Long Beach City Councilman Robert Garcia.
Long Beach City Councilman Robert Garcia. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

LONG BEACH — Vice Mayor Robert Garcia was appointed to the California Coastal Commission by the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday.

The position on the powerful commission, which has vast authority to regulate land use along the state's 1,100-mile coastline, does not require Garcia to give up his elected seat on the Long Beach City Council.

"I think that the California coast is our state's most precious resource, and it certainly is for the city of Long Beach," Garcia said.

"To be a part of ensuring there's public access and it's being developed in a responsible way is really important."

The California Coastal Commission was established by voters in 1972 and made permanent by the Legislature in 1976 through adoption of the California Coastal Act.

Garcia, 35, will become the youngest of the 12 appointed voting members of the commission when he is seated in February to fill a vacant seat representing the south coast. The commission has three non-voting members.

The Senate Rules Committee selected Garcia from nominations made by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Orange County Board of Supervisors and various Southern California cities.

Garcia said he was supported for the commission by Mayor Bob Foster, the statewide Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay and the National Resources Defense Council.

Another of Garcia's backers for the post, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has known Garcia since their days in California State University student government in the 1990s.

Lara, a Rules Committee member, said in a statement that he was proud of Garcia.

"The commission is one of the most important in the state, and I'm confident that the Vice Mayor will work with business, labor, and our environmental advocates to protect the California coast," Lara said.

According to the California Coastal Commission, the last members of the Long Beach City Council on the board were alternates, with City Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal serving from 2007-2009. U.S. Rep Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, was also briefly an alternate in 1998, before he left the council for the Assembly.

The authority of the quasi-judicial commission, which has no oversight, is criticized by many who say its powers are too extensive, governing new construction along the coast, including homes.

In Long Beach, the Coastal Commission has weighed in on what businesses are allowed at the Pike at Rainbow Harbor and has tightly controlled planned restorations of the Los Cerritos Wetlands.

The commission's potential opinion loomed large over the Second+PCH project, a $320million mixed retail-residential development once proposed to replace the aging SeaPort Marina Hotel at 2nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

The council scrapped the plan in December 2011, in part over concerns about a 12-story residential building. Coastal regulations limit building heights in the area to three stories.

Garcia was one of three council members to vote in favor of the development.

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