|Description|| September hearing: An overview
The September California Coastal Commission meeting drew even more attention than usual as activists rallied bright and early at the Newport Civic Center. Conservation organizations, tribal representatives and environmental justice groups brought arguments against the Newport Banning Ranch, while the project’s proponents bulked up meeting attendance with a show of people in support. Overall, those requesting the Commission deny the development proposal outnumbered those who supported it and – in what surprised some longtime activists – Commissioners agreed, voting 9-1 to deny it.
Sonoma Parks Fees
In addition to the Banning Ranch item, topics of note included an update on Sonoma Parks fees in Interim Executive Director Jack Ainsworth’s report. Progress has been made, he said, thanks to efforts between Sonoma County, Commission staff and Parks staff to find a path forward over the controversial proposal to establish parking fees at long-free Sonoma State Parks locations. General agreements can be found at the link above, and the identified milestones are anticipated as the following: • Form working groups to start developing the details. • Create timeline, task charts and budgets. • Need to take proposal back to the Native American Tribes and control agencies, such as CHP, Caltrans, and County Sheriff’s Dept. • Develop process incorporating public input opportunities. • State Parks/County Parks develop necessary applications and submit to the County for a joint parks project. If necessary, discuss the need for an LCP amendment.
The next update is expected to be in December.
Executive Director Search
To keep the Commission and the public up-to-date, there will be a standing item on the Commission’s monthly agenda “STATUS REPORT ON EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SEARCH PROCESS.” Susan Hansch, Chief Deputy Director and Melanie Wong, Chief of Human Resources will be the Commission staff members working with CPS HR throughout the process and both are available for questions from the Commission and the public. The most recent version of the draft position announcement for the Executive Director is currently available here.
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|Newport Banning Ranch|| The long-awaited and much dreaded Newport Banning Ranch hearing finally arrived. Many questions awaited answers. Would the proposed development of the Newport Banning Ranch property be approved? If the project was approved, what message would it send? What precedent would it set? These questions dominated much of the pre-hearing conversation. After all, the Coastal Commission exists to enforce the Coastal Act and the proposed development of Newport Banning Ranch brought into question major Coastal Act issues: Do we evaluate “tiers” of sensitive habitat – that is to say, is some habitat more worth protecting than others? How well are Native American tribes included in project development and proposed management? Would a denial of the project result in a “takings” claim?
All these matters came before the Commission during more than 10 hours of public comment, testimony and deliberation. Ultimately, Commissioners voted 9:1 to deny the project.