CA Coastal Comm'r Wendy Mitchell Resigns, Noted Locally For Holding Oct. 2013 Fundraiser At Her San Fernando Valley Home Touting Then-Mayoral Candidate/Then-Coastal Comm'r Robert Garcia As "Pro-Business Candidate"; Mitchell Was Among Comm'n Majority That Voted To Oust Exec. Director Lester

  • Irony: Garcia later learned he'd have to give-up his Coastal Comm'n seat on election as LB's non-voting Mayor
  • Governor Brown can now appoint Mitchell's successor
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    (Dec. 31, 2016, 1:05 p.m.) -- has independently confirmed a story first reported Dec. 30 by Dan Weikel on that CA Coastal Commissioner Wendy Mitchell has resigned. adds local impacting details independently reported below.

    Ms. Mitchell, appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Dec. 31, 2010, served at the pleasure of the Governor, meaning Governor Brown can appoint Mitchell's successor.

    Mitchell, along with LB Councilman/Coastal Commissioner Roberto Uranga, were among a Commission majority who voted on Feb. 10, 2016 by a slim margin to fire Coastal Commission Exec. Director Charles Lester. The Commission majority's action infuriated environmental and coastal protection advocates who alleged it represented a Commission majority tilt toward allowing more intense coastal development. Among Long Beacher's who journeyed to that month's Coastal Commission meeting (scheduled for Morro Bay in Central CA) were Mel Nutter (former Coastal Commission member/chair), Elizabeth Lambe (Exec. Dir. Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust) and veteran coastal protection advocates Gordana Kajer, Melinda Cotton and Jeff Miller.

    In her resignation letter, Ms. Mitchell wrote in pertinent part:

    [Scroll down for further.]

    ...[I]t's very clear to me that Californians love thier coastline and want to maintain its pristine beauty while ensuring access for all Californians.

    I'm proud of the work that the Commission did in this regard but there is still more work to do. Ensuring access for all communities, not just the wealthy that can afford to live on or near the coast, is a major priority. Balancing protections of environmentally sensitive habitat with access for inland living Californians and their families is critical. We need to remember that our fellow Californians are our most precious resource and if we want their support, they need to experience all the beauty that California has to offer.

    Like you, I believe that sometimes the job of leadership is not to tell the people what they want to hear but in doing what needs to be done. I'm proud to have served with my fellow commissioners who made tough decisions and did so with the best of intentions, even when it cost them personally and politically, because they believed that what they were doing was best for the California coast.

    On Oct. 4, 2013, reported that Commissioner Mitchell had scheduled a fundraiser at her San Fernando Valley home -- over 30 miles distant from Long Beach -- for then-Mayoral candidate/then-fellow Coastal Commissioner Robert Garcia. We noted at the time that the event was privately organized to our knowledge and didn't use any state or public resources and thus lawful, but the SFV fundraiser raised eyebrows in Long Beach. The invitation told recipients in pertinent part:

    [From invitation text] Long Beach's once budget deficit has become a budget surplus since Robert Garcia has served as Vice Mayor
    Robert's district has the most parks in all of Long Beach
    Crime rates have dropped to a historic low for Long Beach
    Robert is the pro-business candidate, and wants Long Beach to strengthen it's [sic] name, "The International City," by making it an economically booming, world-class city that businesses want to be a part of.

    [Ed. note: Long Beach city management had acknowledged at the time that Council actions (budget cuts and pension changes) by themselves wouldn't have produced a surplus if Sacramento hadn't given City Hall a cash windfall by dissolving Redevelopment, which LB City Hall had opposed. And an analysis of Long Beach Police Department crime data by indicated that in 2012, Garcia's 1st Council district had the highest total of violent crimes in the city.]


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    Residents outside Long Beach can't vote in Long Beach elections but can lawfully contribute money to try and sway the outcome of LB elections. The Coastal Commission controls land use along the entire length of CA's coast, meaning its Commissioners' decisions can impact coastal area developers, property and business interests along hundreds of miles of coastline from Mexico to Oregon. Garcia became a Coastal Commissioner in early 2013 via closed-door proceeding by the state Senate Rules Committee from which the public and the press were excluded and to our knowledge no witnesses, pro or con, were called to testify. The Committee, under a Democrat majority for the past several years, has routinely followed this closed-door procedure for its Coastal Commission appointments. Committee staff also denied a request by under the Legislative Open Records Act for access to records submitted by Garcia to the Committee in considering his appointment.



    The Committee chose Garcia despite his vote as a LB Councilman to approve a controversial, polarizing proposed development at 2nd/PCH [Seaport Marina hotel site] that the Coastal Commission's LB office staff warned the City was procedurally problematic under the Coastal Act. The proposed development was also opposed by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, represented by LB attorney and former Coastal Commission chair Mel Nutter. At a Dec. 2011 Council hearing, the proposed 2nd/PCH development failed passage on a 3-5 vote (with Garcia voting for the development.) That bruising event led the Council to approve starting a now-advancing process to update (i.e. change) SE LB area zoning (SEASP). A number of residents and environmental groups have criticized City Hall's process as already tilted toward increased density and higher building heights....and whatever a Council majority approves will ultimately come to the Coastal Commission for its voted approval.

    In 1977, the City enacted low profile planned zoning for SE LB (SEADIP) while accepting dense development downtown. If a LB Council majority were to vote to increase commercial and residential density and enable higher building heights in parts of SE LB, the Coastal Commission could either provide a last line of defense for coastal protection advocates or serve as enabler for interests favoring more intense coastal development in Long Beach and beyond.



    Robert Garcia is no longer on the Coastal Commission because after he was elected Mayor, he learned to his surprise that within 90 days of taking office he'd have to give up his Coastal Commission seat under then-state law because he no longer had a Council vote (that he had when he was appointed.) Garcia's Sacramento allies rushed to stealthfully try to change state law to let non-voting Mayors serve as Coastal Commission members or alternates but that effort failed in 2014 amid adverse publicity. In March 2015, the state Senate Rules Committee chose LB Councilmember Roberto Uranga to fill Garcia's former Coastal Commission seat, after which Uranga candidly acknowledged at a Commission meeting that he planned to name Garcia as his voting Commission alternate if state law were changed to allow it. However the state legislature did subsequently change state law to let non-voting Mayors serve on the Coastal Commission...and Uranga didn't appoint Garcia or anyone else as his Commission alternate. Uranga's current Coastal Commission term expires May 20, 2017; at which time he may seek reappointment; if he does so, the state Senate Rules Committee may reappoint him or replace him with another elected from the South Coast Area.

    Prior to the Commission's vote to dismiss Exec. Dir. Lester, 35 former members and alternate members of the Coastal Commission released a letter supporting Executive Director Lester. Among those NOT signing the letter were former Coastal Commissioner, now LB Mayor, Robert Garcia and former Coastal Commission alternate member, then-LB Vice Mayor, Suja Lowenthal.

    In addition to Mitchel's resignation (creating a vacancy that Gov. Brown can fill, Coastal Commissioner Martha McClure was defeated in a northern CA local re-election and will have to exit the Commission, giving the Governor a northern CA appointment. In addition, the four year terms of Schallenberger, Groom, Cox and (as noted above) Uranga are all up in May 2017.

    Developing. Further to follow on


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