CNPS vs. Coastal Commission

A couple of months ago (May 2002) CNPS filed a lawsuit with the Sierra Club and Wetlands Action Network against the California Coastal Commission, City of Oxnard, and North Shore at Mandalay over the Commission’s decision to approve Oxnard’s amendment to their Local Coastal Plan (LCP) to allow the North Shore development to be built. 

We contend that the Commission violated policies under the Coastal Act designed to protect coastal resources, including coastal dunes, wetlands, and sensitive species habitats.  The Commissioners were heavily lobbied by the City politicians and North Shore developers and largely ignored Commission staff and environmental organizations recommendations to protect coastal resources.  Staff recommended a 100-foot buffer between sensitive habitats and the development; however, the Commissioners cut that in half after the developer complained.  Since CNPS believes that the Commission violated the Coastal Act by voting to allow destruction of sensitive coastal habitats to allow a housing development, we chose to challenge that decision, which could only be challenged through the courts.  We have had one settlement meeting with all the parties to the suit; however, no agreements have been reached to date to facilitate settlement of our concerns: violation of Coastal Act policies.  - David Magney

January 2003

CNPS’s lawsuit against the Coastal Commission’s vote to override it’s own resource protection policies to facilitate an exclusive housing development (in Oxnard – the North Shore development) will be heard in early January.  The Sierra Club and Wetlands Action Network join CNPS in requesting the court to overturn the Commission’s decision.  The housing development project will impact coastal wetlands, coastal dune scrub, and habitat of rare plant and wildlife species, including the endangered Ventura Marsh Milkvetch, Silvery Legless Lizard, San Diego Coast Horned Lizard, and other species.

June 2003

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kent M. Kellegrew made his decision on our complaint regarding the Coastal Commission’s decision to ignore Coastal Act policies regarding prohibition of permanent onsite destruction of Environmentally Sensitive Habitats (ESHAs), such as wetlands, at the North Shore development site in Oxnard.  The judge decided in favor of the Coastal Commission, explaining that conflicting California laws allowed the Commission to “balance” competing/conflicting policies.  While we agree that under certain circumstances balancing between conflicting policies is allowed, we disagree with how it was used in this case.  One of the biggest problems with the judge’s decision is that he bought hook and sinker the City of Oxnard’s/North Shore’s claim that Oxnard’s drinking water supply was at risk of contamination from the oil wastes that had been dumped at the North Shore site.  This is simply false!  There is no risk to drinking water at all, period!  Nothing has migrated offsite, and the top two groundwater aquifers are never used for domestic, or agricultural purposes anywhere near the site.  CNPS is now considering appealing this bad judgment.