Famed economist Thomas Sowell recently published an article arguing that the open space policies in Palo Alto, California were artificially increasing the cost of home ownership in that city to levels well beyond the grasp of average Americans. As Sowell explained, open space policies are popular because the benefit (open space) is seen, while the cost (higher home prices) goes unnoticed. According to Sowell, government demands for open space in California have forced large areas of Palo Alto to go completely undeveloped, thus artificially limiting the supply of housing and greatly increasing its costs.
A similar argument could be made against the broad no-development policies of the California Coastal Commission. Under the Coastal Act every development in a coastal zone, including the replacement of worn out or damaged structures, requires Coastal Commission approval. These application hearings are not rubber stamp procedures. The California Coastal Commission lawyers at Kassouni Law know first-hand that the Coastal Commission is notorious for opposing any development in the coastal zone. Thus, the Commission often uses its permitting authority to require a property owner to spend thousands of dollars performing environmental mitigation measures for even the most minor alterations.
The benefits of this oversight (an unobstructed coastline) are easily seen. However, the cost of this bureaucratic deluge often goes unnoticed. On paper, the Coastal Commission’s existing bureaucracy costs tax payers approximately $16.3 million a year. But that is just the official budget. An experienced Coastal Commission attorney would tell you otherwise. That number does not include the time effort and legal fees that property owners are forced to pay every year in order to develop or repair their property. Nor does it include the greatly inflated property values that individuals are forced to pay due to the Coastal Commission’s artificial limitations on where owners can develop. Even projects that would create a long term benefit to the California environment can spend months or even years tied up in Coastal Commission red tape. The result of all this agency intransigence is less homes and businesses in the coastal zone, and higher prices for goods, services, and rent. Unfortunately these higher costs weigh the heaviest on the poor and middle class–those that are least likely to have voice before the Commission.
If you have a legal matter regarding the California Coastal Commission, consider giving Kassouni Law a call. One of the California Coastal Commission attorneys would be happy to assess your rights and posture your case based on a mutually developed client-attorney strategy.