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From the Road: 10 Days In California Policy

The Sonoma coast, birthplace of the California Coastal Act.

One of the perks of being Surfrider Foundation's California Policy Manager is traveling up and down the state visiting familiar favorite beaches and being introduced to new ones. Another upside of bouncing around California is meeting up with colleagues, coworkers and the ever-inspiring mix of chapter volunteers who make Surfrider a winning organization. The past week-and-a-half exemplified all this in so many ways...

Sunday, April 8: Sacramento

As the NorCal wilderness recedes in the rearview, I focus on Sacramento. Tomorrow several bills we're supporting –  including AB 1775, legislation authored by Asm. Monique Limon and Asm. Al Muratsuchi critical in the fight against new offshore oil drilling – come up in the state assembly's Committee on Natural Resources and I'm heading to the Capitol to support.

Surfrider South Bay Policy Coordinator Craig Cadwallader testifies at the Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Monday, April 9: Sacramento

After a morning meeting to discuss access issues in State Parks, I join forces with Environment California and visit the offices of all the legislators on the Natural Resources Committee. We ask staffers to recommend yes votes on several bills, including AB 1775 and AB 2779, Assemblymember Mark Stone's "connect the cap" bill. With over 20 bills scheduled to be heard, the committee hearing runs long and late, but our bills all pass this first hurdle toward becoming law.

Tuesday, April 10: Redondo Beach

Driving down I-5 provides a view into what can seem like a completely different California. In many ways, it is, but the people whose lives unfold in the Central Valley also love the beach – it can be argued that the Coastal Commission enforcement staff's work means the most to the people who don't live at the coast. In many places along the coast, property owners install illegal gates, paint curbs red to dissuade parking, post "No Trespassing" signs along public access ways, all to keep non-locals from being able to exercise their rights as guaranteed under the California Coastal Act. I'm attending the Coastal Commission's hearings over the next three days and, with help from my teammate, Surfrider Foundation's California Policy Coordinator Mandy Sackett, and chapter volunteers, will speak on a major enforcement issue as well as two coastal armoring items. (You can track what we're doing at the Coastal Commission via ActCoastal – sign up for the mailing list to make sure you don't miss a thing!)

Waking up in Redondo.

Wednesday, April 11: Redondo Beach

While the agenda includes multiple items of general interest and controversy, we're focused only on two: fighting to save San Onofre Surf Beach and ensuring the Commission upholds their December vote rejecting "erodible" concrete infill at Solana Beach. I'm joined by Mandy and our legal director Angela Howe for the first item. We explain to the Commission why allowing a 900-foot rock revetment on one of California's most used and beloved surf beaches was a bad idea in the first place and argue that if the Commission allows it to remain while further studies are done, more stringent conditions should be put in place. (Watch here, starting at about 5:27.) After much discussion about the problems with emergency permits and coastal armoring, the Commission votes 11-1 to approve State Park's permit extension, but includes the conditions we've asked for. We also prevail on the erodible concrete issue, to which Gary Cannon of our San Diego chapter spoke.

Thursday, April 12: Redondo Beach

A major access win in the city of Pacifica!

Friday, April 13: Oxnard

Our SoCal Regional Manager Bill Hickman has organized a workshop for our 10 California chapters, and Mandy and I are scheduled to talk about Coastal Commission-related campaigns, offshore oil drilling and pending legislation. Mandy's crafted a great presentation on the importance of local coastal planning. I'm excited to get to hang with our chapter volunteers – hanging out with a bunch of inspired, thoughtful, passionate people reinvigorates every time!

Admiring the Channel Islands from Oxnard.

Saturday, April 14: Ventura

The workshop is a great success. In addition to Bill, Mandy and me, our new Plastic Pollution Manager Trent Hodges joins from HQ, and over 50 chapter staff and volunteers show up. Representatives from each chapter shared what they were working on and although the specifics ranged from trying to solve the problem of border sewage to fighting against bad developments to growing beach cleanups, the common thread of dedication to our ocean, beaches and waves tied us all together. After all, what propels us – staff and volunteers both – to sit in meeting rooms, to show up at rallies, to write to our representatives, to carry reusable mugs, water bottles and flatware with us is a shared love for the places we very much enjoy. We want to make sure these places we like to play remain clean and healthy. We work to ensure everyone will be able to continue surfing, picnicking, swimming and otherwise embracing the coast into the foreseeable future.

From a presentation by Michael Blum, wave protector extraordinaire, part of Sea of Clouds.

Sunday, April 15: San Francisco

Long drive back to San Francisco. I stop for lunch at Pismo Beach's Honeymoon Cafe – an Ocean Friendly Restaurant, naturally!

Monday, April 16: Sacramento

Back to Sacto for more hearings. In Senate Natural Resources, SB 834, a companion to AB 1775 and also aimed at stopping new offshore oil drilling, makes it through. In the Assembly Nat Res hearing, we're prepared to fight a bad bill, AB 2921, which calls for polystyrene recycling. As Trent explains in a prior post:

An industry led bill, AB 2921, attempts to establish a producer-funded recycling program for polystyrene foam. As Michael Torti, the chair of the San Diego chapter points out, recycling isn’t the most effective approach in stopping the harmful plastic from entering our ocean, banning it is.

At the last minute, the bill was pulled from the hearing. Good news for us, but only for now. We expect it to come back. You can help fight it by calling Assemblymembers Ed Chau at (916) 319-2049, Susan Talamantes Eggman at (916) 319-2013 and Kevin McCarty at (916) 319-2007 and asking them to oppose it. (Talking points here.)

Tuesday, April 17: Bodega Bay

I head up to the Sonoma Coast – birthplace of the California Coastal Act! – for a Coastal Conditions conference hosted by the California Shore and Beach Preservation Association. During our field trip, we stop at a spot very much illustrating the importance of coastal planning in the face of sea level rise and increasingly severe winter storms.

Bluff-edge development meets coastal erosion.

Wednesday, April 18: Humboldt

After a morning session focused on sea level rise and coastal erosion during which I scribbled about a thousand notes, I trade off conference attendance with Mandy so I can get to an offshore wind meeting back up in Humboldt County. I can't wait to catch up with her to strategize on how we're going to save California's beaches!

Thursday, April 19: Humboldt

Due to the sudden increased interest in pursuing an offshore wind energy project on the North Coast, the California Energy Commission has convened multiple stakeholder meetings. I attend one at Blue Lake Rancheria with other NGO reps, various state agency staffers, staff from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and others. Short story: An offshore wind energy project is likely to be proposed and may eventually manifest, but between now and then lies a lot of permitting hurdles and public input opportunities. While all this is still relatively new for California, the East Coast is much further along this road (or out to sea, as the case may be!).

Coming up: Earth Day!

And with that, we look forward to the weekend – don't forget to check out an Earth Day event at a beach near you!