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California Coastal Commission May Toss Chief Overboard

Photo caption: The California coastline by Muir Beach, northwest of San Francisco, is shown ...

Photo credit: Frank Schulenburg / Flickr

The California coastline by Muir Beach, northwest of San Francisco, is shown in this undated photo.

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The California Coastal Commission is the state agency tasked with protecting 1,100 miles of California coastline so that the public, not just the wealthy or connected, have access to it, from Imperial Beach, to Malibu, to Crescent City.

Charles Lester, the commission's executive director since 2011, is under fire from some members of the panel, which will meet Wednesday in Morro Bay to decide whether to oust him. Environmentalists who support Lester say the effort to fire him is motivated by some commission appointees who want to make the panel more pro-developer.

Those who want him to go have cited problems with his management and leadership skills.

San Diego's representative on the panel is San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, who won't be able to attend the meeting. In an interview with KPBS, he did say he has issues with the commission's bureaucracy. He declined to comment on Lester's performance because it's a personnel matter.

Cox's alternate to the panel, Escondido Councilwoman Olga Diaz, will attend Wednesday's meeting.

The California Coastal Act establishing the commission was signed into law 40 years ago, when Jerry Brown did his first tour as governor. Here's the language from the act:

(a) That the California coastal zone is a distinct and valuable natural resource of vital and enduring interest to all the people and exists as a delicately balanced ecosystem.

(b) That the permanent protection of the state's natural and scenic resources is a paramount concern to present and future residents of the state and nation.

(c) That to promote the public safety, health, and welfare, and to protect public and private property, wildlife, marine fisheries, and other ocean resources, and the natural environment, it is necessary to protect the ecological balance of the coastal zone and prevent its deterioration and destruction.

If you want to read the dozens of letters and emails the commission has received on the proposed firing of Lester, click here. Lester's also wrote a letter in defense of the job he has done.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Supervisor Greg Cox had issues with Charles Lester's management. In fact, Cox declined to comment on Lester's performance because it's a personnel matter. The story has been updated.


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