Magazine article Parks & Recreation

California Coastal Access and Climate Justice for All

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

California Coastal Access and Climate Justice for All

Article excerpt

"Beaches are not a luxury. Beaches are public spaces that provide a different set of rhythms to renew public life. Beaches are a democratic commons that bring people together as equals."

--Robert Garcia and Erica Flores Baltodano, "Free the Beach! Public Access, Equal Justice and the California Coast, " Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

California is known around the world for its spectacular coastline. From the beaches of San Diego to the rugged bluffs of Big Sur and the mist-shrouded Lost Coast, our coastal parks are like our shared front yard--a place where people come together. But our beaches are under pressure from a double threat of climate change and mounting development pressure.

More than four decades ago, Californians came together to protect our coastline and beaches as a public commons. The passage of the California Coastal Act in 1976 through a ballot initiative was a landmark victory by the people, of the people and for the people. That legacy is now in danger of being lost unless we the people come together again, 40 years later, to hold our state's leaders accountable for the stewardship of this shared resource.

The Coastal Act created a panel called the Coastal Commission to serve as trustees on behalf of the pub. lie interest. The commission is charged with upholding policies to protect and enhance public access, coastal resources and equal justice for all along the California coast. Achieving these goals involves social, policy, legal, health, economic and environmental principles. And, it depends on public engagement at commission meetings, the commitment of commissioners to the public interest and a strong and independent commission staff that reflects the new California.

We have recently seen just how important it is for the people of California to remain engaged in Coastal Commission decisions. In February, the Coastal Commission voted 7-5 to fire its executive director, Dr. Charles Lester. It did so behind closed doors without disclosing its reasons, disregarding more than 30,000 letters of support That day, more than 1,000 people made their way to the hearing in secluded Morro Bay. Two-hundred-ninety-five people waited patiently to speak in support of Lester, while only one spoke against him during the 10-hour hearing, and 155 out of 163 commission staffers risked their jobs to express their support for Lester.

Mobilizing for the Coast

A "gang of 100," comprised of diverse social justice, civil rights, Native American, health, education, spiritual, environmental justice and mainstream environmental groups representing millions of people throughout the state and beyond have submitted a joint statement to the Coastal Commission in support of coastal access, climate justice and an independent staff. While some observers see the business of coastal management as only an environmental concern, it is, in fact, a civil rights, public health and economic justice issue. The people who testified at the commission's February hearing made this abundantly clear.

Civil rights attorney Erica Baltodano spoke passionately about the value of the beach in her and her family's life. "I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, where childhood trips to the beach were necessary as a matter of survival during triple-digit summer heat waves. As an attorney with The City Project in Southern California, I spent nearly 10 years working to ensure equal access to public resources, including our beloved beaches, for the benefit of all Californians. I now live on the Central Coast with my husband and two children and we visit our local beaches regularly."

Fred Collins, spokesperson for the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, spoke with simple eloquence about how Grandmother Ocean would take back the beach and coast as a result of climate change and rising sea levels. Indeed, the Coastal Commission unanimously adopted its Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance report in 2015 (www. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.