Urban Edginess

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Tag: Coastal Plan

Coastal WaterfrontAge: Twelve Years on the Coast.

This is another of my recent posts containing the column I wrote in 1987 for California WaterfrontAge a magazine published by the California State Coastal Conservancy during my time as the Conservancy’s first Executive Director. It is also the last one since I soon left after 12 years of actively pursuing the protection of California’s magnificent coastal resources. The Coastal Conservancy was a new type of governmental agency at the time, more directed environmental restoration than the acquisition of parks and open space. Since it’s creation, the Conservancy,  has completed almost 2,500 projects along the California coastline and San Francisco Bay, protected over 400,000 acres of coastal land and restored over 35,000 acres of coastal habitat, built about 215 miles of new trail and spent over 1.4 billion dollars on projects. It works in partnership with other public agencies, nonprofit organizations and private landowners.

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Twelve Years on the Coast, 1973–1985…

 


THIS FINAL Joe’s Corner marks my departure from the State Coastal Conservancy after eight years as its executive officer. It seems an appropriate occasion to reflect on my twelve years in coastal management —  a period which stretches from the early, controversial days of the California Coastal Commission to a calmer era which has seen the Conservancy establish itself and mature to address new and important issues.

I entered the field in 1973 as chief counsel to the newly created California Coastal Commission. With the mandate of the new voter-approved Proposition 20, we faced the urgent task of preventing development that threatened to destroy the resources of the magnificent California coast of which we Californians were so proud. The Commission’s regulatory powers granted to them by a vote of the people of California enabled them, at least temporarily, to accomplish this task, but regulation also led to frustration.

The Commission’s power was essentially a negative one; it could only review those projects that apply for permits. It could not build public accessways to the water, restore degraded marshes, eliminate small lots on previously subdivided property, or achieve any of the other important goals that required positive action.

When The Commission began work on developing the Coastal Plan, it attempted to remedy the inadequacies inherent in temporary regulation. Eventually, they decided on a three-part approach:

First, deal with the immediate and cumulative impacts of proposed development through regulation and the adoption of local coastal protection land use plans prepared and administered by local governments and approved by the Commission as consistent with the Commission approved Local Coastal Plan;

Second, acquire those properties containing important ecological or recreational value by appropriate State and local government agencies and qualified non-profit entities funded through a voter-approved Bond Act and;

Third, create an entirely new agency equipped to take the positive actions to restore and preserve coastal resources, guide development along the coast and provide public access and recreational opportunities for all that the existing regulatory and other agencies were unable to accomplish.

Assigned to write the Governmental Powers and Funding element of the Coastal Plan,  in addition to developing the management structures of the entities to carry out the Coastal Plan, I designed a new agency to be called the State Coastal Conservancy. I developed the concept of this new type of governmental entity based on the lessons learned from observing the successes and failures of redevelopment programs and innovative private non-profit land trusts like the one in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Ultimately the three prongs of the plan were incorporated into three separate pieces of legislation that were passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in1976. The three laws together are referred to as the California Coastal Program

The coastal bills touched every interest group in Sacramento, and the lobbying was intense. I took a legislative staff job in 1975 in order to help draft and guide the bills through their rough but exciting passage.

The first prong of the solution, local regulation, has been a slow and sometimes frustrating process, but years of interim state regulation have fundamentally changed developers’ attitudes and have improved the quality of projects they propose on the coast.

The second prong, public acquisition, has been extremely successful: as of this time (1987), 27,000 acres of coastal lands have been bought, providing twenty-two new miles of public coastline. In Sonoma County, for example, most of the coast is now in public ownership where almost none existed before 1972.

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The Sonoma Coast.

 

(Note: Today (2018) approximately one-third of California’s over 1500 miles of shoreline is in park or other environmentally protected lands.)

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Recently (2015) I visited a combined project of the State Coastal Conservancy and the California Parks Department that preserved a long stretch of the Mendocino County Coastline. 

 

The third prong, the State Coastal Conservancy,  is the subject of the remainder of this column.

The Conservancy has a dual mission: to resolve conflicts that surface in the regulatory process and to take innovative steps to solve problems regulation cannot address. In the early years of the agency, these two missions often dovetailed; we were called upon to solve crises which had stymied the planners and regulators. At Oceanside, for example, the city had proposed a wall of shoreline condominiums, unacceptable to the Coastal Commission because it would have blocked off the beach. Through a process of citizen-attended design workshops, the Conservancy was able to help negotiate a plan acceptable to all parties.

