This April 29th meeting marked the Commission’s first-ever virtual meeting. The meeting, using the videoconferencing service Zoom, was a success.
The Commission took time at the outset to acknowledge the gravity of the global COVID-19 crisis that is affecting all of us. The Commission noted, among other things, that California is a “can do” society and that we will get through this unprecedented time together. The staff reports and public comment letters associated with our meeting are available here. The Executive Officer’s report, with updates on various issues, activities, and projects involving the Commission is available here. Below are the meeting highlights.
Staff briefed the Commission about the development of its 2021-2025 strategic plan. The Commission recently retained Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. to guide the development of a new strategic plan. Stantec’s Project Manager for the Commission’s Strategic Plan, Lisa Beutler, introduced herself to the Commissioners and spoke about her background and previous experience assisting governmental entities with developing strategic plans. Staff reported that it anticipates releasing a draft strategic plan for public comment later this summer or fall. Staff also reported that it will explore different public participation options given the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing protocols.
Principles for aligned state action to make California’s coast resilient to sea-level rise
The Commission adopted “Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea-Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action.” These principles will unify state agencies in effective action toward sea-level rise resilience that is grounded in science, partnership, communication, and local support. The principles were shaped by the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of other state entities with coastal, bay, and shoreline climate resilience responsibilities. They will be implemented across agencies so that their work is guided by a common, clear, and foundational vision. It is from these the thematic principles—partnerships, science, local support, alignment, and communication—that California will meet this challenge. As California’s Secretary for Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, stated: “Sea level rise presents a grave threat to California’s beaches, ports, and coastal communities. The Commission’s leadership tackling this challenge is essential and the principles adopted today will anchor collaboration across state agencies to build our resilience to sea-level rise.” The Commission is the first of 17 agencies to adopt these principles.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s local trustees of granted public trust lands and resources
In the weeks since the pandemic broke out, staff reached out to a number of trustees to learn how COVID-19 will affect them, their strategies for responding to the crisis, and to find out how staff can be a resource during this time. Staff briefed the Commission about what it has learned so far, including that trustees have reported that tenants are seeking rent deferments and late payment penalty waivers to allow them to keep their businesses operational and their workforce in place for when these shelter-in-place orders are lifted. Other tenants are seeking financial aid or loans from trustees. Many trustees are estimating significant revenue losses and longer-term effects that remain to be seen depending on the severity of the pandemic in the coming months and beyond. The San Diego Unified Port District sent a letter last month requesting that the Commission, as the Port’s oversight body, assist the Port in efforts to secure $30 million in financial assistance from the State of California to confront the threat of COVID-19 and to ameliorate associated impacts.
Randa Coniglio, the San Diego Unified Port District President, and Danny Wan, the Port of Oakland Executive Director, spoke to the Commission about the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on their ports. They reported that while their ports have been answering the call on this crisis, every major revenue category is continuing to plummet and the pandemic is affecting every aspect of their operations. They reported that their revenues are entirely self-generated and they do not receive any tax dollars. This dynamic means that their ports are ineligible for certain federal COVID-19 relief funds in the recently passed federal stimulus package. They urged the Commission to continue to work with ports and other trustees to find ways to stabilize revenues and help ports adapt amid the pandemic.
COVID-19 rent and applicant expense deferral program
Many of the Commission’s lessees and applicants have been directly adversely impacted by COVID-19 and related shelter-in-place orders. In response, the Commission authorized its Executive Officer to enter into need-based negotiated settlements with lessees and applicants adversely impacted by the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders. The Commission also authorized short-term extensions of public agency leases due to expire in the next year to allow public agency employees additional time to negotiate and process new leases. The rent and applicant expense deferral program is intended to provide certainty to lessees and applicants who are worried about their financial ability to meet lease obligations or application requirements. The program is designed to provide certainty to lessees and applicants who are worried about their financial ability to meet lease obligations or application requirements, while also serving to provide stability to the Commission’s lease program and continuity for the maintenance and oversight of state-owned lands. The Commission’s ability to fulfill its obligations as trustee of state lands is closely connected to its lessees’ ability to fulfill their lease obligations. The deferral program attempts to balance all these needs as individuals, businesses, and governments respond to and cope with COVID-19. The program application is available on the Commission’s website and can be found here.
The Commission approved a litigation and title settlement agreement involving property along the San Joaquin River in the city of Oakley, Contra Costa County. The settlement will facilitate the development of the Oakley Logistics Center while protecting and enhancing public access to the river and facilitating the future extension of the Big Break Regional Trail to the Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline Park. The Commission also voted to change the submittal date from August 2020 to August 2023 for PG&E to submit a decommissioning and restoration plan for offshore infrastructure associated with the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County. This lease amendment will allow PG&E to continue working with the Commission, the California Coastal Commission, and County of San Luis Obispo to develop plans necessary for the decommissioning of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and to ensure the best possible site restoration. The Commission accepted a $116,500 deposit into its Kapiloff Land Bank Fund to purchase land to benefit the Public Trust; approved new benchmark rental rates for leasing sovereign land in the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Mokelumne Rivers, and various sloughs throughout the Delta area; and accepted the Long Beach Unit annual plan for the Wilmington Oil Field. The Annual Plan is a proposed budget for the Long Beach Unit and is meant to be consistent with the 5-Year program plan developed by the City and its Contractor, California Resources Long Beach, Inc.
The Commission’s next public meeting is June 23rd at 1:00 p.m.