New Urban CrisisOnly a few advocates practice regularly in front of the California Coastal Commission.  They have, in effect, a club where everybody knows everybody else, including the Commissioners.  If you are not in the club and you have a matter before the Commission, or are thinking of getting involved in one, you need Jana Zimmer’s book “Navigating the California Coastal Act.”

Ms. Zimmer was in the club and indeed rose to become a Commissioner.  Her well-researched book explains the nuts and bolts of practice before the Commission at a basic level and also thoughtfully covers the tough issues the Commission confronts, such as designation of environmentally sensitive habitat, dealing with local coastal programs, 5th Amendment takings, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, and relationships with other State agencies. 

As a non-club member myself, I have found the Commission’s (or staff’s) practices about when to take jurisdiction opaque, at best.  Chapter 5 of the book clears this up, and also provides advice on when to waive, or not waive, the dreaded 49-day rule.  Throughout the book, Ms. Zimmer gives (in the margins) tips for practitioners on the permit applicant and the permit opponent sides – which she is qualified to do, having represented both sides in her private practice. 

The book also provides extensive detail on the history of the Coastal Commission, which is of more than academic interest to practitioners because the actions of Commission staff, many of whom are old-timers, continue to be influenced by it.  Commissioners may come and go, but the staff remains and a smart advocate needs to understand where Commission staff is coming from in dealing with permit applications, local coastal plans and the like.