In these conflict situations, the Conservancy has tried to break the impasse by bringing an economic viewpoint to bear on the issues. Keeping the hard numbers in mind, the Conservancy has proposed solutions that meet not only the regulatory goals of the State but the economic interests of the local government and the developer.

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Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara California, a Conservancy Urban Waterfront, Public Acess and conflict resolution project. 

 

Our access program was also designed to solve a crisis of sorts — the inability of regulatory authority to open up the beach. We decided not to wait for local coastal planning to finish its tortuous course, but instead to push forward with urgently needed accessways, simple paths or stairways that would allow people to reach the water. In eight years we paid for over 110 accessways that opened up significant portions of the beach in many popular areas like Malibu and Big Sur.

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Beach Access in Malibu.

As the agency has matured, our work evolved from alleviating piecemeal crises to developing long-range and comprehensive solutions. With the access program, now that we have built the most immediately needed accessways, we are looking only at projects that fit into a comprehensive scheme for a given area. In particular, over the past few years, a great deal of our work has been in helping develop integrated programs to revitalize the waterfronts of small cities. Much of the recreational potential of the coast lies in small cities like Oceanside or Morro Bay, and we are designing overall approaches to developing that potential in an economically feasible way. Accessways often form only one component in a strategy that might include pier restoration, park development, and commercial expansion.
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Restoration of the Magnificent Santa Monica Pier was a Conservancy Urban Waterfront Restoration Project.

 

Similarly, in our wetlands program, we are not only funding the restoration of degraded marshes but we are beginning to address the larger problem of managing the watersheds that the marshes depend upon. No matter how well a wetland is restored or how securely it is protected by regulation against filling or dredging, it will not survive if a disturbed watershed dumps silt on top of it. In Tomales Bay, Los Penasquitos Lagoon, and other areas, we are using siltation devices and selected acquisitions to help control those human disturbances to the watershed which threaten the wetlands below.

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Los Penasquitos Lagoon.

I believe the Conservancy’s success will continue to depend even more on how well it can do this kind of problem-solving. Up and down the California coast, wetlands have been saved from encroaching development, access has been improved, and other pressing problems have been addressed. Now it becomes all the more important to preserve and consolidate those gains for future generations.

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Arcata Marsh, a State Coastal Conservancy Assisted Wetlands Restoration Project.

 

Southern California’s wetlands will not survive without management of their watersheds; existing beaches will be overtaxed if new recreational facilities are not developed.

(Note: In 1976 when the Conservancy was created there few if any, wetland restoration projects under weigh and surprising little support for their rehabilitation.The Conservancy took the lead in wetland rehabilitation and that attitude began to change. In 1997, the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, a coalition of several governmental agencies, of which the Conservancy plays a significant role was created to coordinate wetland restitution and rehabilitation along the Southern California coast.)

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Bolsa Chica Wetlands Restoration.

 

The Conservancy has begun the arduous task of tackling these broader and more complex issues of land management. Over the last decade, the only new state environmental agencies created were the Santa Monica Mountains and Tahoe Conservancies, both modeled after the Coastal Conservancy. In an age of hostility toward bigger government, the success which the Conservancy has had and the support it continues to receive are welcome and promising signs for the future.

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Point Cabrillo Light Station, State Park and Restored Light Keepers’ Cottages.

 

 

Five Years on the Bay

 

IN THIS ISSUE commemorating the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, I will offer a few words on how the Conservancy has applied its multiple techniques and programs to San Francisco Bay, which came under the agency’s jurisdiction in 1981. The Bayshore, like the coast, has a regulatory agency – the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission-with the authority to limit harmful development but without the authority to build accessways or restore marshes. The Conservancy’s efforts complement those of the Bay Commission; to make the most of this relationship, the Conservancy has tried to use the comprehensive approaches which evolved out of our coastal experience.

San Francisco Bay is essentially an urban body of water. The Conservancy has therefore aimed its bay programs at urban needs. The ultimate goal of the access program is to create a shoreline trail which connects all the major cities of the bay. Between Oakland and San Jose, the trail is now almost complete. The Conservancy has funded walking trails or bicycle paths at Lake Merritt, Vallejo, Hayward, Benicia, and Palo Alto, and has funded nearly twenty other access projects. In all, the agency is responsible for a total of fifteen miles of new shoreline trails.
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That Inauspicious Beginning has Grown to This Today (2018).  

 

One of the more innovative components of the Conservancy’s access program is its barrier-free work. Five projects from Coyote Point to Benicia will change facilities to make them accessible to handicapped persons; this “retrofitting” includes installing ramps, making curb cuts, and remodeling restrooms.Hopefully, these projects will serve as models for new recreational facilities on the bay.

