California Legislature considering granting more powers to Coastal Commission

March 28, 2013 | By PAUL BEARD

The California Legislature is considering two bills that would grant the California Coastal Commission—already perhaps the Nation’s most powerful land-use agency—even more power over property owners.

Assemblyman (and ex-Coastal Commissioner) Mark Stone is sponsoring AB 203, which would allow the Commission to halt the processing of a landowner’s permit application if its staff claims that the landowner has an existing Coastal Act “violation” on the subject property.  The owner would be afforded no due process in a court of law to resolve the staff’s claim of violation; the staff’s allegation is all it would take to deprive an owner of his right to make further use of his property.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins is sponsoring the second bill: AB 976.  That bill would dramatically expand the Coastal Commission’s enforcement authority by allowing it to directly impose administrative civil penalties against landowners for alleged violations.  Currently, the Commission can pursue an alleged violator only by suing him in a court of law, where due process protections are provided.  The bill would essentially make the Commission judge, jury, and executioner in enfcorcement actions.

A number of organizations—like the California Association of Realtors, the California Chamber of Commerce, and the California Farm Bureau—have jointly filed letters opposing the bills.  The AB 203 letter and the AB 976 letters both provide good information about what the bills would do and why they may be problematic.

The Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee will take up both bills on Monday, April 1.