Mercury News editorial: Peter Douglas changed the world
Mercury News Editorial
Posted: 04/05/2012 03:36:34 PM PDT
Updated: 04/05/2012 06:10:15 PM PDT
If you think it’s impossible for one person to change the world, we have two words for you: Peter Douglas.
Faced with what seemed like an inexorable tide of development, oil drilling and privatization, Douglas set out in the 1970s to protect California’s coastline. Without his passion, leadership and political skill, we would not have the largely pristine, breathtakingly beautiful, publicly accessible coast that millions from around the world travel to see and that Californians treasure.
Douglas died this week after years of battling cancer. His legacy is the California Coastal Commission, which has to sign off on any development planned for the coast. He was the co-author of the ballot proposition that created the commission, and he worked there for 35 years. Because of this, a whole litany of bad things did not happen, from massive coastal resorts and private beaches to oil rigs looming off Big Sur.
He stood up to powerful landowners, from the Hearst Corp. to the Pebble Beach Co., and to pro-drilling presidents, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. He was vilified by would-be developers — then again, you can’t change the world and still have everybody love you. Douglas believed the vast majority of Californians support coastal preservation. We think so, too.
As he pointed out in August at his last commission meeting, “The coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.” Attempts to build high rises and dismantle
environmental protection will never stop. And it only takes a few inappropriate developments to forever change the dynamic, and the character, of this one-of-a-kind coastline.
Douglas changed the world. Others must step up to keep it from changing back.