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Recreation therapist Bonnie Lewkowicz author of trail guides for the disabled and Brett Wilkison from the Coastal Conservancy examining Brisbane Marina to improve wheelchair accessibility.

 

Some of the Conservancy’s other wide-ranging recreational projects include a fishing pier in Napa County and a shoreline park in Berkeley planted with indigenous species. Most recently the Conservancy has funded the purchase of an extensive area along the Carquinez shoreline surrounding Port Costa. This will thoroughly preserve one of the few remaining open spaces and recreational areas in the East Bay.

The challenge which our wetlands program faces in the bay is to create and maintain habitat in urban areas. Potentially one of the most important mechanisms for this is the Conservancy’s new mitigation bank program, which works in conjunction with regulatory agencies.

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The above map shows the extent of Conservancy Wetland Projects Today (2018) in Southern San Francisco Bay.

Developers are sometimes allowed to fill or otherwise damage wetland habitat if they provide for replacement habitat somewhere off the project site. However, compliance with these “offsite” requirements has been disappointing, so the mitigation bank program was designed to make developers comply more effectively. The idea is that the Conservancy will restore certain historic wetlands on the bay and “deposit” their habitat value in a land bank; then developers with offsite requirements will have the option of simply reimbursing the agency for some portion of the habitat value. In this way, habitat replacement is achieved before the developer destroys any wetland, and the Conservancy can reuse the developer’s funds for additional wetland restoration. The Conservancy already has an agreement with the Bay Commission to carry out the program, and a pilot mitigation site on San Pablo Bay may be restored later this year.

Another way to help restore wetlands in urban areas is to use treated wastewater. On the bayfront in Hayward, the Conservancy is cooperating in a project that will use effluent to create 160 acres of freshwater and brackish marsh. The project is similar to the Arcata marsh restoration featured in the second issue of California WaterfrontAge.

Recently the Conservancy has focused on creeks which feed the bay but are threatened by encroaching urban development.

On Rush Creek, in Marin County, the Conservancy is developing an integrated strategy to purchase and restore habitat and to address the upland areas which could threaten that habitat. Projects such as this rely on a whole arsenal of techniques employed in a comprehensive approach.

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Rush Creek 

 

In the years ahead, the Conservancy will continue to help build on the regulatory and planning successes of the Bay Commission. The Conservancy is in an ideal position to play an important role in restoring diked baylands, expanding recreational opportunities, and meeting the other crucial challenges of the future.

 

 

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Musings on the Recent Coup at the California Coastal Commission.

 

Those who know me know that many years ago I played a role in the fight to protect coastal resources. As chief counsel to the initiative created California Coastal Commission, I managed the development permit process and wrote most of the Governmental Powers and Funding element of California Plan from which the California Coastal Program emerged from the legislature in 1976.

That program consisted of three parts. The first part was to reconstitute the California Coastal Commission with significantly expanded jurisdiction and very specific rules and standards with which to regulate new development.

The second part created a new entity, the California Coastal Conservancy because some resources were too valuable to be left to the vagaries of a regulatory process and their preservation often inconsistent with the mandates and programmatic requirements of the state’s park and wildlife acquisition agencies and finally to restore those resources where pre-existing development damaged or degraded them.

The third element was a bond act to fund the Conservancy and the other land acquisition agencies.

Following completion of the Plan, I joined the legislature as a staff consultant to a Special Senate Committee on Land Use. When the original bill we had drafted reflecting the plan faltered I served as staff for then-Senator Jerry Smith and worked to successfully shepherd all three elements of the plan the program through the legislative process.

Later, I became the first Executive Officer of the Coastal Conservancy and when I left and went into private practice, I sometimes represented, as an attorney, those to whom the markedly increased value we had created for those who obtain a coastal development permit was irresistible.

I write the foregoing as background and evidence that I have some experience in coastal matters that enables me to comment and analyze the importance of the political coup that has recently occurred reflected by the removal of the Commission’s Executive director Dr. Charles Lester who I do not know and about whose competency I have no opinion.

Some have said the coup benefits the development community at the expense of coastal resources. That is undeniably true, but its import more sinister.

The Coastal Commission has been remarkably effective in carrying out its mandate to assure that new development does not irreparably damage irreplaceable environmental and recreational resources along the coast. It is, however, also notable and often missed that, among governmental agencies, its process up until now has been remarkably open to all and free of secret influence and collusion.

Since its creation, the Commission has adopted ever increasingly strict regulations on disclosure and the behavior of all the participants in the process including the staff and the commission itself. Decision making has been brought out into the public arena.

