This week, 35 former California Coastal Commissioners sent a letter to Chair Kinsey and the current members of the Commission to express their support for Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester. It came to light earlier this month that some Commissioners want to fire Dr. Lester, despite his strong track record of success on restoring public beach access, helping cities prepare for climate change, and improving the Commission’s efficiency with permitting and appeals. A public hearing on Dr. Lester’s employment has been scheduled for February 10.
(Click here to read the letter.)
The letter comes from former Commissioners, including three from Orange County, Dr. Judy Rosener, Shirley Dettloff and Linda Moulton-Patterson. It notes that it was Governor Brown’s “visionary leadership” that “saved the California coast from uncontrolled development when he signed the California Coastal Act of 1976.” It goes on to underscore the importance of the Commission’s independence, and the role of its executive director in providing objective, scientific facts about proposed projects. The Commission will be considering two controversial proposals this year: amassive home, resort and retail space development on the last open stretch of the Orange County coastline, and a billion dollar desalination plant in Huntington Beach that water customers will have to pay for. It appears the attempt to fire Dr. Lester is being led by Brown appointees that want to pave the way for more development on the coast.
The letter ends: “Firing the Coastal Commission’s Executive Director would significantly undermine California’s Coastal Program. It would also undermine Governor Jerry Brown’s great legacy to leave intact the coastline’s exquisite aesthetic, recreational, spiritual, biological and economic benefits. Please, support Dr. Lester’s continued tenure as Executive Director of the Coastal Commission and the independence of this agency that has served all Californians so well for the past forty years.”
This letter by former Commissioners is just the latest in a wave of public support for Dr. Lester and for an independent Coastal Commission that prioritizes public beach access. More than 100 equity and environmental groups ranging from Hispanic Access Fund to NRDC sent a letter to the Commission last week, and thousands of concerned citizens have submitted public comments.
Pedro Nava served on the California Coastal Commission for eight years, appointed by then Assembly Speaker Bustamante and later by former Senate Pro Tem John Burton and in the California Assembly from 2004 to 2010. He currently chairs California’s Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency.