AB-2534: Environmental Ed: grant program: Hollister Ranch. Gov. vetoes Limon’s 2018 BILL. NO COLLABORATION.

AB 2534 (Limón)
As Enrolled September 10, 2018
2/3 vote
(May 30, 2018)
(August 30, 2018)
(August 30, 2018)
Original Committee Reference: W., P., & W.
SUMMARY: Requires the establishment of an Outdoor Equity Grants Program at the California Department of Parks and Recreation and Coastal Access at Hollister Ranch. Specifically, this bill:

1) Would require the Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to establish an Outdoor Equity Grants program.

2) Is intended to increase the ability of underserved and at-risk populations to participate in outdoor environmental education experiences at state parks and other public lands where these activities take place. The bill prioritizes curriculum that includes one or more attributes, among others:

a) Aligns with the education content standards including Next Generation Science standards and California History-Social Science standards.

b) Integrates instruction in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

c) Fosters stewardship of the environment.

3) Requires the Director of the DPR to give priority for funding for outdoor environmental education programs that primarily provide outreach to, and serve students, who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, foster youth, and other at-risk youth.

4) Would establish the California Outdoor Equity Account as a depository for program funding, including from private donations. Requires the program to have deposited adequate donations or funds to administer the program and award the grants, prior to the establishment of the program.

5) Includes evaluation and reporting criteria on an ongoing basis.

6) Requires the DPR to adopt guidelines. Exempts the adoption of the guidelines from the Administrative Procedure Act but requires the DPR to develop a process for public comment and review of the guidelines that involves three public hearings in three different parts of the state prior to adoption.

7) Creates two subaccounts in order to provide access for funding for a coastal access program at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

The Senate amendments are significant and:

1) Remove the date by which the office must be established. The amendments require the program to have deposited adequate donations or funds to administer the program and award the grants, prior to the establishment of the program. The remaining amendments are technical in nature and clarify that the DPR may work with relevant stakeholders in undertaking the program, and that to increase outdoor education programs in underserved areas, the director may provide funding for professional development based on approved content standards.

2) Create separate accounts to receive funding related to Hollister Ranch, including in-lieu fees, for coastal access, and separately, to allow the State Lands Commission to use up to $1 million from the Kapiloff Land Bank Account (established in 1982 to facilitate settlements of title to real property) to begin actions necessary to implement the adopted access program at Hollister Ranch.

3) Allow the state agencies with responsibility for the shoreline and coastal zone to, as specified, using funding from the subaccounts, acquire property necessary for the creation of the public access route as described in the 1982 adopted coastal access program, or as amended, for Hollister Ranch.

1) Establishes the Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), consisting of various departments, including the Department of Parks and Recreation, California Coastal Commission, and the various state conservancies.

2) Establishes the DPR which is responsible for administering the state park system. The DPR has also been directed under prior bond acts to administer grant programs for local and regional parks and related programs. Authorizes the DPR to provide spaces within the state park system for schools to use for environmental education.

3) Establishes guidelines for the DPR to use in granting funds for programs that provide outdoor environmental education experiences to low-income students on public properties.

4) Creates the State Urban Parks and Healthy Communities Act, and requires the Director of the DPR to develop a competitive grant program to assist state parks, certain state conservancies, urbanized and heavily-urbanized local agencies, and community-based organizations within those jurisdictions to provide outdoor educational opportunities to children.

5) Establishes a statewide environmental education program, to be administered by the Office of Education and Environment within the Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), in cooperation with other agencies. The program, among other things, calls for development of a unified education strategy on the environment for elementary and secondary schools, including environmental education principles.

6) Establishes the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) Network as a program of the California Department of Education, to support environmental literacy by providing teachers with access to high quality education resources, and regional coordinators to provide professional development.

7) Requires, pursuant to the California Coastal Act of 1976 (coastal act) any person undertaking development in the coastal zone, as defined, to obtain a coastal development permit, with exceptions.

8) Establishes the Coastal Access Account in the State Coastal Conservancy Fund to, upon appropriation, provide for facilities that provide public access to the shoreline.

