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California Costal Commission Expose Hot Topic On KABC Radio

Monday, June 15th, 2009

SINS OF COMMISSION airs on McIntyre In the Morning Show

Los Angeles radio station KABC 790 AM TALK RADIO becomes the first radio station int the United States to investigate decades of highly controversial action by the California Coastal Commission.

Popular morning drive time host Doug McIntyre invites Filmmaker Richard Oshen to talk about SINS OF COMMISSION the first documentary expose on the Triple C.

Richard will be Doug’s guest at 6.30 AM PDT Tuesday morning June 16, 2009.

The program will stream over the world wide web at  http://www.kabc.com/

It is going to be a show you won’t want to miss.

The California Coastal Commission - Unrepentant Sinners

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

The Unrepentant Sins Of The California Coastal Commission
by Ronald A. Zumbrun
Thursday, 12 February 2009

What do the former mayors of Malibu and San Diego, a former member of the California Coastal Commission, and a former captain of the County of Los Angeles Fire Department have in common? In a soon-to-be released documentary film entitled “Sins of Commission”, these former public servants, along with several other aggrieved property owners, describe in painful detail the transformation of the California Coastal Commission as a protector of the environment into a radical bureaucratic monster.

Those who view the Coastal Commission as integral to the battle to protect the coast from “big developers” will be surprised to learn that it typically chooses to pursue fines against individual property owners who lack the resources to fight back.

Consider the plight of Kathleen Kenny, who was fined by the Coastal Commission for building a 742 square-foot cottage on an existing, developed pad in Topanga Canyon, California.

Not coincidentally, the California Attorney General’s Office, which represents the Coastal Commission, imposed the fines and served a lawsuit against Ms. Kenny the same day that a County of Los Angeles building inspector and two sheriff’s deputies showed up at her front door with a search warrant. The building inspector, Grant Lawseth, was miffed when Ms. Kenny published an 8-page newsletter to 3,000 Topanga Canyon residents accusing him of seeking bribes in exchange for Building Department approval.

In an amazing turn of events, a federal jury in 1997 found that Mr. Lawseth had engaged in a continued practice of racketeering and awarded damages to Ms. Kenny under the Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organization statutes.

Despite Ms. Kenny’s recent death and the astonishing jury verdict, the Coastal Commission’s fine is still on the books against her partner, Arthur Starz, which now exceeds over $2 million.

Sadly, the practice of government extortion of private property owners is not unique to Ms. Kenny. Shortly after the Legislature designated the Coastal Commission as a permanent bureaucratic entity in 1976, the Coastal Commission embarked on an expressed policy of forcing private property owners to relinquish portions of their land to the state in exchange for a building permit––a tactic which the United States Supreme Court in 1987 labeled “an out-and-out plan of extortion” in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission.

Ignoring the high court’s rebuff, the Coastal Commission continues to engage in extortionist tactics. One of the Coastal Commission’s ongoing policy objectives is the creation of hiking trails throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. There is nothing wrong in principle with this policy objective. After all, the state can simply purchase these trails from private property owners, right? Wrong. Instead of paying for the trails, the Coastal Commission has in place the policy of requiring property owners to relinquish a portion of their land for trails in exchange for a building permit––a policy confirmed by Peter Douglas, the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission, in the above-mentioned documentary “Sins of Commission.”

In Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, the Supreme Court held that there must be damage caused by the permit seeker and a nexus or connection to the exaction. Thus, if a home is to be placed on a public path, the permit seeker can be required to dedicate a comparable path to the public. In Dolan v. City of Tigard, the high court clarified the rule: there must be a rough proportionality between the harm to the public and the exaction imposed on the property owner.

The Coastal Commission’s policy willfully ignores a fundamental attribute of private property ownership: the right to exclude others. The Supreme Court has characterized this right as “one of the most essential sticks in the bundle of rights that are commonly characterized as property.” The Coastal Commission deprives property owners of this “essential stick in the bundle of rights” by its extortionist land dedication requirements.

