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Social Justice and Environmental Support for Beach Access and California Coastal Commission Director

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En español

January 26, 2016

Mr. Steve Kinsey

Chair, California Coastal Commission

Via email:

RE: Support for California Coastal Commission Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester

Dear Chair Kinsey,

We write to you on this 40th anniversary of the California Coastal Act – a world-renowned environmental law enacted under Governor Jerry Brown’s leadership in 1976 – to voice our pride in California’s long history of global leadership in coastal protection and our strong support for California Coastal Commission Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lester. Our organizations represent millions of Californians from all over the state, from inland and urban residents to rural coastal dwellers. We are deeply concerned over the unjustified and misguided attempt currently underway to oust Dr. Lester as Executive Director of the Coastal Commission.

Under Dr. Lester’s leadership since September 2011, the Coastal Commission has successfully applied the new administrative penalty authority in 2014 to remedy violations of public access, completed a state-of-the-art guidance document to help local governments better plan for and adapt to sea level rise and the impacts of climate change, and made tremendous strides in updating Local Coastal Plans for 24 cities/counties across California thanks to new funding from the Legislature.  The Commission has increased public transparency by creating a modern database that provides the public easier online access to information on projects, improved interagency collaboration, and significantly reduced processing times for permits and appeals.

Threats to our coast and ocean have never been more pressing. A changing climate is bringing rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and greater vulnerability to all of our coastal resources. Firing the Coastal Commission’s Executive Director would undermine our state’s effectiveness on coastal protection at a time when the need for such protection is at an all-time high. There is no public record that Dr. Lester’s performance as Executive Director is anything but exemplary.

The Commission’s 2015 sea level policy recognizes that coastal planning decisions must respond to environmental justice concerns and include low-income persons and communities in planning efforts. It was a condition of California joining the Union that beaches remain public. Yet much of the California coast was off limits to people of color for much of the twentieth century through discriminatory housing and mortgage restrictions. Commission staff are working with diverse allies to preserve and broaden public access.

Thank you for your support of the Coastal Commission’s leadership to address climate change. We urge your continued support for the fundamental tenets of the California Coastal Act – protection of coastal access and coastal resources for all Californians – now and in the future. And we urge you to support Executive Director Charles Lester and his entire team in their continued efforts to achieve these goals. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions. You may directly contact Susan Jordan at and Stefanie Sekich-Quinn at

Very respectfully,

Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Surfrider Foundation

Susan Jordan, CA Coastal Protection Network

Robert Garcia, The City Project

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Azul

Mark Magaña, GreenLatinos

Xavier Morales, Ph.DLatinos Coalition for a Healthy Calfiornia

Mate Arce, Hispanic Access Foundation

Jeffrey Williams, Black Surfers Collective

Ruben D. Arvizu, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society

Kathryn Philips, Sierra Club California


Cc: Governor Jerry Brown

California Resources Secretary John Laird

Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins

Assembly Speaker-elect Anthony Rendon

Dr. Charles Lester, Executive Director, California Coastal Commission

Read the complete letter signed by over fifty environmental and social justice groups. 

Speak up at the Coastal Commission hearing February 10, 2016.

“We’ve made tremendous progress under Dr. Lester,” said lawyer Robert Garcia of the City Project, which has fought for beach access in Malibu and other areas where private property owners have used guards, bogus signs and parking restrictions to keep citizens off public beaches. “The beach belongs to everybody. Not just the rich and famous and the mainstream enviros,” L.A. Times.