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Coastal Commission Choices Assailed

Development: Pringle defends two appointees to state panel. Democrats, environmentalists call them 'scofflaws.'


SACRAMENTO — Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists Thursday called on GOP Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle to withdraw two of his appointees to the California Coastal Commission, calling them "scofflaws" who violated the Coastal Act and oppose the concept of the commission.

Pringle's critics likened the Coastal Commission appointments made earlier this week to a fox being sent to guard a henhouse or a thief being made a police officer.

Pringle shrugged off the attacks by "liberal Democrats," and stood by his decision to appoint Arnold Steinberg, who spent two years fighting the commission over construction of his home in Calabasas, and activist Patricia Randa, who had a 10-year battle when she owned land in the Santa Monica Mountains.

"These are not just scofflaws," said Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). "They are people who are completely inappropriate to serve on the Coastal Commission."

Calling the appointments "cynical," Kuehl said Pringle's appointments reflect the Speaker's "anti-preservation, anti-consumer use, and anti-coastline attitude."

She was joined at a press conference by three other Democratic lawmakers and representatives of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. While their anger was expected, Republican moderates also criticized Pringle's decision.

"This isn't one of his highlights. I'll leave it at that," Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz) said Thursday.

In Calabasas, Kenneth Wikle, president of the Cold Creek Community Council, was especially outraged at Randa's appointment, recalling in an interview that Randa had "thumbed her nose at the commission," and predicting that she "will do all she can to torpedo the commission."

Wikle also wrote a letter to Assemblyman Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles) in which he called Randa's appointment "an egregious error, particularly from a moral standpoint."

"We disdain people who break laws of whatever category, be they traffic infractions or felonies," Wikle said in the letter. "We view the appointment of a Coastal Act violator to the Coastal Commission the moral equivalent of giving a felon a judgeship, or making a thief a police officer."

Responded Randa: "They ought to cease and desist that kind of slander." She said she has no intention of stepping down from the commission.

Steinberg called the criticism "an attempt to intimidate" and said he intends to stay on the commission.

"I am uniquely qualified to lead a movement for change, precisely because I have been a victim of their incompetence," Steinberg said.

Steinberg settled his dispute with the commission in 1990 after he agreed to buy a neighboring parcel for $165,000 and not develop it. In exchange, he was allowed to finish work on his 5,000-square-foot home. As part of the settlement, a Los Angeles Superior Court ordered that Steinberg not violate provisions of the act, although he never admitted Coastal Act violations.

Randa was subject of a 1980 temporary restraining order initially blocking her and her family from developing her property. She later settled the case when the state agreed to buy her property.

That deadline passed two months ago.

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