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Shifting tide for beach access LA Times Azul, The City Project, CA LULAC, GreenLatinos, Robert Bracamontes

The City Project and Free the Beach! pushed for California’s new environmental justice law, which explicitly authorizes coastal officials to consider not only impacts to plants, animals and coastal habitats when making decisions, but also the effects on underrepresented communities.

Read the complete story by Rosanna Xia in the L.A. Times . . .

Coastal access — often jostling for priority with wildlife protection, plastic pollution, offshore drilling and other high-profile environmental issues — has captured California’s attention in ways that did not resonate in years past. The issue has taken on new meaning as conversations of equity dominate politics.

“I’ve talked about access for years, and this issue just didn’t have the same impact and understanding and reception that it is now getting — not just from decision makers but also from my conservation colleagues,” said Marce Gutierrez-Graudins of Azul, a group that aims to bring more Latino voices to coastal issues. “I think there are a lot of things that are coming together, finally, at the right time.”

She points to decades of work by advocates such as Robert García of the City Project and the Free the Beach! study. They pushed for California’s new environmental justice law, which explicitly authorizes coastal officials to consider not only impacts to plants, animals and coastal habitats when making decisions, but also the effects on underrepresented communities. The more opportunities people have to go to the beach, the more they will care about protecting these environments, Gutierrez-Graudins said. “There’s an assumption that these communities don’t really care about beach pollution or conservation or that we only care about access — but in reality, it’s all linked.”

Spencer Robins writes in The Long Battle over Coastal Justice at Hollister Ranch (KCET/Link 2018):

As 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 [. . . ] 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. [The Gaviota Coastal Trail 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 [ . . . ] 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.”

Read our public comments on the California Coast Commission’s draft Environmental Justice Policy Statement (Nov. 7, 2018).

Read our report Free the Beach! Coastal Access, Equal Justice, and Hollister Ranch (2018) by California LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), GreenLatinos, Robert Bracamontes, and The City Project, and our public comments to the California Coastal Commission (Dec. 13, 2018).

The 2004 National Parks Service study of the Gaviota Coast (2004) is a best practice for fair, fiscally responsible, and environmentally and economically sound alternatives for coastal justice.

People of color and low income people have the worst access to beaches and the California coastal zone, and disproportionately suffer from sea level rising and climate change.