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Farming for Developers: Coastal Commission Stories

Steve Blank Blog Post

Excerpt from the full post at link above:

"The California coast is a panorama of open farm fields and hundreds of miles of undeveloped land. Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) follows the coast for almost the entire length of the state. The kind of road you see in car ads and movies, it looks like it was built to be driven in a sports car with the top down. The almost 400-mile coast drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is one of the road trips you need to do before you die.

With 39 million people in the state, there’s no rational reason there aren’t condos, hotels, houses, shopping centers and freeways, wall-to-wall for most of the length of our state’s coast (instead of just in Southern California). The Coastal Act saved California from looking like the coast of New Jersey.

Almost 40 years ago the people of California passed Proposition 20 – the Coastal Initiative – and in 1976, the state legislature followed with the Coastal Act, which created the California Coastal Commission. Essentially the Coastal Commission acts as California’s planning commission of last resort for all 1,100 miles of the California coast.

Thanks to the Coastal Act and the Coastal Commission, generations of Californians and our visitors enjoy the most pristine and undeveloped coast in the country, with recreation and access for all. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

The downside is that the coastal zone has the strictest zoning and planning requirements in the country. As a new commissioner I learned quickly what developers would do to bypass those requirements."


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Builders on the coast will be laughed at as their constructions tumble into a rising sea. Scientists predict sea level rise of as high as 4 feet by 2100 -- and much more if we do not change the rate of increase of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A gentle graphic from the Union of Concerned Scientists does not show the horrible changes we can expect, just a few:

Disheartening, but not surprising, that this guy was appointed a Coastal Commissioner without knowing these basics, as well as many others. If the intent was to protect the remaining and diminishing values of California's coastal region according to all the highfalutin, sappy language of Chapter One, then a new Coastal Act fixing the shortcomings of the one of 1976, was already necessary in 1989 (at least that's when I became aware of it). But I, and many others, were already aware of another fact: The Coastal Act, itself, was created by the California legislature to soften, circumvent, and lay the groundwork for defeat of as many directives of Proposition 20 as it could get away with at the time. For the naive, a critical reading of Prop. 20 side by side with the Coastal Act of 1976, as now amended, will be an eye-opener.

Beyond the Act, almost every coastal county and incorporated city LCP seeks to further weaken the Act's mandates in at least a few ways that serve local developer and other monied interests--whatever the creating government of an LCP can get approved by the 12 highly political appointees on the Coastal Commission.

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