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The California Coastal Commission's voting record: not so activist?

Faria_beach To hear the fixers and property rights activists tell it, the California Coastal Commission is a ferociously activist agency that terrorizes homeowners and developers alike along the state's famous coastline. Its dozen commissioners have the power to determine the fate of everything from developing a new golf course to expanding the garage of any home in the coastal zone. But is it so tough?

Not according to the self-avowed Coast Huggers, who keep tabs on key votes. The Sierra Club activists and others who follow the commission's business say the commissioners voted in favor of protecting the coast only 44% of the time during  26 key votes in 2007. Of course, such a tally is a bit subjective. But the vote analysis has been done for decades by the same coastal activists, who point out that today's batch of appointees are far less likely to hold back development in the name of the Coastal Act than most of their predecessors in the last 20 years.

"The chart underscores the dismal failure of Gov. Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker [Fabian] Nunez to walk the talk," said Mark Massara, a Sierra Club lawyer who has dogged the commission for years. "Their administrations have been characterized by speechmaking and rhetoric on the environment, while their commissioners' votes tend toward coastal development and coastal disfigurement."

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: Faria Beach homes, protected by a sea wall, at high tide. Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

 
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Mark Massara, Sierra Club and many other non profit groups have done nothing but good work in preserving our precious coastline. If it were not for these groups and the Coastal Act our coastline would be nothing but another development. The CCC is very necessary in ensuring the Coastal Act is upheld. Many beachfront developments and roads were constructed before the Coastal Act and many should have never been built in the first place. Why do we as human beings think that everything needs to be torn up and turned into buildings and concrete? Why do we want to turn everything into a crowed, polluted, unhealthy and even stressful environment? Why don't we care about how our actions affect others or our environment? Money is not everything, some of the best things in life are free. I'll take the scenic view instead any day.

Brian:

Please cite a single instance where the threat of a Coastal commission appeal has been used to thwart a good project.

I'm aware of instances where actual appeals have either improved projects or thwarted projects that were bad for the coast. I'm not aware of any where the mere threat of an appeal has kept any project, good or bad, from being completed.

If you know of any, please tell us.

Quoting Mark Massara as having "dogged" the Coastal Commission for years is ludicrous. He counts them as an "ally" in many respects. Any criticism he offers to them is very slight. He works with other Sierra Club operatives to hide inconvenient facts and provide misinformation whenever possible. And some treat him as some sort of great "protector." The guy is not "protecting" anything except for his ocean view in San Francisco.

Paul offers a few morsels of how the Coastal Commission has actively worked against law-abiding California citizens in public, however, the real story is told at the staff level. Local governments and self-proclaimed "environmentalists," many of whom do not care any more or less about endangered species or natural resources than most people, use the threat of Coastal Commission action, appeal or sanction as a large hammer to thwart even good projects that will serve communities.

Brian

"The chart underscores the dismal failure of Gov. Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker [Fabian] Nunez to walk the talk," said Mark Massara, a Sierra Club lawyer who has dogged the commission for years. "Their administrations have been characterized by speechmaking and rhetoric on the environment, while their commissioners' votes tend toward coastal development and coastal disfigurement."

This quote says it all. Schwarzenegger has been an environmental disaster for this state because his rhetoric placates the busy, well-intentioned citizens, while his actions serve only Big Business, especially Big Development, Big Energy and Big Insurance.

What opponents of the Coastal Commission seem to forget is that ALL of us moved here for the oceans and beaches, not just the few thousand who are sitting smack on the coast. We ALL pay a premium for our properties because of the oceans, and we ALL pay to maintain the quality of life they provide. If you want to threaten the enjoyment of the rest of us by building an atrocious McMansion with a cheap, defective septic tank, then you are the worst kind of socialist - you want US to pay for all your benefits - financially and environmentally, while you privatize OUR natural resources.

We need a much stronger Coastal Commission and land use/building code in general - our mountains and deserts are also very much at risk from greedy, selfish mercenaries. The natural beauty of SoCal is the only thing that makes it worth living here, and we ALL benefit from preserving it.

From a property rights perspective, the Coastal Commission IS among the most abusive, power-hungry of all state bureaucracies. It is driven by a fanatical staff -- led by self-avowed socialist Peter Douglas -- that seeks to appropriate to the State the entire coastal zone (for no payment of just compensation) and to stop human development wherever it rears its "ugly" head.

Just in the last decade, the Commission has, among other things: (1) unsuccessfully demanded that a coastal property owner move his planned home to an undesirable corner of his lot in order to protect the views of boaters and kayakers; (2) successfully (thus far) put a stop to a 15-minute annual fireworks display for the Fourth of July, in order to protect nesting birds a mile away; (3) unsuccessfully sought to take control over a local parochial school's remodeling project on the basis that two dry drainage courses on the property were "streams" under the Coastal Act.

We, attorneys at the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Nation's oldest and most respected property rights legal organization, have been involved -- and continue to participate -- in many cases against the Commission.

Of course, the root of the problem is the Coastal Act itself, which essentially makes all private property in the coastal zone "public property" so that individuals must seek permission from the Commission for any change whatsoever to the use or development of their properties. Coastal property owners are subject to the whims of the Commission, its staff, and anti-property rights lawyers like the Sierra Club's Mike Massara.

If the Commission of late has allowed more projects to pass than unusual, it is because of dwindling resources and the realization that a permit denial would not survive legal challenge. This is a good thing.

For more information on the Commission from a property rights perspective, please go to www.coastalhorrors.org, which discusses Pacific Legal Foundation's Coastal Land Rights Project.


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