10 • 07 • 2021

Support SB 433 – California Coastal Commission Enforcement

SB 433 (Allen) was enacted! This bill authorizes the California Coastal Commission to levy fines on Coastal Act violators beyond only access violations.

This bill was signed into law on October 7, 2021 by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

SB 433 (Allen) will better enable the California Coastal Commission to protect the state’s coastal resources and recreational opportunities and reduce costs to the state. The Coastal Commission is charged with implementing the 1976 Coastal Act, which protects public access, sensitive habitat, low-cost recreation, and natural resources along the state’s 1,200-mile coastline. However, unlike other regulatory bodies, the Commission has very limited authority to enforce the Coastal Act. Although the Commission can issue administrative penalties for public access-related violations, it has no ability to levy fines for permit violations or unpermitted damage to wetlands, sensitive habitat, or coastal waters.

In 2014, the Commission was granted limited authority to issue administrative penalties for public access violations. In the first five years of implementation, the Commission resolved 74 percent of such cases. The average time required to close a case shrank from three years to three months. The incentive was so strong that 95 percent of elevated cases were closed with full voluntary cooperation. This demonstrates that threat of monetary penalties is the single most effective tool for quickly resolving violations without litigation. It also proves the Commission can work responsibly with landowners to achieve results for the benefit of the public.

All coastal resources deserve equal protection under the Coastal Act. Public access is a cherished right of Californians and deserves vigilant safeguarding. But coastal wetlands, streams, forests, endangered species habitat, agricultural lands, scenic viewsheds, and low-cost recreational opportunities also need protection. Currently, however, if a developer, for example, fails to comply with permit conditions or undertakes unpermitted activities such as bulldozing wetlands, diverting or discharging into coastal streams, or clearing endangered species habitat to build putting greens or gazebos, the Coastal Commission has little recourse. With little fear of consequences cases can remain unresolved for years, allowing ongoing damage to public resources and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in staff time and resources.

SB 433 will improve the Coastal Commissions ability to efficiently handle these violations and builds on the Commission’s existing, proven process that has worked so well for access violations.

Coast & Climate