Legacy of Zealotry: An undeserved posthumous honor for the founder of the California Coastal Commission
Peter Douglas, the former executive director of the California Coastal Commission (CCC) died of cancer April 1, at 69. But his passing raised no concern that the commission he helped found and that he led for 26 of its 40 years had outlived its usefulness. On the contrary, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week posthumously honored Douglas with the Walter B. Jones Coastal Steward of the Year Award. “Peter was a legend in California’s coastal history and his legacy today is a model for others [to] follow,” said acting NOAA director Margaret Davidson.
Let’s hope not. Though just one among many unelected government bodies in the Golden State, the CCC wields what Elaine Woo of the Los Angeles Times, in her obituary of Douglas, called “a great deal of autonomy”—power would be a better word. With a mission to protect the state’s 840-mile coast, the CCC trumps the elected governments of 15 counties and scores of municipalities on development issues, imposing draconian regulations and riding roughshod over individual rights. Douglas continually sought to expand the commission’s clout. At a Sacramento conference last June, shortly before he resigned to undergo cancer treatment, he pleaded for more authority for the commission.