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Understanding the California Coastal Act

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2023 | Real Estate Litigation

It is certainly no secret that residents of California value the beautiful landscape. That love was the motive behind the California Coastal Act. Understanding the history and purpose of this groundbreaking act is essential for anyone who owns land in this beautiful state.

The history of the California Coastal Act

After a catastrophic oil spill just off the Santa Barbara Coast, and outraged by a private development that threatened to cut off public access to the shore, Californians came together in 1972 to establish a movement to “Save Our Coast.” The voter-backed initiative called the Coastal Conservation Initiative (Prop 20) passed.

What did Prop 20 do?

One of the most important aspects of Prop 20 was the creation of the California Coastal Commission. This entity became responsible for making decisions in the designated Coastal Zone. In 1976, the State Legislature voted to pass the Coastal Act. This act ensured the California Coastal Commission became a permanent government agency.

Defining the Coastal Zone

Perhaps the most vital part of the Coastal Act was that it defined what areas would come under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. This group, which would have a great amount of influence on land use legislation, would have governmental authority over the areas considered the “Coastal Zone.”

Per the Coastal Act, the Coastal Zone extends seaward to the state’s outer jurisdiction limit (three miles), including any offshore islands that fall within that distance. While there are some variances, the jurisdiction extends inland 1,000 yards from the average high tide line of the sea. This area does widen based on the area’s estuarine, habitat, and recreational values.

Implementing the California Coastal Act and creating the California Coastal Commission ensures that generations of residents and visitors can enjoy California’s beautiful landscape for years to come.