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Welcome to ActCoastal, the California Coast Accountability Project. ActCoastal is a campaign to protect California’s coast by bringing transparency and accountability to the actions of the California Coastal Commission.


2017 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card

Using the Coastal Act as a guide, the 2017 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card ranks the voting record of each Coastal Commissioner on the most significant permit applications and enforcement actions considered by the Commission throughout the year.


Commission Turnover

Due to a combination of election losses, term expirations and a resignation, 2017 saw an unusual amount of turnover on the Commission with five new commissioners sworn in (and two reappointments).

The new appointments followed a particularly tumultuous time in the Commission’s history: In 2016, the panel fired the agency’s then-executive director Charles Lester against massive public outcry and despite the opposition of state and federal legislators, scientists and academics, and over 90 of Lester’s own staff. The firing brought the Commission under increased media scrutiny and renewed public interest in the agency.

This attention appears to have made a difference based on the improvement in conservation outcomes – 16 “good” and only 5 “bad” in 2017 – which are reflected in the Commission's overall average score upswing:

2017: 73%
2016: 65%
2015: 47%

Individual Commissioner Rankings by Percentage Updated 2017 Report Card.png

Click here for the full 2017 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card

Offshore Oil Drilling Expansion Announced

In early January, the Trump administration released a proposal to expand oil drilling in 90% of the Outer Continental Shelf States and environmental groups have been quick to respond with outrage. Visit Protect the Pacific for details and ways to take action now!

July Hearing Recap

The July California Coastal Commission hearing took place in Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz on Wednesday, July 11 through Friday, July 13. The July meeting agenda had several important items on public access and planning including an application by Opal Cliffs Recreation District to retain an unpermitted gate and gate access fee program. The application was withdrawn by the district, which opted to reject the staff’s recommendations. On Friday, in another high-profile access case, the Coastal Commission heard an informational item on the Hollister Ranch Owners Association’s recent settlement with the Coastal Commission and California Coastal Conservancy regarding an offer to dedicate public access along a parcel to the coast at Cuarta Canyon.

Hollister Ranch

Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County has about 8.5 miles of shoreline, with several cove beaches. A parcel of the Ranch land was sold in 1970 to the YMCA. The YMCA then received a permit in 1980 to construct campgrounds; the permit included an access easement which was subsequently recorded when the owner installed power at the site and began construction. However, the facility was never fully constructed and eventually the parcel was sold again.

According to the Coastal Commission staff report, “Efforts by the HROA to extinguish the OTD were unsuccessful, and the OTD was accepted by the Coastal Conservancy in 2013. Soon thereafter, the HROA filed suit against the Conservancy and the Commission.”

In December 2017, the Commission and Conservancy reached a settlement with the HROA. This settlement would allow the public to gain access to the beach only from the ocean, and require a “managed access” program to bring students and non-profit groups, including those serving underprivileged groups, to various beaches along the Hollister Ranch shoreline.

Critics of the settlement contend that the agreement does not allow for as broad of access as the easement intends. Groups fear that managed access, as proposed in the settlement, could set a bad precedent throughout the state – referred to as “chaperoned” access, it may imply that this type of access is acceptable in other situations to satisfy legal maximum public access requirements. Susan Jordan, of the California Coastal Protection Network, pointed out that the owners within the HROA cumulatively are allowed to have over 1 million private visitors per year. The settlement would allow a maximum of 880 public members per year, Jordan noted, “And that’s if we’re lucky.” The settlement includes a clause where the HROA can limit the number of visitors at their discretion.

Access to Hollister Ranch by water is not reasonable means for the average member of the public given that the nearest boat or watercraft launch location is 3 miles away and the journey is a treacherous one. Additionally, this is an important stretch of coastline to include in the vision for a connected California Coastal trail, which is excluded under this settlement. Hollister Ranch is a pristine and scenic stretch of coast that all California’s residents and visitors should be able to experience, and that the settlement agreement does not go far enough to ensure.

Public Access: Challenges and Progress

The Surfrider Foundation strives to ensure California’s beaches are accessible for all to enjoy. These efforts complement the California Coastal Commission’s education, enforcement and environmental justice endeavors, and are similarly based on the policies enshrined in the Coastal Act. Surfrider presented an update to the Commission at the Friday, July 13 meeting.

The presentation highlighted a celebration, along with Senator Jerry Hill, the County of San Mateo and others, of the successful inclusion of funding for Tunitas Creek Beach and Martins Beach in the state budget. Additionally, Surfrider described their support for an informal coalition comprised of representatives of several nonprofit outdoor organizations whose mission is to help inland youth access the coast. The coalition is working on breaking down tangible and intangible barriers to access. Read more on recent public access victories and challenges here, or watch the full presentation, here.

2016 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card

View the 2016 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card, which summarizes the voting records of the California Coastal Commission in relation to how well Commissioners voted in adherence to the Coastal Act here and see the full report card here.

You can follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, too! As ever, thanks for your support and dedication to access, open space protection and coastal preservation! Please let us know of your coastal concerns – we must all work together to #SaveOurCoast!

ActCoastal Blog

June 2018 Hearing Report20 July 2018
May 2018 Hearing Report11 June 2018
April 2018 Hearing Report8 May 2018
2017 California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card6 May 2018
March 2018 Hearing Report23 April 2018
... further results