Californians Fight Over Whether Coast Should Be Rugged or Refined

LOS ANGELES — It has been one of the most powerful governmental agencies in the nation, with sweeping powers to determine what gets built, or does not get built, on the 1,100 miles of cliffs, mountains and beaches along the Pacific Ocean, one of the country’s great destinations.

The California Coastal Commission, created 45 years ago, is an independent entity whose authority has been likened to that of Robert Moses, the powerful New York City planner. It has scrutinized projects large and small, from adding a deck to a home to building an oceanfront luxury hotel. It has mediated the often clashing agendas of two of the most influential forces that help to define this state: environmentalism and the drive for growth.

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