July 15, 2010

The California Coastal Commission seeks to wrest more regulatory power from coastal county

By The California Coastal Commission seeks to wrest more regulatory power from coastal county

Author:  Paul Beard

You frequently hear news about the abuses that coastal property owners in California suffer at the hands of the state's most powerful land-use regulator:  the California Coastal Commission.  But you don't hear much about the Commission's battles with local coastal governments.  In fact, the Commission frequently has run-ins with coastal cities and counties, as the Commission seeks ever greater power and jurisdiction over local land use and development.

Case in point:  The Santa Barbara Independent reports that there is a fierce "power struggle" currently being waged between the Coastal Commission and the County of Santa Barbara. 

The two government entities have been working over the past year on the County's land-use plan.  While the County has the authority to draft its own plan, the Coastal Commission must approve the plan before the County can implement it.  The problem is that the Coastal Commission's staff is making some troublesome demands that have local officials, property owners, and even local environmentalists concerned.  As the Independent reports:

Ranging from big to small and, in some cases, working to expand the commission’s appeal power over county decisions, these requests included requiring property owners of agricultural land to apply for a coastal development permit (CDP) if they wish to "intensify" or change the nature of their ag operations (i.e., switch from row crops to orchards, run more head of cattle, etc.); limiting the size of a primary residence on coastal ag land to 3,000 square feet; deleting school and nonprofits from the allowable uses of ag-zoned land in the coastal zone; requiring a CDP and public hearings for voluntary lot line adjustments, subdivisions, and lot mergers; classifying habitat restoration as a "non-principal" use of land and thus requiring a CDP and related hearings; and making all staircases to the beach on private land illegal unless they are for the sole purpose of public access.

Santa Barbara is not alone.  Other coastal cities and counties have had their autonomy threatened by an overzealous Coastal Commission, including Dana Point, San Luis Obispo, and the Venice area of Los Angeles. 

I will be discussing these and other issues on Mark Schneidman's Santa Barbara radio show on Monday, July 19, at 11:20 a.m.

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