A North Coast lawmaker has come to the defense of Charles Lester, the executive director of the California Coastal Commission who has come under fire from a number of commissioners seeking his ouster at the panel’s meeting next month in Moro Bay.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said the commission staff, led by Lester, had prepared the commission’s first detailed strategic plan, resolved long-standing cases, got a $3 million budget increase to help support local conservation planning and climate change issues, among other achievements.
“I urge the Commissioners to consider their own actions first before hastily pointing fingers at Commission staff,” said Levine, the chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. He was referring to commission decisions to approve actions opposed by some environmentalists, including a major hotel project at Monterey Bay Shores and a sand-replenishment project on Broad Beach in Malibu
Levine’s comments were contained in a Jan. 27 letter to Commission Chair Steve Kinsey with the other commissioners copied in.
Lester, who has served as executive director for nearly five years, succeeded Peter Douglas, the commission’s long-time executive director and an author of the voter-approved law that created the commission.
The 12-member panel has authority over 1,100 miles of California coast, and frequently comes into conflict with builders, property owners and developers over public access to the coast and environmental rules. The commission’s voting members are appointed, four each, by the governor the Assembly speaker and the Senate Rules Committee.
Several commissioners have complained about Lester’s leadership, saying that projects have been delayed unnecessarily and that the staff has been ill-managed.
Lester’s supporters, however, said that the staff is aggressive in enforcing the Coastal Protection Act, which has angered some members of the commission.
The commission plans to meet in Moro Bay from Feb. 10-12, and a discussion of Lester’s status is expected to be held on the first day. Lester also may address the commission.