True, I and others have at times criticized the Commission for notable failures to protect a specific resource or the staff for callous behavior and its tendency to avoid preserving or restoring a resource where it could in favor of simply denying development, but on the whole, the process seems to work and has grown over the years to be relatively free of corruption and political influence despite the public fishbowl in which it is forced to operate and the financial strength and political power of many of the interests involved .

Those seeking permits had to rely on those knowledgeable about the Commission’s procedures and provide generally technically competent information to the Commission. The Commission Staff, in turn, had to develop the ability to analyze the information and present their conclusions in public. Communications from those trying to influence Commissioners were disclosed. The public had access to the information and reasonable confidence in the independence and competency of the process.

Now, at least for the largest of development interests, I fear this action to remove the Executive Director has pulled the real decision making back to Sacramento where accountability is often hidden; where money talks and not technical analysis; where laws can be ignored in return for favors.

The Governor, Jerry Brown, cannot continue to deny complicity in this. He has simply chosen bad old government corruption and secrecy over open government.

Is this the end of the Coastal Commission as an effective guardian of the Coast? Certainly it opens the way for the largest and most destructive of developers to have their way with those coastal resources remaining in private hands.

As for the Coastal Program as a whole, it is in generally good shape. For the past 40 years, vast amounts of critical resource lands have been removed from the vagaries of the regulatory process where David Brower once told me, “All our victories are temporary and all out defeats permanent.” Local communities, land trusts, and state agencies have begun the process of restoring those resources on public lands damaged by pre-existing development.

Once during the battle for passage of the various pieces of Coastal Legislation a legislator asked me, “I fly all over California and when I look down I see lots and lots of wild natural lands why do you want to stop development on this little bit?”

“That’s just the point,” I responded. “With all that land, much of it not particularly sensitive, why do you want to build on this irreplaceable resource?”

More Thoughts about the California Coastal Commission

A few years ago I spent two days with Stevie and Norbert Dall. Norbert is busy trying to write the definitive history or California’s coastal protection legislation. The amount of research he has done amazed me as did his memory of people, places and events during those times( over 30 years ago). I believe that Norbert and Stevie are probably along with Peter Douglass and perhaps Bill Geyer and Ruth Galanter the people with the longest continuous involvement with the coastal protection movement in California. In Ruth and Bill’s cases, however, for the past decade or so they have become much less involved.

As for Peter Douglass, but for the last 20 years or so controversial years as Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission, his impact on the course of things coastal has been mostly in his own mind. Peter was, by far, the earliest of all of those who have spent at least portions of their careers in coastal protection. He worked as an aid to Senator Siroty during the failed attempts in the late 60’s and early 70’s to push coastal protection legislation through the legislature. He later attempted to take un-justified credit for drafting the initiative, known as Proposition 20 that was successfully passed by the California voters in 1972 and set up an agency to plan the future land use of the coast and regulate development so as not to impede implementation of the plan. During the period of Proposition 20, while I served as Chief Counsel for the Commission, as far as I could tell Peter’s involvement in either the planning or the ongoing regulation was almost nonexistent.

Following completion of the Coastal Plan in 1975 and the submittal of the proposed implementation legislation to the legislature, most of us active at that time were determined to keep Peter as far away from any decision-making and participation as possible. Nearly all of us believed that not only was he incapable of understanding the complexities of the Plan, the legislation and the political strategy that was developed, but he had shown a distressing tendency to urge weakening of the protections whenever opposition presented itself. I had assigned on of the Commission’s staff members to sit with him every day and make sure he did nothing more that edit the legislation.

After the passage of the entire Coastal Program, Peter again disappeared from any involvement and for a while busied himself in an unsuccessful attempt to find work in the private sector. Ultimately he took a job as a not so respected member of the reconstituted Coastal Commission staff. Finding himself ignored, he resumed his search for other work when a series of unfortunate events, including resignation of the existing executive director, he, to the dismay of many in the environmental community, was chosen to succeed the departing director.

Over several years of ineffective management, his removal many on all sides of the development process urged his removal. Fortunately for Peter, the development community, through the inept handling of the move to remove him by the then Republican Governor, pushed the most radical members of the environmental community to rally around him and defeat the putsch, and Peter the Wishy-Washy seeing which side of his bread was buttered was reborn as an anti-development crusader.

Urban Waterfront Design Principles

The following adapts an article I had written over 20 years ago. I believe its main points remain valid today.

INTRODUCTION*

English: The Santa Monica Pier and beach in Sa...

