Coastal Voices: Supreme Court must rein in Coastal Commission

By Roger Gitlin May 20, 2013 05:06 pm

Two events, one published and the other yet to be reported, are causing me pause.  The question that comes to my mind these days is our system of checks and balances. Both events involve the omnipotent California Coastal Commission.

Event 1: A May 9 Triplicate headline reads, “Lots at Pacific Shores Sought: Airport needs wetlands as set-aside for project.”

I rhetorically ask why property owners in the Pacific Shore development are being solicited to sell their parcels at garage sale prices. At face value it would appear that clustering those lots might help to satiate the unreasonable 4:1 acre ratio mandated by the commission to permit the expansion of the airport.

As a supervisor, I am charged with a countywide fiduciary responsibility. The property clusters newly acquired from the private sector could be turned over to a public conservancy for future wetlands considerations. The current government ownership of property in Del Norte County thereby would increase from approximately 78 percent to a higher percentage. Results: less property tax revenue generated, less services offered.

If we continue to convert private property into public lands, we remove property tax income from our already threatened ability to afford adequate public services, such as police protection, fire suppression, clean streets, quality drinking water, waste management, and a host of other public benefits.

At what cost to public safety do we add more, often inaccessible, public areas to this county? Would you prefer the ability to walk through a wild marshland to your inability to drive down a public street in your neighborhood that no longer can be maintained due to the lack of public funds? 

How do you like the sheriff’s current inability to afford more than two patrol cars per shift? Would you like to have an improved air terminal and commercial air transportation to Crescent City Airport or would you prefer to continue joining your many traveling friends who drive to the Medford, Arcata or even the San Francisco airports? These questions travel right to the root of healthy economic growth for Del Norte County.

I will oppose this measure to mitigate this condition by surrendering more private land into public hands when it appears on the supervisors’ agenda. Del Norte County should not surrender one more inch of private property to government control.

Kellogg Beach is one of the most magnificent stretches of oceanfront property in North America. Let’s consider transforming that area into a weekend RV site, peppered with energy-generating windmills. The infrastructure and power grids are already in place.  Alternatives do exist to merely throwing in the towel and waving the white flag of surrender to the commission. 

Event 2:  I am deeply concerned about the Patriot’s Point of Honor Memorial located on the junction of Front Street and U.S. Highway 101.  While the issue might not currently be on your radar screen, military veterans have been attempting for over eight years to secure a California Coastal Commission permit to construct the site.

Two weeks ago, a local veteran asked me to accompany him to Arcata to meet with Coastal Commission planner Jim Baskin to see what was needed to fulfill the requirements to finally secure that permit. To our amazement Baskin stated he was ready to recommend approval of the project. Elation overwhelmed both of us. 

That feeling was short-lived.

A certain coastal commissioner who wears other public hats in Del Norte County continues to impede the project by asking frivolous new questions and insisting that more study is needed to consider the effects of on-site illumination and how lighting would affect our local bird life.

I won’t bore you with the official language from the Coastal Commission which promises yet more delay, but I will say the fingerprints of County Supervisor/California Coastal Commissioner Martha McClure on this travesty are painfully evident.

How do we effectuate checks and balances on a powerful regulatory agency and some of its commissioners who are clearly out of control and conflicted within their own counties without any recourse or oversight from the rest of us?

Most assuredly, no political assistance can be expected from Sacramento. How does this commission operate with such complete impunity? This is one of those hot-button subjects that especially lights fires in the minds of economic developers and uncompromised elected officials.

The final answer is in the hands of the California Supreme Court — that is, if the issue can be driven initially onto the justices’ docket.  The state’s highest court has been AWOL for years.

I challenge the California Supreme Court to rein in the California Coastal Commission and compel it to act within the framework of California’s Constitution.

The Supreme Court is located at 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, CA. 94102-3888, if you wish to contact the court with your opinion.

Let’s not allow the no-growth, anti-veteran agenda of a handful of ideologues to stand in the way of the majority of constructive Del Norters and the greater good of this community. 

Roger Gitlin is the District 1 county supervisor.