Beach Access, Coastal Preservation, Know Your H20, Ocean Friendly Gardens, Water Quality
October 03 2014

California Coast Scores During Legislative Season

by Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

Last year’s legislative season in California was a bust for the coast and ocean.  In 2013, Surfrider worked on ten coastal and ocean protection bills, and only two bills were signed into law.  Surprisingly, this year’s season was the opposite and very successful.  Surfrider actively worked on more than a dozen bills and the Governor recently signed nine of those bills into law.

Talk about a game-changer for the coast.  Below are the new laws now “on the books.”  Surfrider wants to thank all of our supporters who sent letters and made phone calls to their elected officials—you ultimately helped establish these important coastal laws. Well done!

California Passes First Statewide Bag Ban.

After six years and eight attempts to phase out plastic bag pollution, Surfrider and our partners were successful in helping implement SB 270.  SB 270 requires grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience/liquor stores to phase out the use of “single-use” plastic bags. Consumers must now bring their own bags, and if they forget, they may purchase a paper or reusable plastic bags for 10-cents.  Plastic bag pollution is not only environmentally destructive to our waterways and oceans, but the ‘cleanup costs’ associated with plastic bags is enormous (roughly costing California between 34 million to 100 million dollars annually).  This is an important environmental and economic victory.

Martin’s Beach Access Bill Singed.

Governor Brown signed SB 968—a bill that requires a timeline and process for the State Lands Commission to restore public access to Martin's Beach.  The bill directs the Commission to enter into negotiations (for a period of one year) with the landowner who has blocked public access; and if at the end of that year negotiations have not been fruitful, State Lands can opt to use other mechanisms to restore public access.  Surfrider has been working since 2008 to “Save Martin’s Beach.” Check out our blog.

New Law Allows HOA Residents to Plant Drought Tolerant Landscaping Without Being Fined

The Governor signed AB 2104 into law to clarify that homeowners in common interest developments (like HOAs) can plant “climate appropriate landscaping” without fear of being fined.  Unfortunately some residents have been fined by HOAs for planting drought tolerant landscaping and this law ends that practice. The law will ultimately help improve water supply, water quality, and more.  Landscaping is the largest residential water use, consuming 30%-70% of water useage, depending on where one lives in California.

Climate Change Adaptation Incorporated into State Budget

In June of 2014, the Governor officially signed the State budget to include the establishment of the “Climate Resilience Account” which gives $3 million to coastal agencies to address Sea Level Rise and Climate Change. Surfrider advocated for coastal protection in the budget process and we are delighted to see such progressive measures to effectively plan for Climate Change.

Budget Victory for Coast

The 2015 State budget includes $3M in funding (over four years) for the Coastal Commission to partner with local governments to complete and update Local Coastal Programs (LCPs).  LCPs are the backbone of the Coastal Act and how local communities properly plan and protect our vast coastline.  Unfortunately, many coastal communities have not completed their plans and most have not updated their plans in 20-30 years; so the additional funds are much needed and will help the State protect coastal resources at the local level.  

Coastal Commission Receives Authority to Fine Coastal Act Violators.

In yet another “budget victory”, the Commission will now be able to pursue fines when individuals do not comply with the Coastal Act—for example when private landowners posts illegal “no parking” or no “beach access” signs.  Of the 2,000 outstanding Coastal Act violations, the majority of cases are from illegal efforts to block public access.  This new Coastal Commission authority protects the public’s right to access the beach.

Governor Signs Bill to Boost Water Supplies and Curb Ocean Pollution

The signage of this law makes it easier for public agencies in California to fund and build projects that capture and reuse stormwater and urban runoff.  The bill, AB 2403, formally clarifies the definition of “water” under Prop 218 (passed by voters in 2002) to include urban runoff and all other potential water sources. Recognizing that stormwater has become a valuable source of local water supply, Surfrider advocated for this bill because we believe it’s vital to capture urban runoff and stormwater and recharge our groundwater systems.

Governor Signs Rapid Water Quality Testing Bill

The passage of SB 1395 allows county public health officials to use an “early alert” system that tests water quality at local beaches and provides much faster results than the current method.  The new method would produce testing results within hours, instead of the current 24 to 48 hours waiting period.  This bill not only strengthens water quality protection, but will also increase public safety, as ocean users will know in “real time” what pollutants are present.

Governor Signs Bill to Improve Coastal Commission Transparency

Governor Brown signed AB 474, legislation that would improve the transparency of individual meetings with California Coastal Commissioners.  AB 474 provides an update to the current requirements.   Currently, Commissioners must only disclose individuals who initiated a meeting.  Under the new law, Commissioners must disclosure the identity of everyone who participates in ex parte communications. Surfrider supported this bill because it is important the Commission is operating in an open, transparent, and impartial manner.