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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Lester Out!!!

Dr. Charles Lester, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, was voted out.

Lester, despite an heroic effort to keep him in office was fired yesterday (10 Feb), by a vote of 7 to 5 of the commissioners in closed doors.

The LA Times morning edition did not mention the vote, only the online version of the LA Times reflected the decision.

City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents many of the coastal shore line in Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the California Coastal Commission in support of keeping Lester. Former City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter spoke out in favor of Lester. Venice environmentalists had a petition going to keep Lester and many Venetians attended the hearing in Moro Bay.

It appeared support was throughout the state. The LA Times stated that “153 out of more than 160 commission staff members, 35 former coastal commissioners, 18 state legislators and 10 members of Congress from California opposed the effort to dismiss Lester. Many felt the coast line was at risk without Lester– develop the coast for a few or do not develop and allow all.

Yet, Lester was ousted.

The ouster elicits many questions. LA Times editorial mentions some. The following is a letter from Chairman of Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) Robin Rudisill to City Councilman Mike Bonin. Rudisill wrote the letter stating that the letter represented “an individual” and was not on behalf of the LUPC of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

City Councilman Mike Bonin:
I’m sure you know by now that Lester was voted out.

But most disturbing is that Commissioners who we all thought were supporters of yours and of our southern California coastal communities were the leaders in ousting him.

We are in process of contacting our State legislators, all of whom also supported Lester, to do a full investigation of this matter and assume you will join us. It was also mentioned during Public Comment that there is an organization called LABizFed involved, mostly driven by developer attorneys.

Please don’t fall for the confidential personnel issues explanation…in any case, the Commissioners were very inconsistent in their application of the privacy excuse. Some said that they could not discuss anything about their concerns on Lester’s performance, and others spoke at length about the concerns. I will show you how that story doesn’t add up and how canning Lester is not even a solution to their concerns. They didn’t just show their true colors, they flew them like a flag. The insinuations levied on the organizations supporting Lester, such as the Surfrider Foundation, that their Board of Directors is all white and thus biased against racial diversity were shocking. At a minimum, they were inappropriate coming from a Coastal Commissioner. The consensus I am hearing is that these Commissioners have another agenda.

What they did is a public outrage, and they have undermined the Public Trust of the California Coastal Commission.

When you hear their public statements I’m sure you will be equally outraged and embarrassed for them too. They completely disregarded the Public in their actions today. There was Public Comment all day long, with only one person, who was upset about a permit issue, speaking against Lester out of almost a thousand. The Commissioners had absolutely NO Public or any other input (that we know of…..) supporting a move to oust Lester. The reason for a Public Hearing on this was to give the Commissioners input on this Lester termination decision in the Public Eye. How can there be a Public Hearing where the commissioners completely disregard all of the Public Comment? Doesn’t the “other side” need to also show up and express their concerns?

One can only surmise that these particular Commissioners are either completely ignoring any outside input or that they received a lot of input against Lester from some other source that was not provided or disclosed in the “public eye.” Either option is very concerning and it seems like the process has been breached in some way. At a minimum, due to the way these Commissioners handled this situation, the Public Trust has been severely breached. That is a very serious problem, as summarized in Section 30320 of the Coastal Act, which I also mentioned today in my public comments prior to their vote, and thus it is on the public record:


Granted, Lester’s position serves “at the pleasure of the Commission,” however, when the decision is made in a way that breaches the Public Trust and undermines the integrity of the Public Hearing process, that creates a different problem.

I’m very happy to report that Commissioners Shallenberger, Groom, Chair Kinsey, Vice Chair Bochco, and Leuvano all respected the Public and voted against the decision to oust Lester.

I look forward to talking with you more about this and what we can do.

Robin Rudisill
(as an individual and not on behalf of the
Venice Neighborhood Council or its Land
Use & Planning Committee)

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