Wiener wants to strip Coastal Commission oversight of SF’s Ocean Beach

City politicians see maneuver as “remarkably dangerous” for environmental protection

Bill Seeks to Strip Coastal Commission Oversight in SF
State Senator Scott Wiener and San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Board Aaron Peskin with Ocean Beach in San Francisco (Getty, CA Senate, SFBOS)

To build more homes near Ocean Beach, some San Francisco politicians want to push aside the powerful California Coastal Commission.

State Sen. Scott Wiener aims to streamline housing development along the city’s western beach with legislation to strip oversight from the coastal regulator, the Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon reported.

Wiener, D-San Francisco, has proposed a bill backed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed  to remove urban San Francisco from the Coastal Zone, while retaining coastal natural resources and changing the role of the commission in local housing approvals. 

Critics say it threatens California’s coast and would open the door for other cities to do the same.

The proposed Senate Bill 951 aims to resolve “unnecessary permitting delays in the disproportionately low-housing Coastal Zone,” while helping the city meet its state housing goal, according to advocates.

“The Coastal Commission plays an important role in protecting coastal resources like beaches, bluffs and wetlands, but the commission should not be in the business of second-guessing —  and frequently delaying or undermining — local housing decisions in urbanized areas that are not natural resources,” Wiener said in a statement. “We need local planning departments and state housing agencies to handle housing permitting. 

“SB-951 eases the process for housing that has no effect on coastal resources and in the midst of this housing crisis, we should all agree on the need for that.”

The Coastal Commission was approved by statewide voters in 1972 and codified into law in the Coastal Act of 1976. Its powers include protecting coastal resources, and includes authority over zoning within an 840-mile Coastal Zone from Mexico to Oregon.

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SB 951 would remove privately owned urban parcels along San Francisco’s west edge from commission oversight.

But critics say that, at best, Wiener and Breed are pushing a solution looking for a problem, according to the newspaper. At worst, they say it benefits developers by setting a bad precedent that could undermine environmental protections in place for half a century. 

Among those critics are a majority of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which recently voted 11-3 for a resolution to oppose the bill, with Supervisors Joel Engardio, Myrna Melgar and Matt Dorsey voting against.

District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, who represents Ocean Beach, said she’ll do everything in her power to oppose the bill and “protect our coast in San Francisco.”

“This goes far beyond San Francisco,” Board President Aaron Peskin told the newspaper. “If one state senator can rip out Coastal Commission jurisdiction in his or her county, it’s going to be open season on the Coastal Act.

“The precedent here is remarkably dangerous about one of California’s model, cherished pieces of law.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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