On development issues, California’s Coastal Commission, an unelected body, overrides the elected governments of counties and cities on the state’s 1,100-mile shoreline. The CCC, which dates from 1972, is a classic example of a redundant bureaucracy but California Governor Jerry Brown has not targeted the agency and its $17.5 million budget for elimination. The CCC, in fact, may be getting a boost in power, for purely financial reasons, and with strong support from a key state oversight body.
To levy fines and penalties against cities and counties, the Coastal Commission must file a case in superior court. Such due process of law troubles California’s Legislative Analyst, which in an LAO summary recommends that the legislature grant the CCC “the authority to levy administrative civil penalties” and create a “special fund” for “receipt of penalty revenues.” In other words, as Anthony Pignataro notes in “Are Coastal Cops Coming Soon?” administering fines is “first and foremost a matter of raising revenue.”
Some CCC bosses have pursued creative revenue schemes on their own. Commissioner Mark Nathanson of Beverly Hills, for example, tried to shake down celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone, for bribes in exchange for building permits. Commissioner Nathanson construed his action as similar to cutting through bureaucratic red tape but wound up serving more than four years in prison.
Beyond corruption, CCC regulation limits the supply of homes near the coast and keeps their costs prohibitive. With such obstacles, much California housing development takes place in hot inland areas, where air conditioning gets heavy use in cars and houses alike and drives up energy demands. So on the energy issue, the CCC is environmentally counterproductive.