Good Riddance to Peter Douglas


April 4, 2012

By John Seiler

The person who did the most to wreck California the past 25 years wasn’t one of our terrible governors, but Peter M. Douglas. After 25 years assaulting basic property rights and the U.S. and California constitutions as the head of the Stalinesque California Coastal Commission, he finally gave up his tyrannical ghost.

The commission really is Stalinesque. The essence of the Soviet Union was that government bureaucrats “owned” all property, divvying it up according to their whim.

That’s just what Douglas did. As the unelected and unaccountable director of the Coastal Commission, his extremist restrictions on property rights along the coast effectively shut down development there. As Econ. 101 tells you, reducing supply sharply drives up cost sharply. The restrictions forced coastal property to soar in value much higher than if development had been allowed to grow in a property rights arrangement.

In 1972, before the Coastal Commission was imposed by deluded voters, property just half a mile in from the coast cost about the same as similar property across the country in places like Kansas or Michigan. True, the plots were smaller than in Topeka or Lansing. But energy also was cheaper because the great weather precluded high heating or air conditioning bills.

Today, a simlar property half a mile in from the coast costs about three times as much as property in Kansas or Michigan. And even the energy cost advantage is gone because of California’s absurd environmental and regulatory laws.

Only McMansions

Along the coast now, matters are getting even worse. Extreme Coastal Commission regulations halt any normal suburban developments, allowing only McMansions worth at least $1.2 million a house. Basically, elitists like Douglas want the riff-raff kept away from their precious coast, so they can enjoy it for themselves.

This property squeeze radiates inland about 50 miles, raising home prices along the way. The middle-class family that once could afford to live half a mile from the coast, now must move inland five miles or so to afford even a modest shotgun hack. Whan that family does so, it displaces a lower-middle-class family that must move inland to Riverside County or Stockton. This forces a long commute, reducing family time and causing marital breakups. And with gas now well over $4 a gallon, the commute eats into family budgets, further causing marital and familial tensions.

Meanwhile, Douglas and the other elitists on the Commission enjoy the wealth and privileges of a commissar in Moscow c. 1935. Accoding to the Los Angeles Times:

“Douglas…had homes in the Marin County city of Larkspur and on the Smith River in the state’s northernmost Del Norte County….”

Somebody with more time than I have should check into how much his property values increased because of the restrictions the commission he headed placed on surrounding properties.

Court challenges

The Times article noted that Douglas and the commission survived numerous court challenges. Again, I’d like to see a study of the property ownership of the judges and justices who ruled in these cases. Did any of them own coastal property that zoomed in value because of the commission? Would ruling against the commission have crashed their property values?

The unelected commission was imposed 40 years ago, in 1972. Most of the voters who pressed the yea lever in the voting booth now are dead. Would they have voted 55-45 for Proposition 20, which instituted the commission, if they had know that it would make housing unaffordable for their children and grandchildren? No, they wouldn’t have.

This is part of the tyranny of seeming “democracy” that’s a masquerated for plutocracy. A duped electorate’s mistakes one year are almost impossible to repeal in subsequent elections.

Constitutional property rights

The commission also makes a mockery of the property rights guaranteed in the U.S. and California constitutions. The U.S. Constitution is clear. The Fourth Amendment guarantees:

“No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

But that’s just what happens when the Coastal Commission orders you to stop building something on your own property, even if it’s adding a washroom to your shack. People like Douglas “take” your property for a “public use” with no “just compensation” at all. Sure, technically, you have the “title” to the property, and pay the mortage on it. But you don’t really own it.

So, Douglas “takes” your property so it can give him a warm and fuzzy feeling inside (at least until recently) because he “saved” the coast. Meanwhile, his own property values rose, making him feel warmer and fuzzier.

Then there’s the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

But the Coastal Commission’s arbitrary and absurd property restrictions  severely “deprive” people of their “property, without due process of law.” And the commision denies people “the equal protection of the laws,” because those living along the coast suffer Stalinesque property restrictions not faced by other property owners in the state.

The California Constitution also guarantees, in Article I, Section I–right at the start:

“All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. “

The Coastal Commissions commissar edicts obviouisly violate “acquiring, possessing, and protecting property.”

Of course, nobody cares about the California or U.S. constitutions anymore. They’re just play things for clever lawyers.

Douglas now has gone to his eternal reward, whatever that might be.

The rest of us are stuck here in the slave state he imposed.



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