Having spent eight years drafting a comprehensive coastal land use plan, the County of Santa Barbara, California received official recommendations that would seriously infringe on property rights and land use policies within the five-mile swath inland from the waterline. The Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® came to the defense of property owners with a consumer Call For Action in opposition to the powerful California Coastal Commission.
Up and down the 1,100 miles of California coast, the non-elected but all-powerful California Coastal Commission (CCC) regulates a zone from the waterline to as much as five miles inland. In the County of Santa Barbara, where this encompasses residential, commercial, and civic property, including a university campus – the agency’s staff recommended adopting measures that would deeply infringe on property rights, prompting the Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® to use the power of Advocacy Everywhere for a strong defense.
Government Affairs Director Krista Pleiser explains that the County had worked for about eight years and spent half a million dollars drafting its Local Coastal Program Amendments (LCPA), a mandated plan that guides development in the coastal zone, taking into account long-term environmental implications such as sea level rise. During the review process, the Commission’s staff proposed draconian modifications that would deprive property owners of their constitutional rights – in fact, denying the legal existence of any structures built after 1977, the year the Coastal Act was implemented. “If your home was built any time after the effective date of the Coastal Act (January 1, 1977), it does not exist!” says Pleiser, revealing the outlandish extent of the CCC’s ‘managed retreat’ policy, which effectively reclaims lands for the public trust.
2021 President Brian Johnson led the REALTORS®’ defense of the County of Santa Barbara LCPA: “The recommendations of the Coastal Commission staff were trampling on private property rights and land-use plans and policies that had been years in the crafting in accordance with the values and needs of the community. As REALTORS®, we are committed to protecting the rights of property owners and are so grateful for the depth of support from both the state association and the REALTOR® Party; they’ve really had our backs on this, and we couldn’t have succeeded without their support.”
Another important advocate for the County’s LCPA is Smart Coast California, a non-profit that Pleiser and fellow GAD Marta Golding Brown from Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® created in 2019 to stand for California’s coastal communities as a united voice for sensible coastal management.
Prior to the Coastal Commission’s hearing on the Santa Barbara LCPA, the REALTORS® put out a member – and consumer – facing Call for Action to rally opposition to the changes proposed by the CCC staff. The resulting public support for the LCPA as drafted – without the unacceptable modifications – convinced the County to withdraw the plans from a CCC hearing, as did several other local jurisdictions in 2021, on the grounds that the CCC staff failed to understand the nuances of the area.
Pleiser notes that one positive outcome is the alliance the situation has brought about between the REALTORS® and the County government, which aren’t always in agreement. “On this issue,” she says, “we’ve been in lock-step, and worked together to craft specific language for the Call for Action.” The real success, she adds, is that the Coastal Commission staff now recognizes Smart Coast California and the REALTORS® as serious players. “We are seen as an important resource, as a source of information across jurisdictions with open lines of communication with the CCC. There isn’t another organization with this range and this reach on the issues, so our input will be greatly sought.”
To learn more about how the Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® is championing the rights of property owners along California’s coast, contact Krista Pleiser, GAD, at email@example.com or 805.448.2979.