Critics say California Coastal Commission resists, delays affordable-housing projects

"... this feels like a personal attack," said Paloma Aguirre, a coastal commissioner who is also the mayor of Imperial Beach

NBC Universal, Inc.

On Friday, Circulate San Diego released a 34-page report A Better Coastal Commission, aimed at highlighting, what it claims, are delays caused unnecessarily by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) when it comes to creating affordable homes and access along the coast.

“We’re not trying to attack the coastal commission,” said Will Moore, who is the policy counsel for the organization and the lead author of the report. “I know it feels like it, but they haven’t been living up to their mission.”

The commission was created in the 1970s to “plan and regulate the use of land and water in the coastal zone,” according to its website. The coastal zone in San Diego County includes everything that touches the water, as well as a couple of miles inland from the Torrey Pines area to Carlsbad.

The report from Circulate San Diego — which is a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, “advocates for better transportation and more sustainable land use choices in our communities” — claims the “Coastal Commission has resisted, opposed and delayed the construction of deed-restricted affordable homes that use programs like the Density Bonus Law.”

The report also singled out a handful of examples in which Circulate feels the agency did not respond to proposals appropriately, including both housing and transportation projects.

One such project mentioned was a proposal for changes to a bike lane along West Point Loma Boulevard in San Diego. According to the report, the city was told by the commission that “it would have to apply for a revision to its Local Coastal Plan (LCP).” The report continued, “the Coastal Commission may not have clear statutory authority to approve a bicycle lane that is not included in an LCP. Legislation to empower the Coastal Commission to approve bicycle lanes without LCP amendments could help ensure road safety projects are not prevented or delayed in the coastal zone.”

Moore added that the biggest concern his research highlighted was the lack of affordable housing in the coastal zone statewide, which, he said, leads to those communities having more financial and racial disparity.

“The origin of the housing crisis is that attitude of, ‘We don’t want development. We’re going to deny this project, but we support projects generally,' ” Moore said. “Unless you support the one that’s in front of you, you don’t support housing.”

Several members of the Coastal Commission addressed the report in their public meeting this week. Paloma Aguirre, who is also the mayor of Imperial Beach, said, “as an environmental-justice-focused coastal commissioner, this feels like a personal attack.”

A spokesperson for the California Coastal Commission also sent the following statement to NBC 7:

"Circulate San Diego’s recent report significantly misrepresents the California Coastal Commission’s track record on affordable housing. The agency has been and continues to be deeply committed to equity, environmental justice and affordable housing in the coastal zone.

"Without background or context, the report fails to provide credible evidence and cherry-picks a handful of cases to paint an erroneous picture that the commission does not approve density bonus projects or support affordable housing. The reality is very different. Density bonus projects are regularly approved in the coastal zone every year by local governments and the commission.

"We have and will continue to proactively work with local governments and developers to find opportunities to increase the availability of affordable housing in the coastal zone, ensure coastal resources are protected and ensure that the beach is accessible to all Californians. These priorities are not mutually exclusive."

For the full report from Circulate San Diego, click here.

Contact Us