Justin Cummings appointed to California Coastal Commission

Santa Cruz City Councilmember and county supervisor candidate Justin Cummings
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon appointed District 3 Santa Cruz County Supervisor Justin Cummings to represent the Central Coast on the California Coastal Commission. Cummings was left off the initial list of nominations for the powerful land-use body voted on by the county’s City Selection Committee, but pushed to be included after a Lookout investigation prompted the county to invalidate the committee’s original vote.

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Justin Cummings, the District 3 Santa Cruz County Supervisor and former Santa Cruz mayor, will represent the Central Coast on the highly influential California Coastal Commission after the state’s top legislator announced his appointment Thursday.

State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon had unilateral authority to appoint Cummings among a list of nominees from Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Mateo counties. In his announcement, Rendon highlighted Cummings’ doctorate in environmental science from UC Santa Cruz and his experience in elected office and on regional boards, saying he felt Cummings would fight to protect coastal access for all Californians.

“His commitment to be an advocate for protecting the environment and ensuring coastal access for all Californians, including people of color, will be an asset for the Coastal Commission and our state,” Rendon said in a statement.

In a statement included in Rendon’s news release, Cummings thanked Rendon for the opportunity and said he looked forward to promoting “the speaker’s values around diversity and environmental justice.”

In February, after he told Lookout he planned to push for his name to be included on the county’s nomination list, Cummings said the Coastal Commission will play an important role in the ongoing debate around how coastal communities treat sea level rise and a changing climate.

“What we’ve been seeing around climate change is really going to start getting worse over time,” Cummings said. “The question is whether we dump millions of dollars reinforcing something we know will ultimately fail in the battle of man versus nature? Or do we look at what science has told us for decades, and make decisions and adjust to the new realities we face?”

Cummings’ nomination by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors almost never was. He was left off an initial list of nominations voted on by the county’s City Selection Committee, a group of mayors from the county’s four incorporated cities who are mandated by the state to vote on appointments to regional boards and nominate candidates for the Coastal Commission. However, a Lookout investigation found that the mayors voted on the nominations in private without public knowledge or participation, an illegal practice that had been ongoing for decades.

The county then invalidated the list of nominations, which initially included District 2 Supervisor Zach Friend, Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley and Capitola City Councilmember Yvette Brooks. After a public revote by the City Selection Committee, and a separate nominations vote by the board of supervisors just days before the deadline, Santa Cruz County submitted Brooks, Cummings and District 1 Supervisor Manu Koenig as its Coastal Commission nominations.

Overseeing land use and policy issues along more than 1,100 miles of coastline, the 12-member Coastal Commission has been called the most powerful land-use commission in the U.S.

Broadly, the Coastal Commission will play a key role in how the county responds to sea level rise and the impacts of climate change along the county’s coast. The commission will also play a key role in more immediate issues around the coastline recovery following the winter storms, and how Santa Cruz deals with West Cliff Drive infrastructure and the presence of oversized vehicles.


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