Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Shelley Luce

HTB chief Shelley Luce talks about her appointment and shares her philosophy about protecting our state’s most precious natural resource.

California is blessed with more than 1,100 miles of coastline. The ocean is a defining feature of our geography, our culture and our economy. We are proud of its beauty, and we depend on it for sustenance, for trade and tourism, and for our own recreation and relaxation.

I am now honored to help protect our coast by serving as an alternate to California Coastal Commission member Mark Vargas. Anthony Rendon, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, appointed me to the position earlier this month. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

As an alternate member, I will vote on matters at monthly Commission meetings any time Vargas cannot attend.

It’s long been a dream of mine to serve on the Coastal Commission because I understand how important the panel has been to preserving what makes California special. I’ve devoted my career to the coast, and I deeply understand the need to balance development, conservation, and public access on 1.5 million acres of land along California’s highly desirable coastline.

The California Coastal Act of 1976 created the Coastal Commission to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline.” The commission remains a powerful land-use authority that must approve changes to coastal land uses, or the local coastal plans that govern those changes. All development from single-family homes up to giant commercial or resort ventures must comply with the Coastal Act or be denied a permit to proceed.

The commission is charged with protecting coastal access and views for the public, as well as safeguarding Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas, including all wetlands.

The demand for new development in the coastal zone keeps the 12 volunteer commissioners and approximately 150 full time staff very busy, resolving complicated issues around rights of property owners and the general public.

The panel grapples with the legal, scientific, political and human complexities of how and where property owners can profit from our coastline, while protecting unique resources for the benefit of all Californians and visitors. The work is often contentious, with public hearings occasionally devolving into name-calling and accusations of backroom deal-making.

I will always listen with an open mind to all parties involved in a given matter. And I promise to always vote my conscience, placing the highest emphasis on the continued ecological health of our ocean and shorelines. I’m confident that my education and experience will guide me well when making tough decisions.

As a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, I know we must we rely on the best science to guide our decisions. As the leader of one of the state’s leading ocean protection groups, I know that education, transparency and public engagement are the best tools to build consensus around solving thorny issues.

Please email me at sluce@healthebay.org to share your thoughts about our coastline and how to best protect it.




Shelley enjoying a session in North L.A. County

Heal the Bay president Shelley Luce reflects on a very special place in L.A. – and in her heart.

As I write this note, I’m on a long highway, headed to Yosemite for the holidays with my family. I’m surrounded by mountains, but my mind is on the ocean yet again – Leo Carrillo State Beach, to be exact.


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Photo: Dana Roeber Murray

Like Yosemite, this idyllic, sweeping cove near the L.A. County border is one of my favorite places on Earth. Sometimes I paddle my surfboard past the breaking waves and float above the kelp. The water is so clear I can see the golden kelp waving below and orange Garibaldi flitting among the rocks.

I daydream about resting at the bottom of the sea, holding fast to a rock. I want to sway with the swell, watching the other creatures flicker in and out of the dappled light. My preteen daughters paddle out with me. They squeal about the cold water before they plunge in. They roll around in the seaweed, laughing and buoyant in their slick wetsuits.

It’s a peaceful spot that I go back to in my mind, when I’m feeling stressed or when I need a mental pick-me-up. I’m so glad I can get into our ocean, enveloped by thrilling waves and thriving sea life. I’m so thankful our beaches are open to all, regardless of socio-economic status, and visited by more and more people every year. I’m glad the Bay continues to Heal.

I want everyone in greater L.A. to come to our beaches to swim, fish, play and explore. I want Heal the Bay’s Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier to inspire people from around the world. I want our Beach Report Card to empower people to dive in with confidence – assured that the water is safe for swimming. I want people, regardless of their native language, to understand which fish are safe to eat, and which fish pose potential health risks.


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Photo: Dana Roeber Murray

I’m grateful to all of you for supporting our work to make all these things happen. We live in a place where people dream big and almost anything is possible. Every day I fight for the future we all wish to see. Heal the Bay protects the beauty and diversity we have today, and we fight to make it better.

And now, we take the time to feel gratitude for the ocean that sustains Heal the Bay – and the people like you who care enough to learn, share, volunteer and act. It’s a blessing.

Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. — As the holidays approach, please consider making your tax-deductible Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay early this year. Nearly 70% of individual donations are made by people like you in the next 60 days. It’s a critical lifeline for us.