SLO County supervisors chose to drop a proposed increase of appeal fees on coastal projects and thereby avoid a battle in the legislature after a few persuasive calls from California Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas.
Coastal projects operate under a different set of rules than those in inland areas. Most significantly, anyone can appeal, for free, a decision on a project in the county’s designated coastal zone. The county charges appeal fees for every other project proposed out of the coastal zone. The Board of Supervisors, in fact, voted unanimously in November to increase the inland appeal fee from $616 to $851.
If the county did charge a fee on coastal projects, though, the money wouldn’t matter. Coastal Commission rules state that anyone can simply usurp the county if there’s a fee and the appeal goes directly to the Coastal Commission at no cost.
“The commission feels strongly that the appellate process should be open and accessible, and fees on appeals basically are inhibitors,” Douglas told New Times.
In order to charge a fee on coastal projects, county officials would need to push legislation and override the existing Coastal Commission rules—and that’s exactly what they did. But the day before county supervisors were to instruct Sacramento lobbyist Peterson Consulting to push such legislation, Douglas caught word of the decision and picked up the phone.
“This is an issue that’s been before us over the years,” Douglas said.
Had county supervisors pushed the issue, Douglas said the Coastal Commission would have fought any bill that materialized, which would have been a costly process.
On Feb. 23, as county supervisors were creating their legislative platform, Supervisor Adam Hill said Douglas had contacted him and asked to have the issue removed.
“We just didn’t really think it was worthy of the fight,” Hill said after the meeting.