Indeed, the Coastal Commission has even attempted to deprive a property owner of the right to place a “no trespassing” sign on his property, contending that placement of the sign is unpermitted “development.” Thankfully, the California Court of Appeal in LT-WR, L.L.C. v. California Coastal Commission restored sanity and confirmed that Californians still have the right to place “no trespassing” signs on their own property and do not need a permit from the Coastal Commission to do so, notwithstanding the Coastal Commission’s contention that this could potentially interfere with public prescriptive rights. It is disconcerting, to say the least, that the Coastal Commission, backed by tax dollars and the Attorney General’s Office, would take such a position in a court of law in the first place.

Consider also the Coastal Commission’s decision to label chaparral vegetation in the Santa Monica Mountains to be an environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA)––a decision without legislative oversight and based solely on the opinion of one so-called “expert” handpicked by the Coastal Commission. This label drastically curtails a property owner’s ability to productively use private property. Even a self-sustaining organic garden would be a prohibited use without a permit. Most of the land in the Santa Monica Mountains contains chaparral. Unfortunately, chaparral also is a primary source of fuel for fires. The ESHA designation precludes fire departments and local governmental entities from adopting their own fire protection measures and prevents private property owners from clearing brush as a buffer in the event of fire. Chaparral has been a major contributor to the recent fires which have plagued the state. Local residents and their governments must now live with a high risk of fires.

And then there is the ongoing plight of Dan Norris and Peggy Gilder, who purchased raw land in Topanga Canyon––not to live on, but to organically garden and hike with their children. The land came with an old, preexisting road, which over time had become obstructed with debris, rocks, and foliage. It never occurred to Norris and Gilder that the Coastal Commission would require a permit to clear a preexisting road to ensure access to private property. After receiving a notice of violation from the Coastal Commission for unpermitted “development” in an ESHA, the Coastal Commission arranged for an inspection of the property. Norris and Gilder wanted to film the inspection to protect their rights, but the Coastal Commission objected to being filmed. Without notice to Norris and Gilder and their legal counsel, the Coastal Commission then sought a civil inspection warrant from a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to allow the inspection to occur without filming and to allow forcible entry onto the property. Sensing the constitutional implication of precluding a private property owner from filming a government inspection on private property, the judge requested briefing on the issue. Rather than run the risk of an adverse ruling, the Coastal Commission withdrew its request for the warrant.

The California Legislature bears much of the responsibility for the Coastal Commission’s flagrant abuses of power. It created an entity that acts as a legislator (as in the ESHA definition), adjudicator (it hears appeals brought by aggrieved property owners), and executive administrator (imposing fines). The English historian Lord Acton famously remarked that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and the Coastal Commission is a prime example. The Coastal Commission’s treatment of Ms. Kenny and numerous others has nothing to do with environmentalism, and everything to do with selective intimidation and violation of basic civil liberties.

Backed by the power of the state’s v’s Office, what chance do private property owners in California have of fighting back? Very little. The vast majority of private property owners are just like Ms. Kenny, who desire only a residence to live in and do not have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for attorneys to battle the state. In short, only the people through their legislative representatives can make the changes necessary to restore both environmental protection and freedom of property ownership in California.

In the documentary film, Peter Douglas takes delight in describing himself as a “radical pagan heretic” and characterizes property owners who assert their constitutional rights in court as “jihadists.” It is submitted that no one, radical pagan or otherwise, should be acting as judge, jury and executioner over the people of California.

*Ronald A. Zumbrun is Managing Attorney of The Zumbrun Law Firm, a Sacramento-based public issues firm. Timothy V. Kassouni, Legal Director with the firm, substantially assisted in the preparation of this column and also is lead counsel for Dan Norris and Peggy Gilder. You can learn more about The Zumbrun Law Firm at http://www.zumbrunlaw.com/. “Sins of Commission” is produced by Richard Oshen of Pacific Coast Highway Productions. See http://www.sinsofcommission.com/ for more information.

