State Audit Approved of Bay Conservation and Development Commission

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bipartisan request receives unanimous support from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee

SACRAMENTO – Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) led a bipartisan coalition of legislators including, Assembly Minority Floor Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido), Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), in requesting an audit of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) to investigate the organization’s enforcement activities, adherence to its mission, funding and operational needs and structure.

BCDC was created by the McAteer-Petris Act of 1965, with the specific purpose of regulating development within the definition of the San Francisco Bay to prevent haphazard bay fill.  For more than 50 years BCDC activities have served to protect the environment and provide greater public access. The intensification of sea level rise will challenge the resources and resourcefulness of BCDC as its role in protecting the Bay will come under greater attention.

“BCDC has played and will continue to play a crucial role in preserving and enhancing the San Francisco Bay.  However, I want to ensure its proverbial “house is order” before the organization is required to make some needed and potentially unpopular decisions around sea level rise,” stated Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin. “If processes and procedures are not consistent, transparent and trustworthy today, then the organization will have a much harder time accomplishing its goals with added public scrutiny in the future.  This audit request is about good government, ensuring that a regulatory agency is achieving its mandate through fair and equitable treatment of those it regulates.” 

A series of enforcement actions against BCDC permit holders raised concerns about the organization’s approach and strategy.  Permit holders have complained about an inconsistent application of standards, lack of proper record keeping, bias on the part of BCDC staff and instances of BCDC staff “moving the goal posts,” by changing requirements after permittees had worked to satisfy requirements previously set by staff.

“The Joint Legislative Audit Committee correctly agreed to audit BCDC as it relates to its enforcement activity, and I look forward to their final report.  This situation has been ongoing and I am pleased to be able to work in a bi-partisan way with my colleagues, Assemblymembers Mullin and Berman, and Senator Hill to make this happen,” said Assembly Minority Floor Leader Marie Waldron.

Additionally, some permit holders perceive BCDC staff as motivated by a desire to obtain the biggest fine possible with punitive enhancements, rather than achieving a result that is best for the environment and the public good. Seemingly minor alleged violations of an ancillary nature received the same weight and consideration as serious alleged violations that may actually be causing serious harm to the environment. Permit holders are confronted with potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties. 

Individuals have stated they felt the enforcement process became personal when permittees pushed back against the claims contained in BCDC staff reports.  Most troubling is that permittees have expressed concern about “going on the record” for fear of BCDC retaliation. 

A recent Solano County Court decision reflects many of the concerns with the enforcement process expressed by permit holders.  The court cited numerous deficiencies in the BCDC enforcement process. 

 “BCDC is headed down the wrong path, losing the trust of those it regulates, and blemishing its reputation needlessly.  We need an unbiased opinion to substantiate what permittees have experienced, and what we’re seeing, and recommendations on how to improve the organization’s operation,” added Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin. “A bipartisan request and approval by the Committee on consent underscores the seriousness of the concerns we’ve raised.”  

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Kevin Mullin represents the 22nd Assembly District and is the Speaker pro Tempore of the California State Assembly. He chairs the Select Committee on Biotechnology and serves on the following committees:  Budget, Budget Subcommittee #3 on Resources and Transportation, Business and Professions, Elections and Redistricting, Privacy and Consumer Protection, Revenue and Taxation and the Select Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.. The 22nd district includes the cities of Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Foster City, Hillsborough, Millbrae, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, portions of South San Francisco and the San Mateo County Coastside communities of Montara and Moss Beach.