California Proposition 20, Creation of the California Coastal Commission (1972)

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California Proposition 20, also identified on the ballot as the Coastal Zone Conservation Act, was on the November 7, 1972 ballot as an initiated state statute, where it was approved.

Proposition 20 created the California Coastal Commission and six regional commissions. It authorized the State of California to regulate development within a portion of the coastal zone and to provide for the submission of a California Coastal Zone Conservation Plan to the California State Legislature for its adoption and implementation.

Proposition 20 was written so that the statute it created "would terminate on the 91st day after final adjournment of the 1976 Regular Session of the Legislature." However, in 1976, "the legislature welded it in place with the California Coastal Act of 1976."[1]

Proposition 20 was authored by Peter Douglas. He became the director of the commission it created (the California Coastal Commission) and served in that position for more than 25 years.[2]

Proposition 20 was approved even though supporters were outspent by opponents by a margin of nearly 100-to-1.[2]

Election results

Proposition 20
Approveda Yes 4,363,375 55.2%


At the time Proposition 20 was on the ballot, developers in the state had plans to "expand Highway 1 to four lanes, with major links to the 101; they envisioned a string of nuclear power plants at Malibu, Moss Landing, Bodega Bay and Point Arena, and water projects, including damming all the coastal rivers of Northern California."[2]

According to its author, Peter Douglas, "After the initiative passed, speculative subdivisions came to a grinding halt — dozens of ranches like Sea Ranch had been bought up — you had a lot of wealthy speculators who'd invested in [land for] these second-home subdivisions and now realized we wouldn't approve them. So they went to [then-Gov.] Reagan and said, 'Help us sell them off.' So there was a huge upswing in purchases of parks along the coast."[2]

Ballot text


Proposition 20's official ballot summary said:

"Creates State Coastal Zone Conservation Commission and six regional commissions. Sets criteria for and requires submission of plan to Legislature for preservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of environment and ecology of coastal zone, as defined. Establishes permit area within coastal zone as the area between the seaward limits of state jurisdiction and 1000 yards landward from the mean high tide line, subject to specified exceptions. Prohibits any development within permit area without permit by state or regional commission. Prescribes standards for issuance or denial of permits. Act terminates after 1976. This measure appropriates five million dollars ($5,000,000) for the period 1973 to 1976.

Fiscal impact

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

"Cost to state of $1,250,000 per year plus undeterminable local government administrative costs."

External links

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