The Santa Monica Pier and beach in Santa Monica, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regrettably, where people have settled on the coast, habitations, work places, and leisure places have too often ignored the fundamental aspects of the coastal environment.  The result has been architecture and urban development that all too frequently has not harmonized with its unique surroundings. Visual clutter and ecological insensitivity characterizes much of the development along America’s coastlines.

Of particular concern are the urban edges, where cities meet the sea. In California, over two-thirds of the state’s population resides in two coastal urban centers: the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Basin. In these and other coastal urban areas, the competition for waterfront space and the need for public access to the shore exacerbate the problems of past haphazard development and present deterioration.

The problems of the urban waterfront match its potential— in the urban coastal environment, the varied physical contexts and multiplicity of needs make design a challenge and an opportunity. In contrast, design for undeveloped rural areas on the coast must take into account fewer but more, obvious considerations, such as the impact of development on views, sensitive habits, landforms, and traffic circulation.

This paper discusses some principles of urban coastal design that will hopefully guide architects, designers and planners through the process of preparing development plans. The principles are general; they are meant as building blocks. California’s efforts in coastal design development where relevant, reflect the author’s experience.

California’s Coastal Program

For the past fourteen years, the California has regulated design and development in the coastal zone, a band of land that stretches from Oregon to Mexico and extends from a few city blocks inland to as much as five miles from the shore. In 1972, California’s voters approved a citizen-initiated referendum, Proposition 20, intended to protect the state’s coastal resources. In 1976, Proposition 20 led to the adoption by the Legislature of a program for the protection and enhancement of the California coast. The creation of an agency to plan and regulate coastal development, the Coastal Commission, and one to restore coastal resources, the Coastal Conservancy, were the two most prominent features of that program.

Urban Waterfronts

In 1981 the Legislature expanded that program by adopting the “Urban Waterfront Act of 1981” and authorizing the State Coastal Conservancy to undertake and fund  restoration of the state’s urban waterfronts  “to promote excellence of design a n d [to] …stimulate projects which exhibit innovation in sensitively integrating man-made features into the natural coastal environment.” In 1983 the Legislature further confirmed the state’s commitment to waterfront restoration by authorizing the sale of $650 million in bonds to fund the program.

As a result of this intensive involvement in its coastline, California has developed an approach to urban waterfront design that provides insights into the fundamental design criteria for urbanized coastal areas. California’s coastal program has attempted to encourage and, where necessary, require designs which take into account a proposed development’s immediate and surrounding environmental characteristics. Too often, designers of coastal projects have concentrated almost exclusively on the structures themselves and their component parts, and have not given adequate thought to protection of scenic values, ecologically sensitive areas, and public access to the shoreline. The Coastal Commission has tried, therefore, to provide design parameters, an “envelope” based on the Coastal Act within which the structure must fit.

Urban Waterfront Design Criteria.

From California’s experience with urban waterfront development certain design criteria become evident Almost without exception, sound coastal design reflects development that appears to fit its setting. This does not mean that development must hide from view. Development designed for human activity can enhance a site, adding to the natural setting. But enhancement is a quality that is subject to opinion and thus difficult to treat by regulation. What one person considers an enhancement, another may consider obtrusive.

Development design along the coast should not consider a structure’s design in isolation. The primary concern should be the designs suitability for its environmental setting—a view of architecture that seems more in keeping with the oriental tradition of seeking harmony with nature than with the western tradition, of imposing human order upon the natural world. In the western tradition architects create a design by arranging a set of design elements to harmonize with each other, though not always with their natural setting. For this reason,  the aim of any coastal program should be to subordinate new construction in rural areas to its surroundings and to require new construction on urban waterfronts to be compatible with the type and scale of existing structures and uses.

Development should also encourage public use and enjoyment of the coast and wherever possible, require new development to preserve and encourage traditional coastal activities—fishing, shipping, water-oriented recreation, and other activities that are dependent on a coastal location. The Coastal Act’s designation of these activities as priority uses preserves not only the aesthetic diversity of the waterfront but its economic diversity as well.

Five Principles of Urban Waterfront Design

The key to success in urban waterfront redevelopment projects lies, in my opinion, in adherence to the following simple design principles:

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Public access must be a central feature. Public use areas should be made inviting in terms of size and location. Structures should be set back from public areas to avoid any sense of intrusion. Places to sit, rest, eat, and drink should be provided adjacent to and generally inland of the public area. Access areas should be linked wherever possible. Planners must be aware that if public access is treated merely as a legal requirement, which can be satisfied by providing an uninviting walkway that winds through an intimidatingly large project, the concept of public access has no impact.