California Coastal Commission- engineers without a permit

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

California Coastal Commission’s boots were made for walking over California’s coastal families… like the song says:

One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

With regulatory commissions like the California Coastal Commission bulldozing what is left of our freedom and constitutional rights at every turn, Is it any wonder that California ranks 47th out of the 50 states in terms of overall freedom?

According to a recently published study, California aggressively interferes in the personal lives of its citizens. Political science professors William Ruger, of Texas State University, and Jason Sorens, of the State University of New York, accounted for factors including regulations, state fiscal policies and the protection of rights.

We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same.

Only residents of Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York were classified as having less freedom than Californians.

The three freest states, in order, were New Hampshire, Colorado and South Dakota.

California ranked 48th in the nation on economic freedom, 46th on regulatory policy freedom, 44th on fiscal policy freedom, and 37th on personal freedom.

Categories most out of line with the rest of the country are public safety, natural resources and environment, and administration.

Now that’s some Sin of Commission.

Are you ready boots?  Start walking!

California Coastal Commission documentary gets first review

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

SINS OF COMMISSION got its first review today. Getting a review from a film critic would normally be a proud moment shared with friends and loved ones. A time to crack open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. But for me, it is a joyless solitary moment filled with torment as I toss and turn to reconcile within why someone in the “comments” section would call me a “criminal” who is supposedly “on the lam from justice” for making a film.

What crime did I commit? What charges are against me? And who is my my accuser that hides in the shadows of anonymity? Come forward and be seen.

Let he who is without sin among you, cast the first stone…

SINS OF COMMISSION is a film I never wanted to make, never intended to make, but felt compelled to make.  Why did I do it? Beacuse, for me, and hopefully for you,  once a truth is known, it cannot be unknown. One person sent an e-mail today and simply said, “thank you.” 

My husband and I have been battling the CCC for 13 years…My husband had a heart attack in 1998 from all of the stress from dealing with them and their lies and craziness -

Kathleen Kenny died from colon cancer one year after I interviewed her. Other people,  people you may know or possibly neighbors you have have heard about, suffered the slings and arrows of persecution thrown at them with impunity by commissioners appointed by the highest officials in our state - simply because they audaciously wanted to live on land they purchased. This should not stand. We must do better.

Something is rotten in the state of California but by suppressing SINS OF COMMISSION, that dirty dark secret will not be brought out into the sunlight of truth for all of us to see, to debate, to comment upon, to ponder, to talk amongst ourselves, and do such things as we do in a democracy. We must do better.

If you are an independent documentary filmmaker in a country in which independent journalism is seen as a danger to those in power, you are talking a risk. But preserving democracy for all means risks must be taken. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

At stake is more than just freedom of expression.  We Americans live in a country built on the principle of separation of powers - where power is separated into three distinct branches of government that are supposed to check and balance each other so there can never be an accumulation of absolute power in any one branch. This is not a Conservative principle, this is not a Liberal principal, it is not a Democratic principle, it is not a Republican principle…it is an American principle- and we must do better.

Any agency of any state or regulatory commission that embraces all 3 branches of government, in direct opposition of our principle of the separation of powers - even for the “noblest of intentions” - needs to be reevaluated.  Unfettered power still corrupts - and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sins of Commission exposes Southern California’s law makers

Ginger Liu
Inside Hollywood Examiner
California Bush Fire

By taking on the California Coastal Commission head on, this riveting and intelligent documentary from Richard Oshen exposes the archaic and unbending rules of power on the lives of ordinary homeowners

The story unfolds naturally as we first sympathize with the rule makers in preventing the destruction of habitat by homeowners until the CCC quite remarkably shoot themselves in the foot as dogmatic rules and corruption unfold. The film shows all sides with interviews from couples that have fought the CCC for years, ex CCC staff that believe in the Commission but not their strict laws, and the Commissioners themselves who are absolute and unwavering.  

No one is denying the purpose of a commission that protects Southern California’s rich landscape. Oshen’s film dares to question authority and in doing so ignites the kind of investigative journalism that has been sadly missing during Bush years.

A link to Ginger’s article and comment stream Inside Hollywood Examiner



 
 
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