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Letter: California Coastal Commission May be Weakened by a Firing

February 4, 2016
Kevin Nelson, San Clemente 

Since the 1970s, the Coastal Commission has been the protector of last resort for so many environmental issues.

But the Commission’s executive director might lose his job due to the politics of greed and over-development.

Here is a small sampling of the agency’s achievements:

  • A toll road would now be rammed through San Onofre State Park. Despite immense pressure, the Commission killed this travesty at a 2008 Del Mar Fairgrounds hearing packed with 3,000 enthusiastic protesters, keeping the park and Trestles as originally conceived. (I attended this rare event when people showed how much they cared.)
  • Banning Ranch in Newport Beach, although a piece of amazing habitat and land to be considered by the agency in March, would be buried beneath condos.
  • Marblehead in San Clemente would be much more densely packed without the public trails and arroyo preservation the Commission required.
  • Crystal Cove between Corona Del Mar and Laguna would be covered by Newport Coast homes right to the bluff edges.
  • Beaches in communities like ours would not be accessible without the strong enforcement policies written into the California Coastal Act.
  • The action to push out a key executive in the Commission risks the long-term health of this agency. Though it probably has imposed unnecessary delays on many small projects, it’s the best tool we’ve got for environmental protection.
  • If a development-first mindset succeeds in firing Executive Director Charles Lester at their upcoming February hearing in Morro Bay, we will lose a man with strong allegiance to the ethics of conservation.