As We See It: Santa Cruz County should have seat on Coastal Commission

Posted: 04/22/2009 01:30:18 AM PDT

It’s time for Sacramento to stop overlooking Santa Cruz County.

Consider that this county does not have a member on the state Coastal Commission, even though the commission has a member designated to represent the Central Coast counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has a chance to rectify the situation by appointing a local resident to the seat, one of 12 on the commission that oversees coastal development and protection. The speaker, the governor and the Senate Rules Committee all get four appointments to the board.

The seat currently is occupied by Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter, whose term expires next month. Potter, appointed in 1997, has been seeking reappointment, but now must contend with ocean-advocacy groups who took a look at his record and decided they wanted someone with better environmental credentials. It was significant that first-term Assemblyman Bill Monning, a strong environmentalist who is from Monterey and also represents Santa Cruz County, declined to endorse Potter’s bid for reappointment.

Potter has been on the commission long enough, and we’d love to see a Santa Cruz County member.

But we also recognize that the appointment needs to be made carefully. Santa Cruz City Councilman Mike Rotkin sounded just such a cautionary note when asked by a Sentinel reporter about the appointment. Rotkin said it would not be in Santa Cruz’s best interests for Bass to select someone who
would not balance ocean conservation with economic and infrastructure development.

Rotkin, who serves in an ardently green community, said that because the city is seeking commission approval for the La Bahia Hotel project, recently approved by the council. The city’s proposed desalination water plant also will need commission approval.

Three local people have already expressed an interest in the seat: Santa Cruz City Councilwoman Katherine Beiers, San Lorenzo Valley Supervisor Mark Stone and Watsonville City Councilman Luis Alejo. Stone was nominated for the post Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors. Each of the boards of supervisors from the three counties as well as the cities in the region will forward nominations. Monterey has already nominated Potter.

While we have no problem with the short list of local candidates, we’d like to see the pool of possible appointees broadened to include others who might strike a proper balance between coastal protection and necessary development that has undergone rigorous public scrutiny.