Coastal Commission faces budget cuts

By on Wed, July 30, 2008

The Coastal Commission is preparing for budget cuts driven by Gov. Schwartzenegger’s proposal to cut 10% from the state’s "bureaucracy", reports the Capitol Weekly. Layout notices have been sent to 46 members of its 125-person staff.  The staff says that there is a possibility to 19 to 25 layoffs.  At one time, the commission had a staff of 200.

"Budget cuts at these levels will devastate the Coastal Commission and critically impair implementation of the Coastal Act. The commission will not be able to work with local governments on LCP (Local Coastal Plan) issues…," Susan Hansch, the commission’s budget expert and chief deputy director, wrote in a July 8 memo to the commission’s employees.
The fundamental issue is that the commission is charged by law with protecting coastal lands, and it must make far-reaching decisions that often affect millions of dollars and the stewardship of the state’s majestic landscape.

"I don’t believe the system is designed to allow less scrutiny," said Andi Culbertson, an urban-planning consultant in Santa Ynez. "The time frames for processing projects have gone up and up because the staffing has gone down and down. They are barely able to make their own statutory time frames."

So what happens if the numbers of staff members get cut still more?

"There are only so many white mice and they can go only so fast. The Coastal Act is a very labor-intensive law, very evidence-intensive, and there is an awful lot of work to do," Culbertson said.

The article is pretty heavy on quotes from land use consultants and other folks who make their livings from coastal development and who aren’t shedding any tears for the commission’s staff.