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    Coastal Comm'n Alternate Member Says He Wasn't Told Why He's Being Replaced By LB Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal

    (April 28, 2007) -- A veteran lawyer with strong environmental credentials, chosen by a Rancho Palos Verdes Councilman to serve as his voting alternate on the CA Coastal Commission, has told that he wasn't told why he's being replaced by LB Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal.

    Trent Orr, a Harvard-trained, San Francisco lawyer selected by RPV Councilman Clark and confirmed by the Senate Rules Committee, has served since January 2006 as an alternate voting member when Comm'r Clark couldn't attend meetings. RPV Councilman Clark is the Coastal Commissioner designated as representative for the South Coast region (L.A. County + Orange County).

    Mr. Orr, who said we caught him as he was headed out to the door, told in a brief April 28 telephone conversation that RPV Councilman Clark told him a switch was being made and beyond that he (Orr) doesn't know much about it. We asked him a second time: so why are you being replaced? Mr. Orr reierated that he received a call from RPV Councilman Clark, who said he (Orr) was being replaced and that's all he knows.

    Our efforts thus far to reach RPV Councilman Clark have been unsuccessful. [We'll update this page with further info as we receive it.]

    Mr. Orr's bio on the Coastal Commission website identifies him as "an environmental lawyer who practices in San Francisco. Since 1987, he has been in private practice, representing environmental organizations, citizens groups, government agencies, and individuals in a variety of environmental and land use matters. He received...his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1977...spent a year as a legal fellow at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles...joined the staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco in 1978, where he worked on issues involving off-shore oil drilling, coastal land use, national forest management, and wilderness preservation...Since 1984, he has been on the board of the California Wilderness Coalition, a statewide organization dedicated to preserving and protecting roadless natural areas. He has been a member of the board of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters since 1979."

    Under our reading of the Coastal Act, alternate appointees (such as Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal) are subject to confirmation by the Senate Rules Committee. [May 3 update] was told by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's office (the committee's chair) that the item came before the Senate Rules Committee on April 25 and the appointment was approved. Senate Rules Committee staffer Nellie Sabelhaus declined to release specifics of the Rules Committee vote (yeas and nays), calling the Rules Committee action a personnel matter that ratified the choice of the Coastal Commission member. [end update]

    The Committe's chair, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D., Oakland), is an ally of State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV). In September 2006, the Senate Democrat majority under Sen. Perata defeated a closely-watched "diesel magnet sources" bill (AB 1101) by then-Assemblywoman (now State Senator) Jenny Oropeza (D., LB) that the City of LB supported under an explicit directive of the LB City Council. Oropeza's legislation would have designated ports and airports as diesel magnet sources requiring regulation required of other pollution sources.

    LB and Oakland both have an airport and a seaport and would have been required to comply with the bill. After clearing the Assembly, the Democrat majority/Perata-led Senate killed the measure on an 11-22 vote. Those voting against it included Senators Jack Scott (D., Pasadena) and now-former Sen. Debra Bowen (D., Southbay, now Sec'y of State). Senator Gloria Romero (D., L.A.) and now-former Sen. Martha Escutia (D. Norwalk) were "absent, abstaining or not voting." With the bill assured of failure, Senators Lowenthal and Perata nominally voted "yes."

    2nd district Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal (who was LBUSD School Board president when she ran to replace a Council incumbent who resigned from office) was elected in a June 2006 special election with roughly 37% of the vote in a multi-candidate field. She's since voted to approve an Environmental Impact Report citing "overriding considerations" to support the Studebaker/Loynes ("Home Depot") development despite significant non-mitigatable environmental impacts.

    The development is being separately appealed to the Coastal Commission by appellants who include RPV Councilman Clark.

    Other pending LB area Coastal Commission issues include a proposed development by the Lennar Corporation at PCH/2nd St. and a proposed "Shopkeeper Road" extension in the "pumpkin patch" area crossing disputed wetlands.

    "As someone representing a coastal area with a major port and projects impacting our neighborhoods, I have a vested interest in the Coastal Commission's work. It is an honor to serve as Councilmember Clark's alternative," said Councilwoman Lowenthal in a release issued by her office.

    Further as we learn it.

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