Friday, October 8, 2010


Coastal Commission Voting Trends for 2009

Today marks the release of the 2009 California Coastal Commission Conservation Voting Chart, which measures the pro-conservation scores of the California Coastal Commission, the State’s most powerful land use agency, charged with the protecting our 1,100 mile coastline. The voting chart is produced by Surfrider Foundation, California Coastkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Coastal Protection Network, and League for Coastal Protection. The Chart reports and analyzes the most important coastal votes of 2009. The 25 votes in this year’s chart involve significant coastal issues decided by the Commission during their twelve monthly meetings in 2009, including the shoreline armoring efforts in Capitola and Santa Barbara, as well as the final go-ahead for largest desalination facility in North America. The voting chart is designed to illuminate individual Commissioners’ voting sensitivities. In addition, the report illustrates the relative successes and failures of the appointments made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate Rules Committee led by Darrell Steinberg, and then Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass. The scoring information in the 2009 chart is also intended to inform the upcoming Commission appointments. Commissioners seats up for appointment or reappointment include those of Commissioners Sara Wan, Bill Burke, Pat Kruer and Ross Mirkarimi.

This year's Chart clearly displays a trend toward conservation voting amongst the Commissioners. The total Commission Conservation Voting score went up markedly from 38% in 2008 to 66% in 2009. This is an increase of 28 percentage points, which is undoubtedly due to the wisdom of the new appointments to the Commission in 2009, including three of the top four scores of Commissioners Mark Stone (100%), Ross Mirkarimi (95%), and Ester Sanchez (75%). Importantly, the appointments of Stone and Sanchez helped to reflect on the Speaker of the Assembly's appointment score, which increased from 31% in 2008 to 69% in 2009.

This year's Chart reports on several important votes that included Surfrider Foundation participation. Beach management and shoreline armoring issues were featured in the Santa Barbara Goleta Beach and Pacifica Swan Valley decisions. Even though the Commission voted favorably on these projects in order to prevent future armoring and sand loss, the Commission has failed to come up with a proactive alternative to "emergency" seawall permits. These emergency permits continue to allow for armoring the California coastline with minimal public input, analysis of alternatives or redress. As evidenced by the Mariposa Land Company decision in this Chart, these "emergency" permits can allow seawalls to persist for years or even decades, without proper forethought or review.

Nonetheless, Surfrider will continue to monitor the activity of the California Coastal Commission and ensure that the Commission is fulfilling its legislative charge to protect, conserve, restore and enhance environmental and human resources of the California coast.

To view the 2009 Chart, click here.

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