I'm Glad I Read This...

I wasn't that familiar with the California Coastal Commission.  I have toyed around with buying some property close to the beach in California to escape Arizona summers.  But once I read this article about their abuses, I have no desire to own California land along the coast.  Because, apparently, you don't actually "own" the land, at least not the way I define it.

The CCC's authority has decidedly grown since its beginnings as a temporary outfit with jurisdiction over 1,000 yards of coastline to an established agency with five miles of nearly absolute power, overriding local decisions and slapping multi-million dollar fines on people building small houses on existing concrete pads that could only be seen from the coast by a Superman with telescopic and X-ray vision.

See, for an example, the story of Kathleen Kenny, one of the stars of Oshen's documentary, now deceased. Kenny beat back local inspectors' assaults on her for building on her own property. She even in 1997 won an unprecedented RICO suit against local government officials for harassing her, a case where she acted as her own lawyer. Despite this, she was never able to shake off the CCC from coming after her for more or less the same offense. It has levied multi-million dollar fines that still hang over the head of her living partner, Arthur Starz.

Indeed, the CCC is still on the march. Even as it's compelling Oshen to kick up his footage, a bill is now being considered in the California state legislature that will give the CCC independent power to levy $5,000-$50,000 "administrative civil penalties" (in addition to any other fines or penalties) for violations of its ukases without having to get a court involved. The agency could then use that money for...more enforcement actions. Another bill would dictate that anyone with an unresolved CCC violation order over their heads could not submit an application for any other development permit from the CCC, on that land or any contiguous land.


  1. morganovich:

    you want to have some real fun?

    buy a house on the water at lake tahoe. if you think the CCC is bad, wait until you meet TARPA...

    they tried to shake us down for a $20k water impact study to be allowed to take a bathtub out of a bathroom and turn it into a half bath...

    they are also notorious for telling you you can't cut down the trees that the fire department demands to cut down for fire protection. i believe they actually told us to MOVE a 90 foot tree at one point...

  2. Captain Obviousness:

    My dad has owned a house on the coast in California for 40+ years and in the last 20 it has indeed gotten ridiculous. If your house is on a bluff and the bluff is in danger of collapsing, sorry, you can't build a wall without going through a 2+ year process, at the end of which your request is likely to be denied. Want to add any square footage, even just an attached tool shed? 2+ year permit process.

    Not surprisingly, this has created a huge black market for "illegal" contractors who are experts in doing remodels without permits and not getting caught. There are some hilarious stories, my favorite of which being the guy who turned his 2 story house into a 3 story house by digging out underneath it (on a downslope, so it was possible to get a bottom level with a view) and smuggling the dirt away in trucks on weekends and holidays when they knew there wouldn't be nanny CCC inspectors snooping around. During the week, all the dirt from excavation was stored in the two car garage, with a conveyor belt taking dirt from the opposite side of the house THROUGH the inside of the house into the garage, where a worker was tasked with distributing the dirt around the garage. The dirt would be stacked 6 feet deep across the whole floor by Friday evening, funny stuff.

  3. John Moore:

    I was living in Santa Monica when this thing was passed. Even when it started, the CCC was bad news.

    Captain Obviousness' second story brings to mind the tunneling one does in a military prison camp. What an irony.

  4. Peter:

    As liberal as Massachusetts is they still actually allow you to own the beach itself. So while you will never get a permit to build on it (not that I could understand wanting to) you can tell trespassers to get of of your property. (the public is allowed on the up to the high tide line for those that want to walk along it).
    While California has the CCC Marthas vineyard has the MVC which has control over any project that they consider a development of regional impact. Which has made such amazing decisions as You can't build your proposed gas station because it would add to traffic in the area and negatively affect other gas stations on the island. And telling the local grocery store when they were doing a major addition that they would need to change the color of the shingles on their building. Most companies aren't willing to spend the money to fight the MVC especially with the liberal judges that usually rule in favor of the MVC. The only loss I have heard for the MVC was when they tried to require the addition on the hospital to use cedar shingle siding and they hospital told them building code required them not to.
    Then their is the local planning board where I happened to attend a meeting where they were debating wether or not the local gas station that was pre existing non conforming should be allowed a permit to remodel to upgrade to existing codes because the new design would be an additional foot out of conformance with zoning rules. Thankfully there were sufficient members with common sense to allow the project to go forward.

  5. Francis Drouillard:

    Kathleen Kenney won her RICO suit against corrupt LA County officials, not the CCC. She is being fined by the CCC for failing to correct violations of the Coastal Act.

    The CCC is the statewide planning agency that enforces the Coastal Act. Prop. 20, the predecessor of the Coastal Act, was approved by ~2/3 of Californians in 1972. A watered down version of Prop. 20 was enacted into law by the state legislature in 1976.

    The Coastal Act requires development to maintain public access to the beach and to protect state resources, namely wetlands and ESHA, within state waters up to the high tide line and within the Coastal Zone.

    Contrary to prevailing myths espoused and perpetuated by Mr. Oshen (who is simply defending his friends that have Coastal Act violations on their property), it is quire possible to develop and enjoy your coastal property in a manner that is fully consistent with the Coastal Act.

    It is those that need special dispensation in order to get anything done that cry "foul!" whenever they get caught trying the violate the Act. The rest of us comply with the Act and enjoy the benefits of better beach access and a healthier coastal ecosystem.