March 25, 2010

Court of Appeal endorses Coastal Commission's near-limitless power over human activities

By Court of Appeal endorses Coastal Commission's near-limitless power over human activities

Author:  Paul J. Beard II

Today, the California Court of Appeal ruled that a 15-minute, Fourth-of-July fireworks display on private property in Gualala, California, is a "development" that may be regulated by the California Coastal Commission through its permitting process.  The reason?  A fireworks display emits "gaseous" and "solid" waste. 

With this decision, the Coastal Commission likely will argue that there is no limit to the human activities that it can regulate.  Undoubtedly, the Commission triumphantly will declare that when, where, and how individual freedom is exercised in the coastal zone are questions that it can decide.  It would not be surprising if the Commission began demanding permits from individuals who enter the coastal zone, on the theory that mere breathing, walking, or driving is  "development" requiring its permitting oversight.  Of course, this is not what California's Legislature or electorate had in mind when the Coastal Act was enacted in 1976.

The Gualala Festivals Committee–a nonprofit community group that sponsors the annual display–is considering whether to take its fight to the California Supreme Court.  Stay tuned.

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