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By Eric Johnson
Published Oct 23, 2023

Image credit: TierneyMJ, Shutterstock

The Folks Who Gave You the Beach

I often say that I love California the way only someone from New Jersey can love California—partly because I grew up spending summers at the Jersey shore. I forgive you if you’re smirking, but please forget the television show. Yes, much of the shore is heavily commercialized, but New Jersey has some very beautiful beaches, and like many Jerseyans, I fell in love with the ocean at a young age. 

As you might imagine, as soon as I laid eyes on the pristine beaches of California, which happened along the stretch of Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz, I was smitten. And here’s the thing: When I was growing up, many of the most beautiful beaches in New Jersey were private and off-limits. That remained true until four years ago, when Gov. Phil Murphy, invoking the Public Trust Doctrine codified by the Roman Emperor Justinian around 500 CE, signed legislation ensuring that the public has access to New Jersey’s shorelines and tidal waters.

If as a Californian, the idea of a private beach appalls you, I want you to consider that the public beach did not happen by accident. The notion of a private beach is unfathomable here because in California, with enough effort, the government can often be made to work for the people. As you will see in Jon Vankin’s article below, it was citizen activism that created the California Coastal Commission, which has worked to ensure that all California beaches are open to the public—and that the California coast does not look like the Jersey shore.

And: What happens when a big clean-energy plan challenges our notions of a pristine coastline? We shall see.

Protecting OUR Precious Coast

The California Coastal Commission has made the state a leader in two big ways. First, by protecting 800-plus miles of precious coastline, and next by ensuring that it’s accessible to the public.

California Coastal Commission: Where It Comes From, What It Does

Since 1972, the California Coastal Commission has ruled over the state’s shoreline.
What is the California Coastal Commission? How one of the state’s most powerful agency protects public access to the state’s scenic coast from Mexico to Oregon.

The Fantastical Wind Farms of the Future

Imagine hundreds of wind turbines, each as tall as a 70-story building, each with three 450-foot blades, floating in deep ocean waters miles off the coast of California. These wind farms of the future will provide clean energy for millions of homes and are a key element of the state’s climate action plan. But only if the California Coastal Commission approves their development.

Wind Turbine Developments off Central Coast on ‘Fast Track’

There is a wind-turbine arms race underway in China, which already manufactures windmills whose blades sweep an area the size of 10 football fields per spin.
Ocean wind farms are essential to electrify California’s grid with 100% clean energy. But they’re a giant, costly experiment—no one knows how hundreds of towering turbines will transform the remote North Coast.

Building Democracy in the Golden State

Vankin’s Coastal Commission article is one of 47 similar explainers (including one called “Explanatory Journalism, Explained”) which are gathered in his upcoming book. The true stories about how California’s many progressive policies came into existence is actually quite a read. I believe you might find even his brief synopsis inspiring.

‘How California Works’—a Synopsis of California Local’s First Book

California is one of the most complex political entities in the world. California Local’s upcoming book explains it all in 46 fascinating chapters.
California Local enters the world of book publishing with its upcoming book, ‘How California Works,’ explaining the inner workings of this ‘most American state.’

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