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Santa Monica City Manager Praises Changed Coastal Commission  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

April 10, 2017 -- Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole applauded what he called the “dynamic and positive new tone” coming from the California Coastal Commission in a blog entry recently posted on the City’s website.

The statement comes a little more than a month after longtime Coastal Commission staffer Jack Ainsworth was appointed as the executive director of the powerful state agency.

Ainsworth had been serving as the commission's interim head following the much publicized firing last year of Charles Lester.

“Now, a year after the divisive clash over commission leadership, Ainsworth, the newly-designated executive director, is out delivering a message promising increased collaboration--and stronger partnerships with local governments--to accomplish the commission’s vital mission,” Cole wrote.

The commission is in charge of land use policy, including permitting, on and near (sometimes not so near) California’s coastline.

Although the commission members make the final decisions via voting, the executive director is in a powerful position because that person makes or oversees the recommendations that go to the voting panel.

Santa Monica officials have been working closely with the Coastal Commission in recent months because the City is updating a two-document package known as the Local Coastal Program (LCP).

With a certified LCP, which addresses zoning and other land-use rules along and near Santa Monica's coast, the local government could approve coastal permits at the same time that municipal permits are granted--preventing the need for an applicant to go to a Coastal Commission meeting.

Ainsworth and Deputy Director Steve Hudson recently met with Santa Monica staff, and Cole says that Ainsworth “praised Santa Monica’s progressive commitment to coastal protection and emphasized his commitment to bottom up decision-making.”

Cole added that Ainsworth “embraced” Santa Monica’s ideas for allowing beach access without increasing parking.

While in the past the Coastal Commission has favored increased surface parking, Ainsworth said (according to Cole) that it will focus on “ways of moving people around without parking,” including “low-income access through public transit.”

A draft document of the updated LCP is expected to be available for public review later this year, likely in the summer. Creating the document is a lengthy process that began last year (“Santa Monica Moves Toward More Control of Coastal Permitting,” January 11, 2016).

Santa Monica adopted an LCP in 1992, but the Coastal Commission did not certify it. City officials say that was due to disagreements between the City and the State agency on restrictions to hotels and restaurants, among other matters.

The LCP addresses what can happen in what is called the coastal zone, which in Santa Monica includes a 1.5-square-mile area stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Fourth Street (north of Pico Boulevard) and Lincoln Boulevard (south of Pico).

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