9) Establishes the Kapiloff Land Bank Account to facilitate settlements of title to real property by the State Lands Commission.

10) Allows for an in-lieu public access fee under certain circumstances.
FISCAL EFFECT: According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, prior to amendments taken in the Senate:

1) Cost pressures, likely in the ten million dollar range annually, to fund the grant program (General Fund, bond, or other special fund).

2) One-time administrative costs, in the range of $100,000 to $300,000, to develop the grant regulations (General Fund, bond, or other special fund).

Background and Purpose: This bill would require the Director of DPR to establish the Outdoor Equity Grants Program. The purpose of the program would be to leverage both public and private funds, to target outdoor access programs for underserved and at-risk youth. The program is intended to integrate with existing environmental education standards including the Education and the Environment Initiative, Next Generation Science Standards, and California History-Social Science standards. This bill also contains provisions related to Hollister Ranch, as described in Section 2 below.

Section 1: Outdoor and Environmental Education in California. AB 1330 (Simitian), Chapter 633, Statutes of 2003, established the Outdoor Environmental Education Program, administered by the California Department of Education (CDE), to support outdoor environmental programs serving primarily at-risk youth. The program involved participation in outdoor environmental activities, including service learning and community outreach components. The program was in effect for one year, sunset on January 1, 2005, and was repealed on January 1, 2006.

AB 1330 called for an independent study of the benefits of the program. The study was performed by the American Institutes for Research and focused on 255 sixth grade students from four elementary schools who attended three outdoor education programs in Tulare, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties in 2004. The study found that, among other things, the science test scores of children who participated in these programs rose by 27%. The children also exhibited measurable improvements in conflict resolution and problem solving, self-esteem, and learning motivation. Children who attended the outdoor science programs showed statistically significant positive gains in all eight constructs on which they were rated. Also of note, 56% of the participants reported that the outdoor school experience represented the first time they had spent time in a natural setting. The study did note that due to the small sample size, “findings cannot be generalized to all students attending outdoor education programs in California, particularly because of the range of programs that exist. However, this research indicates a large number of positive outcomes for at-risk children who attend resident outdoor science schools certified by the California Department of Education.”

According to a report commissioned by the Great Valley Center in partnership with the Stewardship Council, which specifically details the transportation challenges in connecting youth to the outdoors, the principal challenges to transportation are cost, administration, and availability. As detailed in this report, and as supported by numerous other organizations and non-profits dedicated to connecting youth to the outdoors, “the greatest barrier to getting young people outdoors turns out, in our experience, to be just getting them there.”

SB 359 (Murray), Chapter 877, Statutes of 2001, requires the Director of the DPR to develop a competitive grant program to assist state parks, certain state conservancies, urbanized and heavily-urbanized local agencies, and community-based organizations within those jurisdictions to provide outdoor educational opportunities to children. The DPR currently oversees the Office of Community Involvement (OCI) whose mission is to promote the means and facilitate the methods by which DPR services, facilities, and parks become meaningful and relevant to all Californians. In addition to other programs, the OCI provides Outdoor Youth Connection designed for youth ages 13 through 17 who are affiliated with community-based organizations. The program enables youth to experience outdoor activities, camping, teambuilding, and leadership. Other state agencies, including the state conservancies and the Department of Fish and Wildlife have programs that provide outreach to youth.

Section 2: Coastal Access and Adopted Coastal Access Program (CAP) for the Hollister Ranch. This bill includes provisions to establish the means to allow for the implementation of the adopted Coastal Access Program (CAP) at Hollister Ranch. Funding from subaccounts proposed to be established in the State Lands Commission and State Coastal Conservancy would be used to begin the process of opening public access at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County. This bill would provide the means for coastal access “in-lieu” fees collected at Hollister Ranch to be used for access improvements, management and maintenance as specified in the 1981 adopted public access program for Hollister Ranch, in addition to existing funds used to facilitate settlements of title to real property.

