State leaders fill three vacant California Coastal Commission seats

Coastal Commission
Members of the California Coastal Commission, including former Chairman Steve Kinsey, who stepped down at the beginning of the year, discuss a proposal in 2015.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The state’s top elected officials on Thursday completed their selections to fill three vacant positions on the California Coastal Commission — the powerful land-use agency that has been buffeted by controversy, including the firing of its executive director last year.

Gov. Jerry Brown made the latest appointment with the selection of Ryan Sundberg, 41, of McKinleyville, a member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors since 2010.

He replaces Martha McClure, who was forced to leave the commission because she was not reelected to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors last November.

Sundberg was a tribal council member at the Trinidad Rancheria from 1994 to 2010 and a Farmers Insurance agent from 2003 to 2010. The new commissioner, who declined to state a party preference on his voter registration form, was appointed to a two-year term.


In February, Brown selected Donne Brownsey, 61, of Fort Bragg to replace Coastal Commissioner Wendy Mitchell of Los Angeles, who resigned late last year.

Brownsey, an attorney, was senior vice president of Sacramento Advocates Inc., a lobbying firm, from 2004 to 2015. She also founded Government Solutions Inc., where she worked from 1993 to 2004, and was the chief legislative consultant for state Sen. David Roberti (D-Los Angeles) from 1985 to 1993.

Brownsey, a Democrat, was appointed to a two-year term.

Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León appointed San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin to fill the commission seat of former Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who stepped down at the first of the year because he was no longer an elected official.


Peskin, 52, a Democrat, has worked for environmental nonprofit groups for three decades. He served on the Trust for Public Land in the 1980s and was western regional director of the American Land Conservancy from 1990 to 1993. He is president of Great Basin Land & Water, a small nonprofit organization that seeks to protect the water quality of the Truckee River.

The new commissioner is also a member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a state planning and regulatory agency that served as a model for the Coastal Commission.

His appointment was supported by the Sierra Club and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The new commissioners are joining the commission at a tumultuous moment. Last year, the panel fired the agency’s executive director, Charles Lester. Environmentalists accused some commissioners of catering more and more to development interests.

In February, the commission selected Jack Ainsworth, a career agency official who had been acting as interim director, to replace Lester.

Also last year, some commissioners came under fire for violating the public disclosure requirements related to private meetings they held with parties that had an interest in commission business. Those so-called ex-parte discussions are now the target of a civil lawsuit in San Diego.

In another appointment, Brown selected Coastal Commissioner Effie Turnbull Sanders in February to be the panel’s environmental justice representative — a position created by legislation in September last year. The bill requires a commissioner to live in and work with communities that are disproportionately and unfairly burdened by pollution and other environmental problems.

Turnbull Sanders has been an assistant general counsel at the Los Angeles Unified School District since 2006. She was a Los Angeles deputy city attorney from 2004 to 2006 and addressed blight and environmental hazards.


From 1998 to 2001 Turnbull Sanders was a special assistant to Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court justice and vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She worked on environmental justice, civil rights and economic development issues.

Twitter: @LADeadline16

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