2. Major public views of the coast must be protected by design. This has both public and private components. The public component requires that views of the water from public access areas should be unobstructed. If existing views of the water from a public roadway are unavoidably obstructed by development then the development should have alternative viewing areas in the design plan. Also, view corridors from public areas to major points of interest should be provided. As for the private component, wherever practical, and where it would not conflict with public views, the development should allow inland buildings a view of the waterfront For example, in Battery Park City in New York the buildings were located in such a way that a view corridor was preserved for buildings inland of the site that would normally have had their views blocked. This quite simple public requirement (or private initiative) could extend the economic values of a waterfront site beyond the first tier of buildings to inland sites as well.

3. Recreation and commercial uses (such as commercial fishing) that require a waterfront location and are not inconsistent with the surrounding area should have space allocated for their development. Adequate space within the public area will encourage these uses to locate there.

4. Radial planning. The urban waterfront should not be planned as most other areas are, in a checkerboard pattern, with industrial uses here, commercial uses there. Regular zoning should not simply be taken to the waterline. Instead, planning for the waterfront should be radial on nature, progressing from the specific to the general. It should be specific as to uses along the shoreline and more general as one progresses inland. It should begin with a recognition of the waterfront’s particular setting. What does a person need to be able to enjoy the waterfront?

5. Dynamism. The aim should be to design a beginning, rather than an end product. The design should allow the dynamism brought by people who will use the waterfront in varied ways. An over-designed plan might be easier to sell, but easily crumbles with changing uses and fashions, while a design that provides structure but allows for change is likely to be long-lived.

These design principles are not only consistent with an altruistic notion of the public good, they are also grounded in sound economics. When the attractiveness of a resource is enhanced, its value to surrounding business also increases.

It should also be kept in mind that the essential interest of the developer is to capture the complete value of the amenity. A developer cannot rationally be asked to do otherwise. When required only to conform to a general plan, a developer is led by self-interest to develop  plans that call for maximum revenue-producing space. He will discount open space and access ways along the waterfront as costly luxuries in terms of foregone revenues. Developers’ designs usually seek to force the public through their shops to view the water. The result is often a double-loaded (shops on both sides) passageway. Yet without access to open space and viewing areas, the local population will not be drawn to the waterfront, and projects are sure to be financial burdens rather than civic assets.

Urban waterfronts have received a major share of recent attention because of their historic and economic importance, their great resource value, and their importance as growing population centers. Local governments and private investors are rediscovering waterfronts as potentially valuable resources. A significant aspect of this rediscovery is that waterfront design—and designs for the waterfront—are beginning to reflect the natural advantages of the waterfront location.

Revitalization of a waterfront is linked to the city’s economic health. A city can afford waterfront redevelopment even in an age of austerity. Amenities—that is, tangible public benefits in the form of facilities, settings, and activities— benefit not only city residents, but also the city’s economic health. Amenities are now being used by public agencies as economic development tools, along with financial packaging, tax incentives, site acquisition and development, and other conventional approaches.

Clearly, the public sector has a crucial role to play in achieving compatible waterfront designs and, indeed, all coastal design. Government must play the dual roles of entrepreneur and mediator, roles not typical of government, but which it is nonetheless capable of learning. Government’s role also includes preparing the ground— literally, as well as politically and financially—for the development to come. Of necessity, government takes the overall management role in waterfront design and development. Compatible waterfront design that includes public amenities, far from being a costly luxury, is now being considered by both the public and private sector as an essential—and leading—part of waterfront development.

Conclusion.

There is room for diverse interests on the waterfront and the entire coastal edge. The need for multiple uses can be accommodated in many ways. The public sec tor—state and local government—has a basic responsibility to foster the best and most appropriate use of the waterfront and the coast. Design professionals and their clients, as creators of structures which will dot the coastal landscape for years to come, are obligated to work within public established constraints. And of course, the ultimate responsibility for preservation of the coastal edge belongs to the public.

A policy and regulatory framework can establish the boundaries within which multiple uses of waterfront land can be accommodated. Operating within these boundaries, public agencies can use the creative development approach to resolve coastal land use and design conflicts. In this way, public enjoyment and use of the coast can be achieved, sensitive coastal resources can be protected, and legitimate private investment can be made in a manner consistent with environmentally sound policies and regulations.

*Portions of this paper are taken from: Petrillo, Joseph E., and Peter Grenell, The UrbanEdge, Where the CityMeets the Sea, California State Coastal Conservancy and William Kaufmann, Inc., Los Altos, California, 1985.

