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Coastal Commision Director Faces Possible Termination

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Conservationists vs. Developers
Coastal Commision Director Faces Possible Termination

By Norma Jellison, Coastal Advocate (Bodega Bay)

Efforts are underway to fire Charles Lester, the Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission.

Why should we in Sonoma County care?

Because the attack on the Executive Director is an attack on the Coastal Act and all it stands for – most importantly access to our coast; our commons.

This coup d’etat is an attempt to undermine the integrity of the Coastal Act and the Local Coastal Plans that allow each and everyone of us to go to the beaches and headlands and breathe in the ocean air, see the vistas spread out in front of us and enjoy the many treasures of the ocean and shore > boating, fishing, whale watching, tide pooling,  birding. Or, simply sitting on a headland and taking in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the Sonoma County coast.

Access to the commons is integral to who we are as Californians. Its what so many before us fought to preserve – the Bill Kortums of the world and countless citizens who stood up to “Save Our Coast” saying unimpeded access to the coast is the legacy we want for our children and grandchildren. Forever! 

And so, in 1976, Proposition 20 was passed to do so. It created the Coastal Commission, the agency, that regulates development, housing and other projects along 1,100 miles of coastline from San Diego to the Oregon border.  What is at stake in the move to fire Executive Director Lester is control over an agency that upholds the California Coastal Act. 

Many pro-development critics say the commission has been too strict, capricious and dismissive of property rights. Sound familiar? Hello Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

Environmental leaders throughout California say what this is really about is the independence of the Commission and efforts to turn the coast over to energy and development interests. Let’s not lose sight of the ongoing blocking of access to Martin’s Beach in nearby San Mateo County, despite lawsuits requiring access. Do we really want to limit access to the commons to those few who can afford to buy and seal off the coast for their exclusive use and enjoyment? 

The executive director  position has long been a target of political operatives trying to exercise more control over the Commission. Similar efforts in 1990 to oust the former executive director, Peter Douglas, failed. As Executive Director, Douglas led  major battles against offshore oil and gas leasing, housing developments and efforts to cut off beach access. 

Lets work to ensure the same failure for this coup d’etat against Executive Director Charles Lester.  

Send letters against this effort to the editor of local papers and to the Sacramento Bee (the legislators likely read it) and to the Chair of the Coastal Commission, Steve Kinsey who represents Sonoma County on the Commission and is also on the Marin County Board of Supervisors. One wonders what he is thinking being a supposed environmentalist in a very green oriented county. 

Most especially, send a letter to the Governor asking him to regain his true commitment to the environment. Ask him to recall his days as a Jesuit seminarian and Jesuit Pope Francis’ recent encyclical aimed at “every person living on this planet” that is about the environment. Ask Governor Brown to take to heart the Pope’s admonition for us to be protectors of one another and the environment.  Finally, ask him to back off on this attack on the environment, our precious California coast, and to not give this commons over to development interests, rather than leaving it intact for future generations to enjoy.