Public Trust Guiding Principles and Action Plan


May 1, 2023

The Coastal Commission voted unanimously to approve its Public Trust Guiding Principles and Action Plan, which includes ten principles and actions that outline how the Commission views the Coastal Act in addressing threats to public trust resources caused by sea level rise and related decision making. ActCoastal partner, Surfrider Foundation, strongly supported many aspects of this plan, in particular. 'Principle 6, which pertains to armoring and clarifies that property owners may not unilaterally occupy the public trust. Read the Action Plan here.

Why You Should Care

The California coast is home to a wealth of public trust resources, including beaches, tidelands, wetlands, and marine habitats. These resources are held in trust by the state for the benefit of the public. The guiding principles document ensures that the management and decision-making processes related to sea level rise consider the protection, preservation, and accessibility of these resources for present and future generations. Sea level rise is a long-term challenge that requires a forward-thinking and sustainable approach which this document has achieved.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Ralph Faust, former chief counsel at the Coastal Commission, made comments to support the Commission's affirmative duty to make development decisions to protect the public trust, stating that Coastal Act Section 30235 cannot be overridden to approve seawalls and that 'takings' claims do not take precedence over public trust doctrine. Mr. Faust, as well as other commenters, noted the ambulatory nature of the mean high tideline and the need to continue working with the State Lands Commission on its identification and use in conditioning shoreline protective devices with a 'life.'Vice Chair Hart noted that in Southern California, segments of LOSSAN are clearly impacting the public trust and asked about related federal law. Commissioners Turnbull-Sanders and Nothoff noted the need to think about broad outreach to environmental justice communities as part of the plan's Principle 8 to advance environmental justice. Commissioner Harmon and others noted how helpful the document will be in decisionmaking with Chair Brownsey calling it a 'touchstone [document]' for the Commission.

Organizations Opposed

Smart Coast California, City of Del Mar

Decision Type

Guidance Document

Staff Recommendation


Coastal Act Policy