Background: The California Coastal Commission – created initially by a voter initiative in 1972 – was permanently authorized by the California Coastal Act of 1976. The commission’s primary responsibility is to protect the state’s natural and scenic resources along California’s coastal zone. To do this, the act authorizes the Coastal Commission to issue permits for development within the coastal zone, and to place upon these permits conditions for offsetting – or “mitigating” – the adverse effects of the permitted development. These permit conditions are intended to compensate the public for adverse impacts of new development on the state’s natural resources and to ensure access to the coast.

Hollister Ranch is a 14,500 subdivision in Santa Barbara County with 8.5 miles of coastline. The property is closed to the public, though current law allows access to the shoreline (beach) below the mean high tide line. To access the beach at Hollister Ranch, one must attempt a precarious approach via sea. Confrontations between locals security patrols and those accessing the public beaches have been documented. Although these beaches belong to the public, this is the longest stretch of coastline in California that is inaccessible to the public. Initial attempts in the late 1970s to open the Hollister Ranch shoreline to the public were met with strong opposition and multiple lawsuits. To resolve these legal disputes and ensure timely public coastal access at Hollister Ranch, the Legislature enacted Public Resources Code Section 30610.3 in 1979 (AB 643) [(Calvo et al.) Chapter 919, Statutes of 1979], and Section 30610.8 in 1982 (AB 321) [(Hannigan) Chapter 43, Statutes of 1982], giving the Coastal Commission and the State Coastal Conservancy explicit authority to adopt, fund, and implement a comprehensive access program at Hollister Ranch “as expeditiously as possible.”

As directed, the Coastal Commission adopted the Hollister Ranch Public Access Program in 1981, with modifications the following year. The program proposes bicycle, pedestrian, and shuttle van access from Gaviota State Park, visitor facilities such as bathrooms and picnic areas, general hours of operation, and daily caps on visitation from 100-500 persons per day. The three-phase implementation balances private property rights, privacy, public access, public safety, and resource conservation. Implementation of the adopted plan has been blocked for more than 35 years. This bill would provide access to funding to implement the CAP. It does not change the Coastal Commission’s authorities.

Prior and Related Legislation:
1) AB 2614 (Carillo) of the current legislative session, would require the CNRA to provide information on the availability of school buses for outdoor education opportunities, and would provide grants to access and purchase new clean vehicles for this purpose.

2) AB 2150 (Rendon) of 2014, proposed to create a new division of community initiatives and park access within DPR, and called for the development of a strategic action plan for improving park access and relevancy for underserved populations. It also included an emphasis on development of partnerships to address park and recreational needs of underserved youth and young adults, and to connect youth with nature and the outdoors. AB 2150 was vetoed by the Governor.

3) SB 204 (Pavley), Chapter 573, Statutes of 2015, authorizes the DPR to accept donations from public or private sources to fund programs to benefit youth, and to enter into cooperative agreements with public or nonprofit organizations to provide service and learning opportunities for youth.

4) AB 988 (Mark Stone) of 2015, which would have expanded and provided outdoor environmental education and recreation grants, was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

5) While the operative statute established in AB 1330 (Simitian), Chapter 633, Statutes of 2003, has since expired, there exists policy in the Education Code relative to the benefits and need for environmental education: Education Code Sections 8700 through 8774.

6) SB 854 (Budget and Fiscal Review Committee), Chapter 51, Statutes of 2018, which creates the Martins Beach Subaccount in the Land Bank Fund, and requires that moneys received from public and private sources, including nonprofit sources, be used to acquire that right-of-way or easement for the creation of a public access route.

This bill would create the Hollister Ranch Subaccount within the Land Bank Fund to support establishing public access to the beaches at Hollister Ranch
While well intentioned, this bill relies on the implementation of a coastal access program adopted in 1982. Although this program could have been completed over three decades ago, it was not and it is now outdated.
Before raising any money, as envisioned in this bill, the relevant state agencies should be required to work together to craft a sensible and fiscally responsible plan.
Analysis Prepared by: Catherine Freeman / W., P., & W. / (916) 319-2096 FN: 0005340