Will Politics Jeopardize Access to the California Coastline

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This op-ed originally ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 4, 2016.

Each Thanksgiving week, my family and I load up our car with surfboards and drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway to spend the holiday with my brother and his family in San Francisco.

396673_309927975787691_1312602472_nHeading up that coastal road past emerald coves, perfect waves, elephant seals and sea otters is absolute nirvana.

Our annual family adventure reinvigorates my love and appreciation for what author David Helvarg calls our “Golden Shore,” where “wilderness cliffs and sea cliffs contrast starkly against the dazzling bright silver sea.”

485030_309927669121055_1576734659_nGrowing up in Los Angeles during the 1960s, and Imperial Beach during the 1970s, the son of European immigrants who escaped the horrors of World War II, my family reveled in the freedom of the wide-open and friendly beaches of California.

We took our first camping trips at Carlsbad State Beach, Mission Bay and among the redwoods and wild beaches of Big Sur.

Later, as a college student, I worked as an ocean lifeguard and witnessed firsthand how the 1,100 miles of open, accessible shoreline in California is our great melting pot where we come together as families and friends and share in the moments that create lifelong memories.

Thankfully in 1972, Californians had the foresight to ensure the fundamental right of everyone to access to the coast when they approved the California Coastal Conservation Initiative and the creation of the coastal commission. No other government body in the world plays as important a role in ensuring that every citizen, not just wealthy oceanfront property owners, has access to the beach.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Today, the Coastal Commission helps cities like Imperial Beach plan for the future and prepare for rising seas and a changing climate.

The coastal commissioners who are appointed, and the professional staff that advise them, balance coastal development with the need for clean air and water, wildlife protection and open space for Californians and millions of coastal visitors to picnic, camp, surf and enjoy a great day at the beach.

Dr. Charles Lester currently oversees the commission.

Through his training as a geochemist and attorney and with a doctorate in political science, Lester is uniquely qualified to oversee the protection of California’s coast.

Last year I observed him firsthand at a forum at UC Irvine on the challenge of sea level rise in California. I came away deeply impressed with Lester’s commitment to successful, adaptive and innovative problem solving for the significant and costly issue of coastal erosion.

It was as apparent then, as it is to me now, that Lester has the vision, expertise and leadership skills to guide the commission and our coastline into a climate-challenged 21st century.

Unfortunately, a group of commissioners, largely appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, who originally championed the development of the Coastal Act, are seeking to fire Lester.

These political appointees want to dismantle our strong and independent Coastal Commission, which puts the public good above private profits.

Not only is that bad for our ability to enjoy our coastline, but a threat to transparency, good government and democracy in California.

I hope for the sake of present day Californians who experience the best days of their lives on our shoreline and future generations who have yet to experience the thrill of their first day at the beach, that Governor Brown reigns in the forces that seek to eliminate our access to, and enjoyment of, our “Golden Shore.”

We cannot afford to play politics with California’s fragile coastline, which gives so much enjoyment to so many.

DSC_1449Note–on February 10, 2016, in an event now called the “Morro Bay Massacre”, Charles Lester was fired in a 7-5 vote of the California Coastal Commission

 

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Coastal Flooding in Imperial Beach

The surf tripled in size on Saturday March 1st and by the end of the day was breaking out past the Imperial Beach Pier.

The surf tripled in size on Saturday March 1st and by the end of the day was breaking out past the Imperial Beach Pier.

On Saturday March 1, 2014, the surf from an unusual almost Hurricane like storm (in its appearance) battered the coast of Southern California. The surf went from 3-5′ on Saturday morning to more than 10-15′ on Saturday afternoon. High tides and surf that evening resulted in coastal flooding in Imperial Beach and up and down the California coast (especially in the Santa Barbara area).

A satellite image of the unusual storm.

A satellite image of the unusual storm.

 

Swell forecast for Imperial Beach.

In Imperial Beach this swell combined with high tides to create coastal flooding. Surf topped over the sand berm along the beachfront especially in the Cortez/Descanso area and at the Palm Avenue Jetty. On Saturday afternoon surf broke well past the Imperial Beach Pier and over a mile offshore on distant reefs.

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With high surf and high tides on the evening of March 1st, water came over the beach and into Seacoast Drive. Here is the end of Descanso Street the morning of March 2nd.

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The end of Seacoast Drive, March 2nd.

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The end of Encanto Street on March 2nd.

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Ocean Lane just north of Palm Avenune, March 2nd.

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Just north of Palm Avenue, March 2nd.

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The end of Palm Avenue, March 2nd. Flooding worsened here during the morning high tide of March 2nd.

Coast Guard Training in Big Surf in San Francisco

Here are a few shots of the U.S. Coast Guard training in big surf at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on Thanksgiving Day this year. Very impressive display of seamanship. The surf was about 10-15′. Thanks to my son Daniel for taking these photos.

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