Biographical Note:

 Joseph E. Petrillo played a key role in drafting the California Coastal Plan and in shaping the bills that made it law in 1976. He was counsel for the California State Coastal Commission between 1973 and 1975, consultant to the State Senate Land Use Committee from 1975 to 1977, then became the First Executive Officer of the California State Coastal Conservancy. After nine years in that post, he resigned to go into private practice as an attorney and consultant on land use planning.
ADDITIONAL READINGS

Adams, Louise McCorkle. 1981. The Affordable Coast. State Coastal Conservancy.

Adams, Louise McCorkle,and RickAdams. 1985. TheCaliforniaHighway 1 Books. New York.

Bamett, Jonathan. 1986. The Elusive City. Harper & Row. New York.

Bemier, Jacqueline. 1984. Commercial Fishing Facilities in California. California State Coastal Conservancy.

Burns, Jim, et. al. 1979. A Plan for Seal Beach. State Coastal Conservancy. California Coastal Plan. 1975. California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission.

Caputo, Daryl F. 1981. Open Space Pays: The Socioeconomics for Open Space Preservation. New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Clark, John, et. al. 1979. Small Reports. The Conservation Foundation.

Grice, Patricia Ann. 1980. Future Demand for Commercial Fishing Berths in California. California Coastal Commission. San Francisco.

Horn, Steve. 1982. An Urban Waterfront Program for California. State Coastal Conservancy.

Minurbi, Luciano, et. al. Land Readjustment: The Japanese System. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Boston. 1986.

Petrillo, Joseph. 1987. Small City Waterfront Restoration. Coastal Management, Lot 15, pp. 197-212.Taylor and Francis. New York.

Petrillo, Joseph. 1987. How to Save a Resource: Negotiated Development. Coastal Zone ’87 Proceedings, pp. 2783-2793. American Society of Civil Engineers. New York.

Petrillo, Joseph, and Peter Grenell. 1985. The Urban Edge, Where the City Meets the Sea. California State Coastal Conservancy and William Kaufmann, Inc., Los Altos, California.

Petrillo, Joseph. 1984. The California State Coastal Conservancy and Conflict Resolution: Reconciling Competing Interests for Land Use in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. Proceedings of the Coastal Society Ninth Annual Conference.

Petrillo, Joseph E., and Abigail D. Shaw. “The Conservancy Concept.” Proceedings of Coastal Zone ’85. Pilkey,Orrin, et al. 1983. Coastal Design. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York.

Rosenbaum, Nelson M. 1976. Citizen Involvement in Land Use Governance. The Urban Institute, Washington, D. C.

Sabatier, Paul A. and Daniel A. Mazmanian. 1983. Can Regulation Work? The Implementation of the 1972 California Coastal Initiative. Plenum Press.

Shoemaker, Joe. 1981. Returning the Platte to the People. The Greenway Foundation, Tumbleweed Press, Westminister Co.

Squire, Peverill, and Stanley Scott. The Politics of California Coastal Legislation, the Crucial Year, 1976. Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

State Coastal Conservancy. 1985. Waterfront Revitalization: PismoBeach, California. Urban Waterfront Lands.

National Academy of Sciences. Urban Waterfront Revitalization: The Role of Recreation and Heritage, U.S.Depart ment of the Interior. 1980.

Ideology and Populism in California’s Coastal Plan

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California (Photo credit: the_tahoe_guy)

At one time, I played a significant role in the planning and implementation of California’s monumental coastal program. During that period, I often found myself on one side an ideological divide among environmentalists. The split separated those with a focus on the protection and rehabilitation of coastal resources (my leanings) and those that believed that no development is good development. The no development side had a valid point. If we eliminated all development along the coast (or at least, all new development) the natural environment would return to the state nature intended.

As with most absolutist ideologies, it overlooked many inconvenient facts including the fact that no part of California’s shoreline no matter how remote was free from the impacts of the vast migration of population to the coast that had occurred over the last 150 years. Unless we somehow drove off all or most of those people, the resources would continue to degrade as a result of the impacts of their continued presence, no matter how much we restricted future development.

Concerns about the continuing impact of existing development on coastal resources caused me to take the position that the focus of planning, regulation and preservation should concentrate on protecting unique coastal resources and the restoration and expansion of degraded resources. Consideration of simple equity prompted a sensitivity to the nature and extent of the options available to those caught up in the struggle preserve those resources.

Before discussing the economics of the situation, a little story may help elucidate my evolving view about equity in environmental planning and regulation.

