Once again the California Coastal Commission has proven why the state’s balkanized power structure needs to be reordered and simplified.
In the latest instance, the Coastal Commission denied a request by Santa Barbara County, the city of Goleta and a number of organizations to replenish the beach near Goleta pier. In doing so, it overrode the recommendation of its own staff and put the future of one of the most popular spots on the Central Coast in jeopardy.
Meeting in San Luis Obispo, the commissioners voted 9-1 to deny the proposal, accepting objections from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Surfrider Foundation over staff and overwhelming support from local elected officials.
Now it will go back to the drawing board in pursuit of an unproven alternative plan put forth by the environmental groups.
In reality, it makes all the sense in the world to proceed with its effort to build a permeable barrier that would preserve the beach and fight erosion during El Niño storm seasons. As long as it conforms with local, state and federal environmental rules, it should be allowed to proceed.
But providing local solutions to local problems is not part of the Coastal Commission’s “command and control” structure.
Coastal Commission politics are more complicated than that. They dictate that sensible, broadly-based and legal solutions should be blocked at any time if they involve ceding control to local officials and bolstering economic opportunity for local communities.
The problem with this is that very wealthy people who want to rebuild luxury homes in Malibu or sea walls in Montecito can afford the time and cost of going to the commission over and over until they get a solution for their waterfront properties.
But ordinary citizens are subject to the political whims of the Coastal Commission, even if it means giving up the beaches and recreational areas that are the lifeblood of communities. Going back to the drawing board on Goleta beach may look like a good idea to the commissioners, but in reality it is the commission that needs to rethink how it is discriminating against local communities.