We’ve Gone Coastal
Take a gander at Guna Peak. It is the hill at the very north end of town. Guna Peak remains undeveloped as part of the construction of the Laguna Beach County Water District’s five-million-gallon buried reservoir. The Irvine Company donated the 62 acres of land to the district. It made it part of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
That 62 acres just happens to be about the same size of another brush area the fire department is going to prune under a Cal Fire grant project. This fuel modification will cost $4,083,500. This is a cost to prune bushes for $1.50 per square foot. You can buy marble tile for less than that.
Why does it cost so much just to prune bushes? Close to a third of the expense for this fuel modification project will be for consultants, permits, and administration. Chopping fuel breaks has become high science and lucrative consulting work.
In the coastal zone, work to remove invasive plants and prune the native plants requires an expensive and lengthy environmental review process. Even on an old cattle ranch where the environment has been altered by a century of grazing, the Coastal Commission considers it a Coastal Development Project. It requires a Coastal Development Permit and will receive the full, slow, and expensive treatment.
When folks voted for the original coastal act, they thought they were voting to stop high rise condos and hotels from fencing us off from the beach. They were looking to stop oil spilling from oil rigs and lagoons dredged to make marinas, not regulate brush pruning for fire safety. Certainly not to the point it where costs more than marble tile to do fire safety fuel modification.
The California Coastal Commission and California Environmental Quality Act have grown into monsters of bloated bureaucracy we can ill afford. This thwarts essential public safety work while, at the same time, enabling inappropriate development through cozy relations with well-connected developers using high priced lobbyists.
Then there are the groups and individuals who use the coastal act as their own theater of the absurd or temple of environmental purity. Why, some idiot will probably show up and defend the invasive black mustard plant as being worthy of consideration as a native, because it has been here a few hundred years.
It is getting to the point where we are becoming unable to provide for the public health and safety in a reasonably efficient manner. It’s so bad, the governor has started issuing emergency waivers for projects essential to public welfare.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.