everywhere else it has been done, sterilize the ocean for years (how would THAT affect our economy?) so they could keep the next Fukushima running several years longer that it already has and look for oil at the same time. The Commission told them NO. This also comes down to Dr. Lester.

Thanks to Dr, Lester, we have a plan to deal with sea level rise and shifting climate that is being studied and copied by countries all over the world. We have relatively healthy sea life here, something that cannot be said in many places anymore. This confluence of life and environment is IRREPLACEABLE. When it is “compromised” (as in DESTROYED) for short term profit by individuals, the whole future loses.

My suggestion is that if someone feels that they are not getting to do what they want to do, they should go elsewhere. Apparently you can do anything you want to in Texas, why not go there? Or Florida, Miami Beach comes to mind. Not so appealing? Gee, I wonder why?


Your recollection is as terrible as your arguments. The people voted for a temporary coastal commission and then the legislature made it permanent 4 years later. And that was almost 40 years ago.

So, now it’s not developers, it’s oil interests? And they managed to change the law by changing who is the director? That’s not how it works.

Francesca Bolognini

Thank you for wading into the TROLL FEST one would expect here. Calling people who give a damn about what we leave to our children’s children and the world is not very popular with them. Lots of calling people “the unwashed” and “hippies” and other insults,shows clearly that they did not even attend the meeting to listen to who spoke. Literally EVERYONE spoke in favor of Dr. Lester. Those who testified included all walks of life. There was a strong representation of people with PhD.s. Most of the speakers were obviously better educated than these commentators, who one could surmise from the posts, sit around in their under ware and spout off the first degrading insults that come to their minds. There were even some developers in the mix, who had had their differences with the good Dr., but they all acquiesced (look it up, TROLLS) to the fact that working with Dr,.Lester and his staff actually improved the nature of their project to better preserve the environment, serve the community and represent their business. This included the representatives of Pebble Beach Golf Course, 17 mi. Drive, etc., (TROLLS, even you may have heard of them, whom you obviously categorize as the “great unwashed”. My, my how elevated YOUR company must be!)

This is FAR from over. (TROLLS: Run tell your masters that WE ARE NOT DONE HERE.)


They will be under the lens of the press from now on.


Boy with two more days of their meeting, and a 7-5 vote, tensions will be high.

They have created their own black eye and it will take decades to heal.

Foolish short sighted decision.

Since when is HOWELL an environmentalist?


Apparently none of these unwashed masses—and I do mean unwashed—have ever had their property rights trampled on by a bunch of out of control, power mad bureaucrats.


If they won’t let you use the land then they should pay you fair market value for it.


It would never come to that if they actually followed the Coastal Act. What they’re really about is stopping any building at all from occurring.


Fire them all they have grown to powerful. It is a good place for a favor for a political pal to get rich.


Start with Jerry Brown.