Beach Access, Coastal Preservation, Ocean Protection, Updates, California Coastal Commission
January 22 2016

Power Grab Puts California Coastal Act at Risk

by Amanda Winchell

California's coast is in peril, facing the greatest threat in 40 years. Click HERE or scroll to the end of this article to learn what you can do.


Created by the California Coastal Act of 1976, the mission of the California Coastal Commission, an independent state agency, is to protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use today, tomorrow and for future generations. Coastal Commissioners and staff are tasked with upholding the primary mandate of the California Coastal Act: to permanently protect the California coast, our “distinct and valuable natural resource of vital and enduring interest to all people and exists as a delicately balanced ecosystem.”

This means they are to protect your RIGHT to beach access (from the mean high tide line to the water…that’s all you, baby!), to protect our coastline and waters from damaging development (yeah, that mansion someone wants to build on a coastal bluff and is a rain-storm away from collapsing…shouldn’t be permitted), and when irresponsible oil companies bust a pipe and ruin your local coastal sanctuary…the Coastal Commission is supposed to be there to protect our California coastline through enacting the Coastal Act.

For over 20 years, advocates have been producing an annual vote chart of the state’s most powerful land use agency. This "annual report card" coalesced in 2013 with the formation of ActCoastal, collaboration between the Surfrider Foundation, WILDCOAST and Environment California. ActCoastal reviews the most significant items from each Commission meeting and records each Commissioner's votes as “positive” or “negative” based on anticipated impacts to coastal resources and potential to set statewide precedent. It is a historical record of how well Commissioners are upholding California’s landmark legislation, the Coastal Act.

In 2015, in a series of important and controversial decisions, Commissioners weighed in on impacts of private development on public trust lands and beach access, and protection of special places including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA).

The Coastal Commission's average conservation score in 2015 was 47 percent, down from an overall score of 71 percent in 2014. These low scores recorded in 2015 are indicative of a larger problem: A Commission regularly voting against the interest of our public coastal resources. The California Coastal Commission is clearly headed in the wrong direction, failing to adequately protect our coast and risking the public access rights promised to all Californians.

And now the scary part…as of this week, an effort is underway to fire Coastal Commission Executive Director who has shown to be a coastal champion protecting our coastline and our access to it.

This is more than an assault on Executive Director Lester, it's an attack on the Coastal Act. The most pro-development commissioners with the worst environmental voting records are attempting a coup to weaken the Commission’s ability to protect the public’s coast and undermine the integrity of the Coastal Program.

And we cannot sit idly to let that happen.  We must support a responsible Coastal Commission by asking for transparency in their actions and for Executive Director Lester to be able to continue doing his good work. You can do this by:

  • Act on the action alert.
  • Show your support for a Coastal Commission that protects the coast and attend the Feb 10 hearing! A public hearing on the Coastal Commission Executive Director’s termination- and thus, the direction of the Coastal Commission- will be held Wednesday, Feb. 10 in Morro Bay. We need you to join us at the hearing! Funding is available for coastal-conscious citizens to attend! Please indicate your interest by submitting your information here.

  • Share your opinion! Writing letters to your local paper is a great way to make your voice heard. If you want to get your thoughts out there and need some supporting information check out this document.

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