California Gov. Jerry Brown was in San Diego last Friday for a budget signing ceremony. While much of the press coverage focused on all the backslapping and self congratulating about fiscal responsibility, a low-key rider attached to the budget bill by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is a big victory for beach lovers.
The California’s Coastal Commission is now allowed to levy fines on property owners who deny public access to he Pacific shoreline. Since 2008, when the Legislative Analysts Office recommended the notion, the legislature has tried and failed three times since the to pass a bill giving the commission a better enforcement mechanism.
While other state and local regulatory agencies in the resources area routinely exercised this kind of power, conservatives railed against allowing the commission to levy fines, claiming it would “wash away due process” (UT-San Diego) and “shred the Constitution, ignore all protections for property owners, and trample on civil liberties.” (Pacific Legal Foundation Blog)
Following the defeat of an Atkins sponsored measure last fall, the Los Angles Times reported:
Under current law, the agency that for four decades has overseen land use and public access along California’s 1,100-mile coastline must go to court to collect penalties from those who harm coastal habitat, build without permission or block public access to the beach in violation of the California Coastal Act. The process is time-consuming and expensive, enabling many violators to continue breaking the law for years.
The commission has long sought the ability to issue fines to start clearing its backlog of more than 1,900 enforcement cases, but it has repeatedly faced opposition from business groups and agricultural interests that say the agency already wields too much power.
The Fresno Bee reported, “The new bill is narrower than Atkins original proposal. The commission can only fine landowners who block access. It still must go to court to seek penalties for any other violations, such as damaging wetlands or building without permits.”
All this hubbub would be unnecessary, but for the fact that certain wealthy homeowners have made a habit of flipping the Coastal Commission the finger when it came to granting public access to the shoreline. It’s really an issue about some people being “more equal” than others.
In Malibu they use fake “No Parking” signs to keep surfers off “their” beach. In La Jolla it took over a decade to get a judge to order the re-opening of beach access after a homeowner arbitrarily closed off a path used by the public since 1932. In San Mateo County a Silicon Valley billionaire is fighting in court to close public access to Martins Beach.
And I suspect the right will be fighting this new law in court. Here’s City News Service, via the Times of San Diego:
Fines assessed by the Coastal Commission will still be subject to administrative hearings and court review.
But property rights advocates have cried foul, and said the new law puts an unfair burden on property owners. It’s “a significant game-changer,” said Damien Schiff, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation.
“A lot of property owners would say the potential downside risk — the value of the penalties and the costs of litigating — could be so high that, even if that property owner was 100 percent certain he’s right on the law, it wouldn’t be worth it to him,” he told the Bay Area News Group newspapers in San Francisco.
Hillcrest Feud Spills into Public View
Things are breaking bad over the Hillcrest Business Improvement Association.
The public comment portion of a recent HBA board meeting included multiple calls for president Johnathan Hale’s resignation. Hale owns a publishing company and is the significant other of congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.
Here’s a snippet from LGBTWeekly.com:
Complaints ranged from concerns that the organization’s executive director was improperly fired, that it holds “too many” fundraisers and events while “not doing enough” for local businesses, to admonitions that it has been “recklessly exposed” to potentially bankrupting lawsuits by its president, Johnathan Hale.
Allegations were also made that, under Hale’s leadership, HBIA has violated California’s Brown Act, which is intended to ensure access to, and notification about proceedings of organizations that receive taxpayer funding.
“This situation is just one of many symptoms of this malignancy that has affected this organization’s functionality under Mr. Hale’s tenure,” said local business owner, John Thurston to the board.
Community activist David Lundin was among those calling for the business association president’s resignation. The retired attorney has filed a Public Records Request seeking documents related to HBIA’s finances and Hale’s role in managing several of the HBIA’s fundraising events, most notably Hillcrest Mardi Gras.
The Real Politik SD blog report on the meeting says Lundin is behind a request for a formal audit of the group’s finances “based on allegations of malfeasance from anonymous sources within the HBIA.”
More from Real Politik SD:
All of this action follows the termination of HBIA Executive Director Sonia Stauffer, who was abruptly fired a week ago. Filling in as Interim Executive Director, Benjamin Nicholls, seemed to place much of the blame for HBIA’s current issues squarely on Stauffer. “We have a volunteer board (drawn form) restaurant owners and other business types that don’t deal with Brown Act issues on a daily basis. It is all the more important in this situation that staff give good counsel to board members. It would have fallen to the (previous) ED to notify the board of those issues.” Some have called into question the timing of Stauffer’s firing as it coincided with Nicholls being let go from MacFarlane Promotions, a prominent event and promotions firm here in San Diego. Nicholls left his position as the HBIA’s Executive Director to take the position at MacFarlane. The suggestion is that Nicholls wanted his old job and substantial pay package back.