Early in the program, we received a development proposal for a small resort hotel on the shores of one of the myriad of inlets along the coast. There was no other development along this section of the coast and the sensitive resources in the area that could be impacted by development of the resort were significant. The developer was someone largely self-financed and not by any means could be described as a “large developer.” In fact, essentially all his financial resources were tied up in this property. During a meeting with him, as I discussed the various concerns we had with the proposed project, he became visibly agitated. Finally unable to contain himself he jumped out of his seat, rolled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal the telltale tattoo of identification numbers that indicated a survivor of the Nazi death camps. He shouted at me to the effect that the situation he found himself in was almost as bad and that of the concentration camps.

Now, without getting into the appropriateness of his analogy or whether of not it was simply a cynical ploy to play upon my emotions for his benefit, it did place in hard contrast the nature of my actions.

Ultimately, we denied this project so that the Coastal Plan could be completed without compromising its effectiveness by actions potentially inconsistent with that plan as the law required us to do. Although the denial was ostensibly temporary, I am sure the impact on the developer was devastating since he probably was not financially strong enough to maintain his position forcing him into bankruptcy or worse. I also knew that any plan that we came up with would have as one of its goals maintaining this short stretch of the coast free from development.

islands and rocks of California Coastal Nation...

islands and rocks of California Coastal National Monument (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realized then that my decisions did not simply preserve resources, but often acted against the economically weak, and at times in favor of the economically strong. Our actions actually gave an advantage to the large landowner or the well-funded development corporation who could to lie in wait for political fortunes to change or could afford to spend whatever it took on political and economic consultants to obtain the economic reward from the exploding value of an entitlement for development along the coast. A value that we had created.

This leads me to the economics of the situation and its social impacts. You see, because a permit to develop along the coast became immensely valuable, those with the wherewithal to wait for a politically propitious time or to buy the political and technical consultants (of which, following my departure from governmental service, I was a reasonably successful one) to acquire the prized permit, were often successful. Those without the wherewithal, often lost everything.

As a result, it became my approach and that of several others on the Coastal Commission staff to tell the prospective developers early in the project approval process as precisely as we could what we wanted as part of the development, what resources to protect and equally important what resources to restore or expand. The latter because I believed that absent such action, environmental resource degradation and loss from the ongoing effects of already existing development would continue. If you are not increasing the extent and health of the resource base you inevitably are losing them. This the “No Development” ideologues simply failed to understand.

If the Permit to develop was as valuable as we had made it, then not only could we using that increment in value to improve the resources, I believed we could also use it to reduce the inequities between the economically powerful landowners and developers and the much more common, small entrepreneur. Now the burden was no longer on the agency to maintain an untenable position but upon the applicant who must decide if the value in hand is worth more than the uncertain future value possibly gained by fighting on.

This raised the question whether we merely were forcing current development to bear the costs of governments past errors. The answer is, yes and no. Land use regulation increases the value of the entitlement and the project. That increment is simply redistributed.

On the other hand costs increase, perhaps not to the extent they would be by a failure to regulate in terms of the costs of environmental degradation. In either case however, these costs fall heaviest on those least able to bear them, so among the so-called coastal resources one includes those things considered replacements in whole or in part for that impacted by the increased cost; replacements such access to coastal recreation by the public, preservation and expansion of lower cost facilities and the like.

As a result of this, the plan and the legislation that ultimately emerged attempted to address most of the issues I mentioned above without surrendering its strong focus on coastal resources. This included creation of a regulatory agency with specific, not general, policies to focus the regulation on the particular resources of the coast and to encourage their expansion. Funding for acquisition of those areas of great value for recreational, environmental and even equitable purposes (such as the purchase at fair market value the land of the resort developer referred to above). And finally establishment of an environmental redevelopment and public access agency to begin the process of undoing the damage already done.

Following in the passage of the massive California Coastal Program, alas, those ideologically committed to the belief that no development is good development gradually prevailed in the regulatory program. Ironically this resulted in: favoring the large and powerful developer over the small and financially weak; a hodgepodge of poorly designed projects, both large and small; a spate of inequitable decisions falling primarily on the economically defenseless and; a slowing down of resource preservation and restoration even to the point of interfering with the other agencies ability to carry out the policies they were charged with in the coastal legislation.

Does this make me a “liberal” on environmental matters? Not to a certain segment of the environmental community. I consider myself, if tags are necessary, more an environmental populist who believes that, even in environmental matters, the statement that I have made several times before should qualify every social, political, environmental and collective action we make, and perhaps every individual actions as well:

“Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that its citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income, and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom to those without wealth, income or power?”

Anything less is neither patriotic, good public policy nor moral.

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