La Jolla’s new state Assembly rep Toni Atkins ready to tackle coastal issues
State Assemblymember Toni Atkins
■ Party: Democrat
■ District: 78 (Downtown San Diego and coastal communities from Imperial Beach north to Del Mar)
■ Previous offices held: 76th state Assembly District (2010-2012); San Diego City Council (2000-2008)
■ Birthplace: Wythe County, Va.
■ Contact: (619) 645-3090
■ Website: asmdc.org/members/a78
By Pat Sherman
La Jolla has a new representative in the state legislature who promises to be a strong advocate for coastal issues.
In December, Democrat Toni Atkins became the 78th District state Assembly representative, a position formerly held by Marty Block (who continues to represent La Jolla in the 39th District state Senate seat.)
“I’ll be spending a lot more of my time in the coming years while in the Assembly really looking at coastal issues, because that is a large portion of my district now — from Imperial Beach all the way to Del Mar,” said Atkins, who was recently reappointed as the Assembly representative to the California Ocean Protection Council, and serves on the Assembly select committee on Coastal Protection, as well as the select committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy. Atkins is author of a bill currently making
its way through the legislature that would give the California Coastal Commission (CCC) the authority to impose fines on those who violate the state’s Coastal Act (read accompanying story here), and has introduced a bill that would increase state monitoring of copper-based boat hull paint (AB 425).
“The copper paint contains toxic chemicals that keep the boat hulls free of barnacles and damaging organisms to the boat, but it also fouls the water and fouls some of our aquatic life,” Atkins said of the bill.
Atkins said she hopes the legislation will strike a balance that is beneficial for boat owners and the environment.
“Many La Jollans moor their boats at Shelter Island, and that’s currently under federal and state mandate to reduce copper levels,” she said. “It’s a huge issue recreationally and for people who are in the fishing industry.”
Atkins said her office has also met with the mayor, Councilmember Sherri Lightner and representatives from the CCC to offer assistance solving the stench at La Jolla Cove.
“We’ve pretty much got the support of the coastal commission and the Regional Water Quality Control Board that they would be willing to move as fast and forward as they could, once the city issues their proposal or plan for how to do it,” Atkins said. “We’re waiting on the city to issue the RFP (request for proposals) for cleaning the cliffs, and they need to do that. … We will push on the mayor’s office, because we can only interface with the coastal commission once they have a proposal in hand.”
During her time on the city council, which ended in 2008, Atkins voted for the current rope barrier at Children’s Pool to be up during pupping season.
Though the city council didn’t vote for the year-round rope until after Atkins’ departure, she said she also favors the year-round rope.
“I know that there will be people in La Jolla who don’t like that response, but I think we’ve got to find a solution to this and we’ve got to come together,” she said. “In the meantime, I want to make sure that we’re following federal law … and not endangering the seals.”
Other issues Atkins will be dealing with this year include a statewide water distribution plan, and potential revisions to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law passed in 1970 to create statewide environmental protections. CEQA requires strict analysis and public disclosure of the environmental impacts of proposed development — which particularly affects projects in the coastal zone.
“In La Jolla, as I recall from my days on the city council, there tends to be a lot of involvement from land-use attorneys when it comes to projects,” Atkins said. “Time is money, and if you’re trying to do things like develop affordable housing, you add to the cost of these things when the process takes a very long time. …
“The challenge is balancing the appropriate public review — which is also important to communities — and at the same time keeping things moving. It’s going to be a little more complex in La Jolla because you’ve got CEQA review, and you’ve also got the coastal zone and the Coastal Act (to address).”
Atkins said finding additional money for transportation projects in her district (including the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project) beyond raising taxes or relying on what flows through the San Diego Association of Governments, will be a challenge.
State legislators are considering giving local communities more input on how they spend their tax dollars, and how they finance infrastructure projects, using things such as minimal obligation bonds.
“Some of the measures before the state right now would do things like allow voter thresholds to be lower than two-thirds in order to (move) major infrastructure projects forward,” Atkins said. “It would actually give the local jurisdiction the ability to raise the revenue to do more if they choose to, with the vote of the people at a lower threshold.”
Atkins said the passage of Proposition 30, a public safety and school funding initiative which increased sales tax from 7.25 to 7.5 percent, will benefit La Jollans. In addition, five years of budget cuts and service reallocation have created a more stable budget, she said.
“That could play into any funds that we make available for infrastructure,” she said. “Whether it’s transportation, or money to upgrade schools, it’s going to help us.”
• SEE RELATED STORY — State Assembly Bill would give Coastal Commission ‘teeth,’ power to levy fines in La Jolla and elsewhere: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=105781
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