I am heading towards the end of my summer at Long Beach. My time here has thus far been a wonderful experience. Here are a few highlights from my journey.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I have been working on the implementation of the Commission’s recently adopted Environmental Justice Policy. As its mission statement promulgates, the Commission acknowledges that the Coastal Act is inherently an equitable law and that its role is to make California’s coast accessible to all Californians. Recognizing the historic inequality placed on underserved communities and communities of color, the Commission mandated to specifically consider the equitable distribution of benefits when reviewing development applications in the coastal zone. The policy is one of the Commission’s three-phase approaches to integrate the principles of environmental, racial, and social equity throughout the agency, along with the upcoming racial equity plan and five-year strategic plan. My work focused on the staff’s everyday operational level. I am developing a pioneering checklist of what to consider when planners are confronted with applications that have potential EJ element, so that they could identify EJ issues early in the process and avoid duplication of effort. Of course, many thanks to the wonderful EJ workgroup from various district offices who helped me through the process with substantive advices.
On top of my EJ project, I keep learning about the works of a coastal program analyst, the planning staff position that forms the basis of what the Commission does. One of the best ways to learn about the work was to participate in verifying the certified language of local governments’ Local Coastal Programs (LCPs). After municipalities adopt their LCPs and get certified by the Commission, it becomes a very common practice that they make amendments to their LCPs because local circumstances change through time. As these changes accumulate through 30+ years, the certified languages of their LCPs become very convoluted to comprehend. My job was to research on the Commission’s actions on these LCPs and draw a conclusion on the final version of certified LCPs. I worked on the LCPs for the municipalities of Long Beach, San Pedro, and Hermosa Beach. I was able to learn a lot about LCP process by doing this work.
Lastly, probably the greatest highlight of my summer was to attend the Commission hearing in Shelter Island, San Diego. Commission hearing takes place once every month to present development applications before the Commissioners to vote on, and provide public participation opportunities during the process. I got to observe the Commissioners who make ultimate decisions on Commission’s actions, professional presentations on Commission staff’s recommendation for agendized items, and interesting comments/testimonies from various members of the public. Then I got to have lunch with two fabulous Commissioners at a pizza house! It was a unique opportunity to be able to interact with the Commissioners at ease after the having observed the rather solemn faces during the hearing.