The HBIA is most noted for its signature annual event “CityFest” which draws tens of thousands of visitors into the heart of Hillcrest. The event was established to raise funds for the maintenance of the historic “Hillcrest” sign that straddles University Avenue. The event has raised subsantial cash for the HBIA, but in recent years, proceeds from the event have all but dried up. This trend, however, has occurred while attendance and participation at the event has been breaking records, causing many to question where the money is going. In fact almost all the several events that the HBIA puts on are either in the red or generating scant returns. It is perhaps in response to those questions that Lundin revealed yesterday that he has submitted a Public Records Act Request for all HBIA financial records to Council President Todd Gloria. Gloria’s office indicated that they are working on the records request, but had no comment as of press time to Lundin’s call for a city Audit of the HBIA.
Supes Slush Fund Soaring
A special fund used by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for projects outside the traditional budget process is expected to be doubled in size on Tuesday.
The Neighborhood Reinvestment Program will be increased from its current level of $5 million to $10, according to a report from inewsource.org. This will give each supervisor $2 million to dole out to favored non-profits and government agencies.
From inewsource, via KPBS:
Critics have charged in the past that the program is a publicly funded “slush fund” for supervisors’ pet projects that can be used to help win them favor with constituents and get them re-elected. When the program was created in 1998, the supervisors had $1 million apiece to spend. They doubled the money the following year to $2 million each. It was squeezed in half by a tight budget in 2010.
The supervisors say the fund allows them — the ones who know their districts best — to finance projects without having to go through the complex and potentially contentious budget process.
Some rules apply to recipients. The county bans “religious, political campaigning, or purely private purposes or activities.” Grants are also intended for “one-time community, social, environmental, educational, cultural or recreational needs,” but several organizations have received multiple grants, some more than 10 over the past 16 years. Organizations are not banned from receiving grants more than once, but the money cannot go toward a recurring expense.
The inewsource research includes a database of recipients of the supervisor’s largess going back to 1998.
Speaking of soaring, there’s this item, courtesy of 10News:
County Supervisor Ron Roberts wants to bring an aerial tram to San Diego. On Tuesday, he will ask the county Board of Supervisors to approve a $75,000 grant using the money for an engineering study that will determine what it would take to build a two- to three-mile in length aerial tram.
“I’ve only got four years left to do good things and I’ve been harboring this for quite some time,” Roberts told U-T San Diego. “I figured that instead of just visualizing it, let’s do a feasibility study.”
Roberts’ proposal calls for SANDAG to manage the study, which he said should take two or three months to complete, U-T San Diego reported. The $75,000 request will come from Neighborhood Reinvestment Program money to fund the study that will look at logistics of building an aerial gondola and how much the project might cost.
Latino Legislators Righting Wrongs
The Los Angeles Times has an excellent story up Latino lawmakers in Sacramento fighting to remove the vestiges of hardline anti-immigrant legislation from Pete Wilson era.
Proposition 187, which withheld public services such as healthcare and education from those in the country illegally — qualified for the ballot on this day in 1994. Although it was ultimately declared unconstitutional, this measure- fueled by politicians stoking xenophobic and racist fears- was followed by Proposition 209 (barring affirmative action for schools and public hiring) in 1996 and Proposition 227 (eliminating bilingual education) in 1998.
From the Times story:
“It was a litany. It didn’t let up,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), of the successive measures. “lt just became not OK, in the eyes of far too many Californians, to even be Latino….”
…David Hayes-Bautista, a professor of medicine at UCLA who has written extensively about California Latinos, said that just as the state has apologized for other blemishes in its history, such as internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, so too should it acknowledge the pain felt by Latinos because of Proposition 187.
“This is one way to try to address and repair the past,” he said.
Things That Make Me Go Hmmmm..?
Tuesday–Glenn Greenwald Came to Town
Given that I’ve received a notice to show up for jury duty tomorrow morning, Tuesday’s column will be a report on author Glenn Greenwald’s book tour stop at the North Park Theater this weekend. (This will also give me time to read the last 50 pages of the book today.) In the unlikely event that I do get selected for a jury (I’d love to do it!) we’ll go to Plan B (whatever that is) for the remainder of the week.
On This Day: 1947– Congress overrode President Harry Truman’s veto of the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act. The law weakened unions and let states exempt themselves from union requirements. Twenty states immediately enacted open shop laws and more followed. 1965 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles released “Tracks Of My Tears”. 1972 – U.S. President Nixon and White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman discussed a plan to use the CIA to obstruct the FBI’s Watergate investigation.
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