Once again, wildfires are raging in the Golden State. My readers know I was born and raised in the coastal town of Mendocino, Calif. I call myself a beach baby, especially now that I’m currently based in Tucson, Ariz. I’ve lived near the Pacific Ocean for the vast majority of my life in many coastal areas throughout the state including Tiburon, San Francisco’s Marina District, Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, Montecito, Malibu, Venice Beach and Laguna.
Over the years, I’ve heard many complaints about the California Coastal Commission’s restrictions on individual property owners who want to make improvements or changes to their land and buildings, even for homes located far away from the coastline. What was once a plan to temporarily protect the Coast’s fragile environment has turned into a bizarrely-run group of bureaucrats bent on making sure you don’t fix a road, build a fence or cut down a tree without their arduous permission and permitting process.
What’s more, the prohibition of property owners and firefighter authority’s ability to clear Commission-protected California Chaparral (essentially dry brush) to prevent fires from spreading and jumping has caused home–and even life–loss throughout the state.
I want our beaches to be as clean and accessible to all as possible. It is also important to protect any truly endangered species in our coastal areas. I like hugging trees, too. Yet even former Coastal Commission members and executives agree that that the checks-and-balances such a Board should be bound by are so completely out of whack that something has to be done.
To that end, I applaud the efforts of Richard Oshen, a documentary filmmaker whose compelling exposé, “Sins of Commission: The Politics of Fire,” opened my eyes and my mind. If you only see one more film this year, make it “Sins of Commission.”