We all want to help Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature solve the Golden State’s acute need for more housing. So why would legislators send the governor a bill that makes it even more difficult to build housing – especially in coastal cities?
Yet contrary to The Sacramento Bee’s opinion, “A murky bid to block Coastal Commission transparency” (Editorial, Aug. 7), that’s exactly what Senate Bill 1190 – the California Coastal Commission ex parte communications ban legislation – would do.
SB 1190, which faces a crucial vote Thursday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would give coastal zone housing applicants no opportunity to communicate directly with coastal commissioners, other than the 15 minutes allotted them at a commission hearing.
Try condensing a planned community, one that has taken years of hard work and compromise between elected and appointed officials, into a 15-minute presentation. It’s unfair to well-intentioned applicants who already face an arcane Coastal Commission system tilted against them.
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Housing purveyors seek only a level playing field that allows applicants an equal opportunity to present their projects to – and receive direct feedback from – coastal commissioners. That way, each commissioner can cast a clear, informed vote.
If SB 1190 becomes law, applicants will have to rely solely on staff feedback to learn what commissioners think about their housing plans – feedback sure to be altered and degraded by secondhand communication or bias.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, was right when he told the Los Angeles Times: “Currently, it’s nearly impossible to get a full and adequate hearing without ex parte communications.”
Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, in voting against SB 1190 on the Senate floor, stated that this bill is “too restrictive on communications between the public and its government.”
Democrats and Republicans agree: Ex parte communications are a practical avenue for applicants to ensure that projects get a fair Coastal Commission hearing.
I hope that the governor and Legislature will not allow SB 1190 to turn this avenue into a dead end.
John Santry is executive vice president of Shopoff Realty Investments in Irvine.