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California’s Coastal Commission has shut down the last beach-sand mine in the United States, operated by the Mexico-based Cemex company. Coastal Commission boss Jack Ainsworth told reporters, “This settlement is an incredible victory for the public.” Taxpayers might not think so.
The Commission blamed Cemex for erosion along Monterey Bay. Company official Walker Robinson told the Monterey Herald the causes of erosion “are numerous and complex” and claims that attribute the erosion to the sand mine “oversimplify the issue.” The mine has been operating for more than a century, predating the Commission, but rather than face a court fight Cemex agreed to end operations by the end of 2020. A better outcome would be to let the mine continue and shut down the Coastal Commission, which has been eroding Californians’ property rights since the first Brown administration in the 1970s.
The Commission was supposed to be temporary, but legislators made it a permanent unelected body that overrides scores of elected city and county governments on land-use issues. In practice, the Commission became the private domain of Peter Douglas, a regulatory zealot with little if any regard for property rights. On his watch the Commission was also known for Mafia-style corruption. During the 1990s, Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson attempted to shake down celebrities for bribes, and wound up serving a prison term.
As we noted, the Commission has been expanding its power into new areas such as animal management and surfing tournaments. The CCC keeps busy adding new commissioners and deploying its new power to bypass the courts and levy fines directly. Now the Commission claims it is too shorthanded to clean up its own books and seeks regular loans to keep itself afloat.
Taxpayers provide the Commission’s annual $23 million budget, but for that spending they get nothing of value. California’s elected city and county governments are entirely capable of handling land-use issues. Shutting down the Coastal Commission would trim waste, restore accountability, and above all stop the steady erosion of Californians’ property rights.