40 Years of the California Coastal Act

40 Years of the California Coastal Act


The Coastal Act came out of a movement of activists sort of joining forces. It was a ballot referendum and people voted on
it. The people of California wanted this law and by and large stand by it today
we want to preserve our natural resources as public goods as things that
we can count on. One of the big mandates of the California Coastal Act which is
the law under which the California Coastal Commission works is to maximize
public access to and along the coast. In other words the California coast is for
all citizens of California and the world. The Coastal Act is really a radical idea
that the coast belongs to all people and that it’s going to be protected for the
use and enjoyment and long term needs of everyone in California. It designated a
coastal zone, it appointed a Coastal Commission to regulate development and
the whole purpose is to preserve our coast in a more natural space that
protects our recreational opportunities, it protects our sensitive habitats, it
protects our public resources and public views. On the 40th anniversary of the
California Coastal Act we wanted to take a look at how access issues and
challenges are changing today and what is the state of access to the coast for
Californians today. Our coast is still used for economic activity but the
Coastal Act says that you’ve got to balance that with the needs of people
who live here in California and people’s right to really enjoy sacred place and
sacred lands. That’s made California fundamentally different where you might
have in another state an area where some incredibly wealthy person owns this land
and they can say you know nobody’s allowed here. If you look at other states,
New Jersey, Florida, a lot of them have development right up to the beach, it’s
impossible to actually get there, and so we had the Coastal Act sort of in place
I think just in time to preserve a lot of our access and a lot of
natural pristine coastline. You can have the most wealthy Hollywood celebrity or
kind of tech tycoon who can buy a gorgeous multi-million dollar beachfront
mansion and regular people are still allowed to go to the beach right in
front of it. Ultimately our public resources in California such as our
public beaches our beautiful coastline they belong to all Californians and
that’s what the Coastal Act codified into law. The Coastal Act has made that a
different experience for people in California. I think that promise isn’t
fully fulfilled for communities like Oxnard, communities like Wilmington in LA
or Barrio Logan in San Diego whose coasts really haven’t fully been
restored for those communities and whose coasts really are still primarily used
for industry but the fact that the Coastal Act says that this is supposed
to be for the public gives something to envision. The Coastal Act is giving a
direction that says we’ve got to take this back for the people. It was a result
both of concerted citizen activism and advocacy and organizing as well as
enlightened leadership in the California Legislature to push it through. It’s not
as if there wasn’t resistance at the time there was as there still is to some
of the efforts of the Coastal Commission in particular you know to protect the
coast. Well the Coastal Commission has been
very good to our city and has helped us protect what is important on the coast
for us. Enlightened political leadership also often comes from citizens making sure
that their legislators know that they care about the coast, that it’s important
to them, that they want it protected and that they want to have access to it.
Citizen activism and advocacy and passion, caring, voting, for the coast, is
going to continue to be essential for protecting the California coast.
Oftentimes when we take kids out here for the very first time and we ask them
whose beach is this? They’ll point at me or they’ll point at one of my staff and
it’s really thanks to the California Coastal Act and the work of the
Commission and the Conservancy that our answer is actually no. The beach and the
coast belongs to everyone including you and your family. That right is written
into our state law. I can really see the power of the Coastal Act in their faces
when they understand that this is an area for them as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *