California Coastal Commission

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Image 1. California Coastal Commission Logo.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) is a state agency which serves as the supervising body of the State of California focusing on policies, regulations, and developments which occur on the coastal region. A watershed-related topic examined by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


The CCC was created by the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972. The CCC then gained permanent status through the 1976 California Coastal Act and was charged with the protection and maintenance of the coastline along California. Their mission is to "Protect, conserve, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations" [1] The function of the CCC is to develop and review coastal permits as well as permit appeals. They are involved in essentially any decision made with potential impact to a coastal area. They are heavily involved with the function of CEQA in coastal developments and alterations. The commission contains 12 voting members. 6 members are chosen by the public and 6 are elected officials selected for the task.

Current Programs


The California Coastal Act, Section 30001.5 requires the state to "(c) maximize public access to and along the coast and maximize public recreational opportunities in the coastal zone consistent with sound resources conservation principles and constitutionally protected rights of private property owners.” The CCC achieves this through the creation of the Public Access Action Plan, which focuses on three top priorities:

  • The Offer to Dedicate (OTD) Public Access Easement Program: A program focused on creating public accessways through private property through an offer from a private landowner. This program requires an accepting agency, which would be responsible for mitigation of the access impacts, physical improvements (i.e. stairs, signs, etc...), maintenance, and operation, to open specific sites [2].
  • The California Coastal Trail: The California Coastal Trail is a current project focusing on the creation of a coastal trail that spans the distance of the California coastline. This trail, recognized as both a statewide and national resource, is "designed to foster appreciation and stewardship of the scenic and natural resources of the coast and serves to implement aspects of Coastal Act policies promoting non-motorized transportation" [3]
  • Prescriptive Rights: This program focuses on the public prescriptive right of access, which is a permanent public easement across private property. The Coastal Commission researches and inventories areas that have had historic public use and the potential for significant public access benefits, which can lead to the legal protection of the area by through the Attorney General's Office [4]

Public Education

The California Coastal Commission's Public Education Program focuses on engaging the public in coastal restoration and protection activities and increasing public knowledge of coastal and marine resources. It achieves this through offering an array of conservation, education, and community involvement programs [5]

Clean Boating

The Boating Clean and Green Program focuses on education and outreach that promotes environmentally sustainable boating practices to boaters and marine business within California. This program is led by the CCC and the California Department of Boating and Waterways [6].

Water Quality

  • California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program: The CCC has created a nonpoint source (NPS) Program Plan through California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program, which provides a statewide approach to dealing with NPS pollution, involving 28 state agencies that work collaboratively through the Interagency Coordinating Committee to implement the NPS program plan.
  • Marinas & Recreational Boating: Interagency Coordinating Committee (IACC): An interagency workgroup that addresses water quality issues for marinas and recreational boating. The Marina IACC focuses on developing partnerships amongst entities that are responsible for addressing NPS pollution connected to boating and marinas, efficiently using state, federal, and local resources to address NPS pollution through information sharing, and promoting improvements to marina water quality through proper implementation of marina management practices.
  • Critical Coastal Areas (CCA) Program: A program focused on collaboration between local stakeholders and government agencies, to coordinate the efficient use of resources and focus efforts on coastal watersheds in critical need of protection from runoff pollution. The CCA has identified 101 CCAs along the coast and within the San Francisco Bay.
  • Model Urban Runoff Program: An informative guide on addressing urban runoff pollution for small municipalities (populations under 100,000) within California.


The mission of the CCC Enforcement Program is "to protect coastal resources by: assuring that proposed development projects are consistent with the Coastal Act, which is accomplished via the permit review process required by the Coastal Act; that required coastal development permits (CDPs) are obtained for all development in the Coastal Zone; that all terms and conditions of CDPs are complied with; to generally deter and address violations of the Coastal Act; and to work with local governments to assist them in enforcing coastal protection policies" [7]. This program includes statewide (Headquarters) enforcement officers, which develop restoration orders and cease and desist orders for CCC action and support the CCC in litigation, and district enforcement officers, which conduct initial investigations of enforcement complaints and collaborate with local governments, responsible parties, and other agencies to resolve violations without formal administrative action when feasible. Violations can be addressed through administrative solutions or through filing suit against responsible parties for both civil penalties and injunctive relief. CCC Administrative regulations can be found in Title 14, Division 5.5 of the California Code of Regulations.

Federal Consistency

The Federal Consistency Program is responsible for implementing the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972 as it relates to development projects, permits and licenses, federal activities, and support to state and local governments. The CZMA recommends states to create coastal management programs through the federal consistency procedures of the CZMA. The processes set to implement this requirement is called a consistency certification for federal permits and licenses and support to local/state agencies, and a consistency determination for development projects and federal activities [8].

Oil Spill

The CCC Oil Spill Program (OSP) is part of the Energy, Ocean Resources and Federal Consistency Division of the California Coastal Commission. This program plays a significant role in facilitating statewide planning and coordination for the prevention of hazardous oil spills off of the California Coast. In addition to prevention, the OSP also implements the mitigation of oil spills when they do occur to the greatest extent possible. The OSP is prescribed authority through two primary statues: The California Coastal Act of 1976 and the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act (OSPR) of 1990. [9]

Local Coastal Programs

One key role of the CCC is overseeing the creation and regulation of Local Coastal Programs (LCPs). LCPS are local county or city agencies which undertake the responsibilities of permitting for their particular coastal region. These LCPs are overseen and certified by the CCC.[1] For areas with Certified LCP's, the Commission does not issue Coastal Development permits (except in certain areas where the Commission retains jurisdiction, i.e. public trust lands), and is instead responsible for reviewing amendments to a local agency's LCP, or reviewing Coastal Development Permits issued by local agencies which have been appealed to the Commission. [10]

A Local Coastal Program is composed of a Land Use Plan and an Implementation Plan. A Land Use Plan details the Land Uses which are permissible in each part of the local government's area, and specifies the general policies which apply to each Land Use. The Land Use can be a part of a local government's general plan. The Implementation Plan is responsible for implementing the policies contained in the Land Use Plan. The Implementation Plan is generally a part of the City's Zoning code. [1]

Many of the 76 coastal counties and cities have elected to divide their coastal zone jurisdictions into separate geographic segments, resulting in some 128 separate LCP segments. As of 2011, approximately 72% of the LCP segments have been effectively certified, representing about 85% of the geographic area of the coastal zone, and local governments are issuing coastal permits in these areas. To determine the status of the LCP in any given geographic area, contact the appropriate district office of the Coastal Commission or see the current LCP Status Report and maps of LCPs.

Local Coastal Programs within the Central Coast Area

Image 2. Map of Local Coastal Programs on the Central Coast.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 California Coastal Commission: Who We Are
  2. California Coastal Commission Public Access Action Plan
  3. . California Coastal Commission Coastal Access Program: The California Coastal Trail
  4. California Coastal Commission Coastal Access Program: Prescriptive Rights Program
  5. California Coastal Commission Public Education Program
  6. California Coastal Commission Boating Clean and Green Program
  7. California Coastal Commission Enforcement Program Overview
  8. California Coastal Commission Federal Consistency Program
  9. California Coastal Commission Oil Spill Program
  10. CCC Program Overview



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