Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment

The California Coastal Commission: Increasing Transparency, Accountability, and Opportunities for Effective Public Participation

Ralph Faust

Pritzker Brief No. 12 | June 2019

CEN_EMM_PUB_Calif Coastal Comm Increasing Transparency Accountability

The California Coastal Commission is a state agency whose mission is to preserve and manage the state's coast. Its decisions regarding planning and development implement core state policies and determine individual legal rights. Both the perception and the reality of a fair, just, and accessible process is crucial to maintaining public confidence in the Commission's decision-making.

This Pritzker Brief analyzes the processes and procedures that the Commission utilizes in making certain types of important decisions, called "quasi-judicial decisions." The Commission makes these types of decisions often, for example in reviewing coastal development permit applications, certifying local coastal programs, and reviewing the activities of the federal government to assess whether those activities are consistent with California law. The article identifies opportunities and recommends strategies to improve the transparency and fairness of the Commission's processes and procedures.