Southern California environment news and trends

Commission OKs year-round seal barrier on La Jolla beach

Seals Occupy La Jolla's Children's Pool Beach

David McNew/Getty Images

Spectators watch slumbering harbor seals from behind a rope barrier at Children's Pool Beach.

A contentious battle regarding a year-round rope to protect seals living at Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla came to a head this week, with the California Coastal Commission voting unanimously to approve the permanent barrier. As reported by the La Jolla Patch, the vote came after hours of often-emotional testimony from more than 60 speakers debating the pros and cons of such an enclosure. During testimony, videos were shown of people on both sides of the issue “interacting negatively towards each other.”

“What I think is going on here is not a problem with the seals and it’s not a problem with the rope. It’s a problem with people,” said Commissioner Dayna Bochco during the proceedings. “Nothing will work unless all of you are willing to work together. There are no humans here to be sympathetic with.”


Southern California’s ‘no otter’ zone on the brink of elimination

Michael "Mike" L. Baird/Flickr

It was announced last week that the California Coastal Commission has confirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest proposal to end the 1987 “no otter” zone program is good and in line with protection policies of the California Coastal Act. The Commission’s approval is the latest step in repealing the unsuccessful “otter translocation program” that barred southern sea otters from California waters south of Point Conception outside of a very specific location.

“The original purpose of the ruling was to protect the otters after they were deemed an endangered species, so there were good intentions,” explained Brian Segee, staff attorney with the Environmental Defense Center, when reached by telephone. “But as the translocation program moved forward, it was an obvious failure.”

The program had been designed to repopulate Southern California waters with sea otters translocated from the Central Coast, the caveat being they remain confined to San Nicolas Island and the surrounding area. The rest of the Southern California coast was deemed the aforementioned “no otter" zone. It didn’t work.


Pebble Beach close to environmentally conscious compromise?


Actor Clint Eastwood is among the owners of Pebble Beach Co.

After years of contentious debate, the prestigious Pebble Beach golf property is confident the California Coastal Commission will approve a new development plan.

Under the heading of the last development proposal for Pebble Beach ever, the plans include a new 100-room hotel and restaurant, up to 90 new homes and expansions of the existing Lodge at Pebble Beach and Inn at Spanish Bay. The proposal also protects 635 acres of Monterey pine trees. The Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal this Wednesday. 

What the plans do not include are any new golf courses. As reported by the Oakland Tribune, the Coastal Commission shot down a 2007 proposal that included a new 18-hole course and would have leveled as many as 18,000 trees.

The storied grounds are co-owned by Clint Eastwood, Arnold Palmer and former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who laid the groundwork for this new proposal through meetings with the late Peter Douglas, longtime executive director and defining presence of the Coastal Commission who died of complications related to lung cancer last month.


Directors David and Josh Lamb grab a final chat with Coastal Commission's Peter Douglas

Lamb Brothers/OWN

Peter Douglas at the Carrizo Plain

I blogged a lot about Peter Douglas before The Madeleine Brand Show did their conversation about him yesterday. I've been thinking about Douglas quite a bit. As they might say on the streets of Baltimore, his name rang out. For me that started during law school, when I learned about key decisions at the California Coastal Commission and the legal reasons for them.

For directors David and Josh Lamb, that started when they were researching people to put on an Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) video short series. They came to him at the end; David Lamb says the duo called Douglas during a retirement party. By the time the Lamb brothers met the "really engaging" Douglas, he was on hospice care, but still met them at the Goodwin Ranch on the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  

"My impression of Peter was that he had a quick wit,  was articulate and well spoken and had a passionate love of the landscape although he had slowed down quite a bit even then," David Lamb says. He calls Douglas "contemplative," aware and accepting of being attacked. "He said there were six hard full fledged attempts to remove him from his position at the coastal commission."


Peter Douglas dies: Longtime director and defining presence of California Coastal Commission was 69

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, is shown at in his office in San Francisco on Wednesday, March 30, 2005.

A spokeswoman for the California Coastal Commission is saying that Peter Douglas, the longtime executive director and defining presence for the commission, died on Sunday in Southern California at his sister's house from complications related to lung cancer. The Washington Post writes that Douglas "spent a quarter century fighting to keep much of the state’s 1,100 miles of coastline natural." He was 69.

For a lot of Southern Californians, the San Onofre Toll Road issue made Douglas somewhat of a household name.

After he said he was stepping down from his seat as the executive director, Douglas emailed me to say he couldn't do an interview. I regret that. My native Californian life was just a bit shorter than the life of the institution he was around from the very beginning. I wrote a couple of additional posts about his announcement. And last August, I dedicated a Song of the Week to the commission, to Douglas, and his adversaries.