Updates, California Coastal Commission
May 18 2016

Time has come to clean house

by Jennifer Savage

Ever since the California Coastal Commission blew up in February, more alarming news about questionable Commissioner behavior has confirmed the public’s fears: these 12 Commissioners charged with protecting our coasts don't have its best interest in mind. A sampling:

  • Commissioner Greg Cox was fined $3,000 for conflict-of-interest for voting on a Sea World permit when his wife owned stock in the company.
  • Commissioners Martha McClure and Erik Howell are under an ethics investigation regarding campaign donations received, respectively, from the domestic and business partner of Susan McCabe, California’s most influential coastal development lobbyist.
  • Commissioner Mark Vargas  attended a U2 concert in Ireland last year just before voting to allow the band’s guitarist, David “The Edge” Evans to move forward with a Malibu development fiercely protested by environmentalists.
  • After voting to approve the same project, Commissioner Wendy Mitchell posted a photo of herself and The Edge on Facebook, along with an apology for how long it took the commission to approve the project.
  • Commission Chairman Steve Kinsey admitted failing to submit required reports regarding two visits in the last several months with developers at the site of the controversial Newport Banning Ranch development, a project for which Kinsey challenged the staff’s science on the anticipated damage to an environmentally sensitive habitat.

Additionally, both Commissioners Vargas and McClure have openly cussed at members of the public and the media, doling out f-bombs with the same ease they cast bad votes.

If you’re wondering how individuals charged with stewarding California’s most valuable asset could get away with violating the public trust, you’re not alone. The movement sparked by the unwarranted and unexplained firing of then-Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester has only grown. As an organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the ocean, beaches and waves, Surfrider has long been on the front lines – and we’re stepping up once again, making #SaveOurCoast a priority campaign.

After all, if a majority of our Coastal Commissioners is willing to sell out California’s coast, what will become of our Golden State? From saving the break in Malibu to eliminating dioxin dumping off the shores of Humboldt Bay, California’s role in Surfrider’s history is unparalleled. The California Coastal Act of 1976 made clear the public’s right to access and desire to protect our state’s shores. Coastal Commission staff is charged with assessing how well proposed development projects comply with the Act and Commissioners are obligated to defend it.

Or at least, that’s the thought. And while the staff consistently does a great job, the current batch of Commissioners has proven – repeatedly – that public concerns are not theirs. As Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote, the time has come to clean house. Join us. It’s time to #SaveOurCoast.

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