Op-Ed Warns of Grave Threats to the California Coastal Act

One of the most powerful agents of environmental protection in the state of California is faced with what some believe is an existential threat.
January 28, 2016, 2pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Steve Blank pens an op-ed to raise awareness of dramatic changes at the California Coastal Commission. According to Blank, "for as long as the commission has existed, real estate developers and their lobbyists have wanted to weaken it, or dispatch it altogether. Now those efforts have reached a critical point. Lobbyists for land developers have persuaded commissioners to fire Charles Lester, the executive director of the Coastal Commission's staff."

Tony Barboza broke the news about the shakeup at the Coastal Commission, which is tasked with overseeing development along the California Coast according to powers established by the California Coastal Act of 1976.

Blank begins by celebrating the state's coast, crediting the work of the Coastal Commission in protecting "pristine coastline" and "unspoiled beaches" that are "the envy of the world." Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote similar sentiments recently in reaction to the news of the move to fire Lester.

Blank's op-ed offers perspective on the function of the Coastal Commission by comparing it to a local zoning board:

The Coastal Commission is the zoning board for the whole California coast. For example, there's a proposal to build 1,100 houses in the coastal zone in Southern California before the commission right now. At $1.5 million for each house near the ocean, that's nearly $2 billion at play. Huge sums are at stake for developers, who regularly challenge coastal staff rulings, donate heavily to politicians, and hire teams of lobbyists to persuade commissioners to make an exception for their individual project.

Blank offers more perspective by noting the irony of the current controversy: "The cabal of commissioners pushing to remove Lester are appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown — the same governor who signed the Coastal Act into law 40 years ago."

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Published on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 in Los Angeles Times
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