SWiG’s letter supporting the coast and Dr. Lester

Dear California Coastal Commissioner Kinsey,

This message from the Sebastopol Water Information Group (SWiG) opposes the current move to terminate the appointment of Dr. Charles Lester as Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission, thereby weakening the California Coastal Commission’s role as protector of the coastal environment, its abundant natural resources, and public access to coastal lands. The Sebastopol Water Information Group is a project of The O.W.L. Foundation, and a founding member of the Sonoma County Water Coalition, representing more than 20,000 citizens.

Both Sonoma and Marin Counties have a history of strong grassroots efforts that have protected the Pacific coastline of our North Bay counties, preserved natural values and scenic resources for both human enjoyment and economic support, and kept coastal lands, especially the beaches, open to public uses. These efforts have succeeded due to broad public support, both in California and nationally—as shown by the coastal zone’s ongoing popularity with environmental tourists.

SWiG members have followed the efforts of a few nouveau-riche southern California landowners to overbuild on fragile coastal lands that they currently own title to, and to exclude the public from adjacent beaches. We are also aware that this move to oust Dr. Lester is being led by the most pro-development commissioners, with the most environmentally negative voting records. We are also aware that this effort began behind closed doors, to avoid public scrutiny and protest.

This effort has failed. In this message, SWiG members add their voices in protest.

Given the California Coastal Commission’s mission of coastal protection, the current hearing can only be aimed to weaken coastal protections and strengthen the hand of developers and rich landowners, who aim to hugely profit by smothering coastal lands under sprawl or reserve them for the use of a few extremely rich landowners.

SWiG supports the Commission staff and Dr. Lester, who have shown that they can and will continue to protect the coast and its beaches for all citizens, by:

  1. Allowing penalties to be assessed against anyone who violates the public’s right to coastal access;
  2. Providing guidance for coastal communities that must plan for and adapt to the ocean-warming impact of sea level rise, and
  3. Obtaining funds to continue this work;

4 Supporting updates to Local Coastal Plans, the fundamental planning tools for continuing coastal protection; and

  1. Increasing public transparency by providing new internet tools for accessing project information.

These advances show that the firing of Dr. Lester will undermine California’s environmental leadership and the efforts to address climate change. SWiG urges you to abandon this effort and vote to retain Dr. Charles Lester as the California Coastal Commission’s Executive Director.

Very Truly Yours,

Jane Nielson Ph.D. PG (Geologist)