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Coastal Commission Creator Honored 
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

Dwight Worden and Don Mosier unveil a plaque commemorating Douglas’s contributions. Photo Miles McLeod. 
Click on image to enlarge.

In a ceremony on August 11 the Wetlands in the San Dieguito River Park were dedicated to Peter Douglas (1942-2012), a pioneering environmentalist who contributed more than anyone to the creation of the California Coastal Commission (1972), the Coastal Act (1976) and the decision that Southern California Edison should restore the San Dieguito Lagoon to compensate for the damage to ocean fish breeding grounds done by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating System. He was a mentor and inspiration to Del Mar’s Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum, who worked “under and with” Douglas on the CCC, and Councilmember Dwight Worden, who as a law student worked for the Sierra Club and with Douglas to pass the Coastal Act.

Trish Boaz, Executive Director of the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, interacted with Douglas as Developmental Policy Aide to Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. They and others including Serge Dedina, Mayor of Imperial Beach, and Diane Coombs of the League of Women Voters, spoke warmly of his dedication, determination, i. e. stubbornness, strategic acumen and vision.

Douglas was the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission from 1985 to 2011, and Jacqueline Winterer of the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley recalled that even in retirement, when he was mortally ill, he was consulted by the Commission and gave impassioned support to the effort to stop Fairgrounds misuse of the overflow parking lots. The CCC was represented by its head of staff, 8 staff members and Mary Shellenberger, one the longest serving Commissioners. Del Mar Councilman Don Mosier, Board Chair of the Joint Powers Authority that oversees the San Dieguito River Park emceed the testimonials.

Worden told the story of how the Coastal Act, seemingly dead in the water, was passed at the last moment by being astutely tacked on as an amendment to an otherwise insignificant bill of a State Senator named Smith concerning trees in a median in his district. Coombs recalled the “midnight hearing” of the CCC where an attempt to divide the SCE remediation funds among competing sites in the state was averted by the skillful use of a promised gift of land to SCE. Wouldn’t we like to know even more of the inside story.

A plaque commemorating Douglas’s contributions can be seen on the Lagoon Trail along San Andres Drive north of the kiosk.

Birnbaum and Dedina both emphasized how much we all owe Douglas for our enjoyment of the stunning California coast. Memorably Councilman Worden said Douglas had shown him “how good government could be when it works well.”


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