A collection of environmental groups has told Gov. Jerry Brown that they do not consider San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson qualified to fill a vacant spot on the California Coastal Commission.
In an interview with The Tribune on Wednesday, Gibson reiterated that he thinks he is well qualified. He said the groups have not explained to him why they would not endorse him, but he takes the criticism “in stride. That’s part of being in public life.”
Gibson represents the North Coast on the county Board of Supervisors and is generally considered an environmentalist.
Seven elected officials from Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have applied for the open spot on the powerful commission, which regulates growth along California’s coastline.
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Brown is expected to make his choice in the next few weeks.
The ad hoc environmental committee, which includes representatives from the Surfrider Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and seven other groups, interviewed five of the candidates. It was unclear whether anyone from San Luis Obispo County sat in on the interviews.
The ad hoc committee endorsed Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf and Ventura City Councilman Brian Brennan.
The committee was silent on the other candidates — among them San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, Arroyo Grande City Councilman Joe Costello and former Coastal Commissioner Mary Reiss, a Pismo Beach city councilwoman.
However, they singled out Gibson for nonendorsement.
“We feel it is necessary to send a clear message that Bruce Gibson does not exemplify the qualities needed in a Coastal Commissioner,” their statement said.
The statement did not include the reasoning. However, environmentalist Jack Ellwanger of Big Sur, who sat in on some of the interviews, said there were several general complaints against Gibson.
First, Gibson was a player in the move to make coastal portions of the Hearst Ranch a state park, an outcome which enraged some environmentalists who felt that too many concessions were made to the Hearst Corp. The ranchland is near San Simeon.
Gibson also faced considerable criticism from those who had investigated him and made their complaints known to the ad hoc committee.
And, finally, Ellwanger said, some people who interviewed him found Gibson combative.
Gibson told The Tribune he is proud of his work on Hearst Ranch, adding that “there are people who are still unhappy.”
As to being combative, he said he argues his points, but gives “full consideration to opposing points of view.” He said he considers himself someone who seeks to build consensus.
The environmental groups said they were looking for someone who had “strong knowledge of and experience with the Coastal Act and coastal issues.”
In addition, they sought a commissioner who “highly values civility and flexibility in their deliberative process; has a history of being accessible to their constituents; has proven their consensus-building skills; and generally has a balanced, nonideological approach to coastal issues.”
Wolf and Brennan were the strongest candidates, Ellwanger said.
Other groups that participated in the ad hoc committee were the California Coastal Protection Network, Southern California Watershed Alliance, Coast Walk California, the League for Coastal Protection, California Native Plant Society, the Pelican Network and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.