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The Long Battle over Coastal Justice at Hollister Ranch Spencer Robins KCETLink

Spencer Robins writes:

A developing body of research shows that access to open space is a vital part of human health and wellbeing. And it’s not evenly distributed; the people most often denied the benefits of forests and mountains and beaches are, of course, those who are already marginalized and oppressed. Increasingly, coastal experts and advocates are arguing that planning in cases like Hollister needs to account for the economic, social, and practical barriers that prevent so many people from being able to enjoy their right to the beach. . . .

Robert García is an environmental and civil rights lawyer, director of The City Project, and advocate for what he calls “coastal justice”: a coastal movement recognizing “access to the coastal zone is about equal justice and human dignity and freedom,” in García’s words. Coastal justice addresses the history of racial and economic oppression behind the unequal coastal access we see today. When the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance announced that it would oppose the settlement agreement, The City Project, along with two other environmental justice groups, GreenLatinos and the California League of United Latin American Citizens, supported the Alliance in opposition.

The Alliance includes in its legal briefs arguments based on environmental justice principles — arguments that coastal advocates have not typically used, despite a 2016 requirement for the Coastal Commission to consider environmental justice in its decisions. In García’s view, the Alliance’s initial arguments missed an opportunity to show how expanding public access to the coast can be a part of creating a state with a more equitable — a more just — relation with the natural world. The Alliance’s most recent brief in the case describes the “legacy and pattern of discriminatory public and private beach, land use, and housing policies” that have prevented low-income people and people of color from sharing in the benefits of a public coast.

Racial and economic exclusion are evident in seemingly mundane restrictions. A report co-written by Garcia describes, for example, how affluent white communities in Manhattan Beach lobbied to end a bus line that connected South Central L.A. to the beach. . . .

García points to a National Park Service study of the Gaviota Coast as a model for better planning. (The Park Service wrote this study to determine whether the area could be made a National Seashore, but concluded the idea was not “feasible” after intense opposition from local owners, including the HROA.) The study describes not just the environmental but the human history of Gaviota Coast, including Hollister Ranch. This wider area is home to Cold War military sites, to remains of California’s rancho period, to a portion of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Maybe most importantly, Hollister Ranch is historical Chumash land, inhabited and shaped by Chumash people for thousands of years before European settlers took it by force. (Given that the Commission is currently drafting policy to consult native California tribes on decisions that impact them, the fact that Hollister Ranch is historical Chumash land — and that it contains at least two Chumash archaeological sites — is particularly significant.) The study recognizes, in other words, that this area has a deep human history, and that there are other kinds of claims than property claims that should inform how the state plans for it.

Read the thorough coverage by Spencer Robins, Hollister Ranch: The Last Beach in Southern California (KCETLink 2018).

Read Free the Beach! Coastal Acess, Equal Justice, and Hollister Ranch (The City Project Policy Report 2018) by
GreenLatinos, California LULAC, Robert Bracamontes & The City Project

Hollister Ranch photo CC BY SA NC TCP