February 3, 2011

Santa Barbara County bravely defies Coastal Commission

By Santa Barbara County bravely defies Coastal Commission

Author: Paul J. Beard II

In California, coastal cities and counties are encouraged to draft their own land-use codes in compliance with the requirements of the Coastal Act, a state statute that sets broad rules for coastal development.  These codes (made a part of the locality's "Local Coastal Program") must be certified by the California Coastal Commission.  The Commission can withhold certification and make recommendations for improvements to a Local Coastal Program draft, but it cannot write the Program for the municipality.

For years, Santa Barbara County has had its own certified Local Coastal Program.  But when it came time to update the Program, the Commission saw an opportunity to use its certification leverage to suggest modifications harmful to the County's property owners and to local autonomy.  For example, the Commission suggested that a Coastal Development Permit be required simply to add animals to coastal property (like a farm or ranch), and that new private bluff stairways on private property be prohibited! 

After years of wrangling over these issues, the County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to reject the Commission's "recommendations."  As one Supervisor explained his vote against the Commission, "I believe strongly in not taking away people's personal property rights."  How refreshing to hear government officials actually talk about—and be motivated by—property rights concerns.

You can read more about this important vote in this story published by the Santa Barbara Independent.

What to read next