Legislative Requested State Auditors Report Indicates the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Has Failed to Perform Key Responsibilities

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

San Francisco Bay AreaSacramento – Earlier today the State Auditors Office released the findings of their audit of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) which was requested by a bipartisan coalition of legislators and approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in August of 2018. The legislative coalition led by Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) included Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido), Senator Jerry Hill, (D-San Mateo), and Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) requested the audit investigate the organization’s enforcement activities, adherence to its mission as well as funding and operational needs and structure.

“The State Auditor’s comprehensive report makes abundantly clear that a legislative audit request of BCDC was absolutely necessary,” stated Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin. “As I suspected, the State Auditor has found that the Commission has struggled to perform key responsibilities related to consistent enforcement and as a result, has allowed ongoing harm to the Bay.”     

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 scrutiny.  

The audit request was made as a result of a series of enforcement actions against BCDC permit holders which raised concerns about the organization’s approach and strategy. Permit holders had complained about an inconsistent application of standards and lack of proper record keeping, while others felt the enforcement process was arbitrary and minor violations received the same weight and consideration as more serious violations that actually caused harm to the environment.

“The State Auditor’s comprehensive report reveals a commission in critical need of focused leadership and organization. This longstanding vacuum has led to an agency that is not fulfilling its mission to protect our Bay. I wholly concur with the Auditor’s recommendations to address this serious problem,” said Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. 

“I’m pleased with the efforts of the State Auditor’s Office to conduct this audit,” stated Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron.  “Unfortunately, I’m disappointed with the results, which reveal an arbitrary and capricious regulatory process at the BCDC, thanks to an inadequately supervised bureaucracy that has been allowed to run amok.  At a minimum, all fines and penalties should be suspended until the Commission and Legislature can establish a clear and consistent investigation and enforcement process, update regulations to clearly define violations and related fines, and ensure that the BCDC has its house in order.”

“BCDC plays a critical role in the environmental health and safety of the Bay, and enforcement is a key component of that work,” noted Assemblymember Marc Berman.  “The State Auditor’s thorough review identifies weaknesses in BCDC’s current enforcement process, but provides a valuable roadmap for both the Legislature and the Commission to prevent further harm to the San Francisco Bay.”

“Today’s audit report provides us with an opportunity to refocus BCDC on its core mission; to protect the overall health and environment of the Bay and Suisun Marsh,” Speaker pro Mullin stated.  “Somehow, BCDC got off track. If the public is to have faith in this institution and if BCDC is going to be successful in addressing the serious issue of sea level rise consistency must return to BCDC leadership. The Legislature will be addressing this issue going forward.”

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