Southern California’s pristine coastline and a work to protect it: I would definitely say this is a superb way to spend my summer. I am here at California Coastal Commission’s South Coast District Office in Long Beach, just a few blocks from the ocean and the Port of Long Beach. Along with 6 other district offices and various departments, we thrive to fulfill the mission of the Commission as a whole: To protect and enhance California’s coast for present and future generations.
Our office covers 300 miles of coastline of southern Los Angeles County and Orange County, regulating coastal development activities to make sure they are consistent with the effort to protect coastal resources pursuant to provisions of the Coastal Act (the “Bible” of the Commission staff). Now, you might think of coastal resources like I used to do: Wetlands, fish, and marine protected areas; those “natural” coastal resources occurring in the coast. Well, it turned out it is actually a lot more than that. The Commission addresses a whole range of coastal resource issues such as shoreline public access and recreation, lower cost visitor accommodations, terrestrial and marine habitat protection, visual resources, landform alteration, agricultural lands, commercial fisheries, industrial uses, water quality, offshore oil and gas development, transportation, development design, power plants, ports, and public works. Hence, you get to encounter incredibly diverse permit applications when you work as a coastal program analyst.
How do we handle all those developments in the coastal zone you might ask? We work with local governments to issue and certify Local Coastal Programs (LCPs), which are basically the localized implementation plans of the Coastal Act. After certification of an LCP, coastal development permit authority is delegated to the appropriate local government while the Commission retains original permit jurisdiction over certain specified lands such as public trust lands and tidelands. The Commission also has the authority to act on appeals over development approved by local governments. It is the partnership with the local governments that makes the seemingly endless task possible.
The first few weeks have been flying by. I have been busy putting faces to names, learning and digesting the fundamental processes of coastal development permitting, and at the same time coming up with a research project to make a contribution to the current operation of the Commission. The Commission is now pursuing a nascent, but important policy initiative to incorporate environmental justice in its permitting operation. It has recently adopted its Environmental Justice Policy in March 2019. With the support of the Commission’s Environmental Justice Team, I will develop an internal guidance on how to incorporate environmental justice findings in coastal development permit analyses. It will be a busy but rewarding summer that I will never forget.