Off-road vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes has been fraught with controversy. Recently, the Coastal Commission decided to mandate phase out of off-road vehicle use in three years with some other key changes. Lawsuits challenging the decision ensued. I get questions on a regular basis as to where I stand on “our beach” and whether I support a “vehicle-free” future for our beach.
Consistent with my campaign promise from 2018 to make decisions that balance the economic, environmental, and social aspects of any issue, I have supported a balanced approach to this particular issue. I have focused my attention on the public health implications of off-road vehicle use, which has been determined to contribute to poor air quality on the Nipomo Mesa. As a Board Member of the Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors, I have focused my energy on ensuring that mitigations for air pollution are installed in order to improve air quality. To date, these mitigations have been quite successful, with over 20% reductions in emissions seen in some years. I firmly believe that issues of public health and safety are not partisan, and if state and federal air quality standards are being exceeded and people are getting sick, we need to fix the problem if we can.
I’ve never taken a public stance on off-road vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes. I’ve simply supported implementing the mitigations necessary to improve air quality, which has resulted in some reductions in riding area – something I believe is necessary and appropriate in order to protect public health. The fact is that the Coastal Commission concluded that the use and intensity of off-roading at the Oceano Dunes has increased over time to an unsustainable level, which has negatively impacted the environment, air quality, and safety of the area. Although off-roading no doubt brings people to the area and creates a positive economic benefit, it certainly brings negative impacts as well. The future of the Oceano Dunes needs to be re-envisioned in a way that still benefits our local businesses and economy but also protects our natural resources, sensitive habitats, endangered species, and coastal access.
Therefore, it is time we move forward as a community and work together to develop that new vision for our beach – the place we all know and love.