2021 ActCoastal Conservation Report Card

Mandy Sackett
August 25, 2022
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Contacts: Mandy Sackett, Surfrider Foundation, 440-749-6845, msackett@surfrider.org Ahuatl Amaro, Azul, 213-842-7564, media@azul.org Susan Jordan, California Coastal Protection Network, 805-637-3037, sjordan@coastaladvocates.com

2021 Coastal Conservation Report Card Shows Increase in Protection of Coastal Environment and Public Access

Sacramento, Calif., August 24 2022 – Today, the ActCoastal Coalition released the 2021 edition of the California Coastal Commission Conservation Report Card. This systematic survey, completed annually since 2002, tracks the performance of the California Coastal Commission in its legal duty to uphold the state’s statutory protections for the coastal environment and public access to the coast, as enshrined in the Coastal Act of 1976.

ActCoastal’s 2021 report card shows a 72% positive score across key votes, which is a modest improvement from its 65% score in 2020, but down from an 82% positive score in 2019. The California Coastal Commission is comprised of 12 appointed members and as many as seven seats may turn over by March 2023.

ActCoastal is a watchdog coalition composed of organizations dedicated to protecting the coast and expanding equitable coastal access. It includes the Surfrider Foundation, the California Coastal Protection Network, Azul, Environment California and Brown Girl Surf. To help ensure transparency, accountability, and good governance, ActCoastal produces the annual report card by tracking the votes of each member of the Coastal Commission on coastal development projects and plans of significant consequence to the coastal environment, in addition to the public’s right to access and enjoy it.

While the California coast is one of the state’s most beloved, iconic natural features, it faces severe threats from ill-considered development, pollution and climate change. The state’s successes or failures in responding to these threats often result from project-by-project decisions by the Coastal Commission. Therefore, tracking commission votes is important to ensure transparency and accountability in coastal governance, and to contribute to the goals of coastal preservation and equitable coastal access for all. A major highlight of the Coastal Commission’s 2021 votes was its decision to restore the Oceano Dunes State Park for diverse recreation and wildlife conservation by phasing out Off-Road Vehicles. Because of this historic decision, Oceano Dunes State Park can now permanently become the environmental gem that has been hidden beneath tire tracks and dust clouds for years. In contrast, a significant failure in the Coastal Commission’s voting in 2021 was its approval of the Belmont Beach Aquatic Center in Long Beach. The project is problematically sited on a public beach that is far from lower-income communities that are most in need of the benefits that such a project could provide. The Coastal Commission denied such an investment.

“A sea change could be coming for the Commission roster as several Commissioners term out and others are up for possible re-appointment,” stated Susan Jordan, Executive Director of the California Coastal Protection Network. “It is critical that the Governor, Senate pro Tempore and House Speaker continue to appoint strong coastal champions that will vote resolutely in alignment with the Coastal Act to protect public access and the coastal environment. The Commission has been strong in recent years, but history tells us we cannot take this for granted. We cannot allow developer interests to capture this agency that is so vital to protecting California’s most precious resource – our coast – as they have in years past.”

“The California Coastal Commission’s environmental justice policies have extended vital protections to our ocean and have also ensured equitable access to our coast to all Californians,” said Marce Gutiérrez- Graudiņš, Azul’s Executive Director. “The Commission’s leadership in standing up against Wall Street and toxic polluters have positioned California as a global leader in ocean justice policies. We don’t take that leadership for granted, and will work to ensure it continues.”

“As the climate crisis intensifies, it is essential that the Commission continues to stand strong on behalf of the public’s greater interest,” said Mandy Sackett, California Policy Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation. “ActCoastal’s records show low-scoring Commissioners have made devastating decisions for our coast. In years past, when the average Commission scores were consistently lower, it led to outcomes, such as giant luxury condo complexes built on fragile sand dunes and mile-long seawalls in Malibu. These decisions steal the beach from the public and doom the coast and waves to drown as sea levels rise.”

The full 2021 Conservation Report Card is available online at https://california.surfrider.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/2021-California-Coastal-Commission-Conservation-Report-Card-a-project-of-ActCoastal.pdf. For more information about the Coastal Commission’s record on conservation, visit ActCoastal.org.

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ABOUT SURFRIDER FOUNDATION The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over one million supporters, activists and members, with more than 200 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 800 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at surfrider.org.

AZUL Azul is a grassroots organization working with Latinxs to conserve coasts and oceans. It was founded in 2011 to bring Latinxs perspectives and participation to ocean conservation and has long advocated for environmental justice and equity in the state of California, across the nation and at international levels. azul.org

CALIFORNIA COASTAL PROTECTION NETWORK CCPN works to uphold the core tenets of the California Coastal Act actively and effectively through policy, advocacy and collaboration. We accomplish our mission by providing strong leadership to advance California’s 50-year legacy of coastal protection.