I am writing to express my gratitude to Stewart and Taylor for their article on the California Coastal Commission. On Dec. 10, 1986, I testified before that body on an appeal of a 1,000 foot long, 35 foot high shopping mall to be built on the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. The commission listened attentively during the city's presentation, but when the appellants rose to present their case, the commissioners, with a few exceptions, began to walk around, talk with each other, or leave the room.
We suspected then that the "game" was not being played fairly, but it took a local newspaper report to confirm our suspicions: "City officials left nothing to chance prior to the Dec. 10 meeting at the Los Angeles International Airport Holiday Inn. The top brass (city administrator, mayor and senior planners) reserved rooms and spent most of the night before going over the project with commissioners," the paper reported.
A letter to the Coastal Commission from Deputy Atty. Gen. Richard C. Jacobs, Sept. 11, 1981, clearly states, " . . . the courts have consistently stated that evidence received in ex parte communications by agency members outside the public hearing process violates the rights of the parties to the proceeding, and may invalidate the agency's decision." The problem is that an appellant needs approximately $15,000 to retain a lawyer to file a suit to take advantage of that law. In 1985, a statewide poll commissioned by the Assembly Office of Research and a conservation group found wide support for the Coastal Commission. It looks as if it is time for a new initiative to again gain citizen control of our coastline.