STATEWIDE — Efforts to make the California Coastal Commission more accessible to low-income and racially diverse urban communities were successful when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2616 (AB 2616) into law last year. This year’s legislative session features yet another bill proposing to increase access for disadvantaged communities.
Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, introduced Assembly Bill 18 (AB 18) on the legislative floor in December 2016. The bill calls for a voter initiative promoting increased access to outdoor recreational opportunities for all state residents to be placed on the June 2018 statewide primary ballot.
The California Clean Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 would specifically ask California voters whether $3 billion in bonds should be issued to finance a “clean water, climate, and coastal protection and outdoor access for all program.”
Garcia’s legislative proposal stated the bill is necessary to improve the public’s access to recreational areas, including coastal waterfronts and inland waterways.
“Many Californians across the state lack access to safe parks, trails, and recreation areas, which limits their ability to experience the outdoors, improve their physical and emotional health, exercise, and connect with their communities,” the text of AB 18 stated. “Investments to create new and improve existing parks and recreation areas, and to create trail networks that provide access from neighborhoods to parks and recreational opportunities, will help ensure all Californians have access to safe places to exercise and enjoy recreational activities.”
Programs addressing climate change response, habitat protection and endangered species recovery would receive $1 billion of financial assistance from the state if the act clears the legislative process and is approved by voters.
Climate adaptation and resiliency programs would receive $600 million of the $1 billion allocation, with the balance to support protections of wildlife corridors, development of future recreational opportunities and enhancement of drought tolerance and water retention.
The bill and ballot measure proposes to allocate $25 million in grant funding to programs enhancing or increasing fish and wildlife habitat, reducing water pollution and promoting adaptation of sea level rise.
Another $45 million could be available for the California Ocean Protection Trust. The budget allocation would support marine wildlife programs by funding grants to support the state’s Marine Protected Areas and sustainable fisheries.
The State Coastal Conservancy could receive $95 million to protect beaches, bays and coastal watershed resources.
Garcia’s proposal added California’s outdoor recreation economy is an $87 million industry contributing more than 700,000 jobs and billions of dollars into local and state revenues.
Investing in outdoor recreational access, according to AB 18, would also help conserve natural resources for future generations and minimize the effects of climate change.
“Continued investments in the state’s parks, trails, and natural resources, and greening urban areas will help mitigate the effects of climate change, making cities more livable, and will protect California’s natural resources for future generations,” Garcia’s proposed legislation stated. “California’s state, local, and regional park system infrastructure and national park system infrastructure are aging, and a significant infusion of capital is required to protect this investment.”
State officials could direct funding to create new or alternate means of access to local waterways and other outdoor recreational pursuits if AB 18 clears the legislative process and is approved by voters in 2018.
State Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, introduced a similar bill (Senate Bill 5, or SB 5) in the state senate.
If the bills are approved then California voters would vote on the California Clean Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act during the statewide primary election on June 5, 2018.
The act would take effect immediately if approved by voters.