The folks who helped bring California its powerful Coastal Commission 41 years ago are featured in a documentary screening this evening at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
The showing of Heroes of the Coast, which "tells the story of how a grassroots group of Californians organized to save the coast," benefits the Coastal Commission's Adopt-A-Beach program and the Surfrider Foundation's South Orange County Chapter.
Let us travel back to the late 1960s. Development of high-rise hotels and exclusive seaside housing was rampant along the coast. Then in 1969 came what at the time was the worst oil spill in U.S. history, as more than 2 million gallons of oil soiled the Santa Barbara coast.
That spill has since been eclipsed by the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez incidents, but Santa Barbara's remains the worst ever in California. By comparison, the American Trader oil spill off Huntington Beach in 1990 was estimated at just shy of 400,000 gallons.
Despite the public sentiment toward better protecting the coast, legislation efforts failed from 1970-72. That led thousands of unpaid signature gatherers to collect enough John Hancocks in California to land Prop. 20, the so-called Coastal Initiative, on the November 1972 ballot. It passed by an 800,000-vote margin (55 percent to 45 percent).
The initiative created six regional commissions and one statewide commission to oversee the use and development of California's 1,000-mile coastline. Some commission members are appointed locally and a percentage of the others are named by the governor, the state Senate Rules Committee and the speaker of the Assembly.
"This documentary celebrates the history and leadership that enabled average Californians to protect the coast for all to enjoy," according to the Heroes of the Coast presenters. "Heroes features stunning coastal footage and interviews and background of the dramatic personalities of those who made Proposition 20 a reality."
Jim Moriarity, CEO of the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, is the keynote speaker at tonight's screening, and other "dynamic coastal advocates" will address the crowd as well.
The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Ocean Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, where parking is free. Dessert is served before the film rolls. Tickets, which are $15 per person, are available in advance via Eventbrite.
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