If you had to come up with one state agency that has done the most damage to California’s economy with its regulatory sweep and overreach, you’ll never come close to topping the state Air Resources Board.

But it you wanted to pick the one state agency that most consistently advocates a radical view of government power, you’ll never top the California Coastal Commission. It was founded and run for a quarter-century by a green zealot named Peter Douglas — a guy who really and truly didn’t believe in private property rights and who pushed the commission to ridiculous extremes. I wrote about one of his crusades in an editorial in 2006:

“Consider the case of San Luis Obispo engineer Dennis Schneider, who hoped to build his dream home on a cliff above the ocean in a remote area north of Cayucos. Incredibly by normal cognitive standards, typically by Coastal Commission standards, the agency blocked his plans on the grounds that the home would be such an aesthetic affront to passing kayakers, boaters and surfers that it would violate their rights. We are not making this up.”

But the courts backed Schneider up, thankfully. So there was a way to deal with Douglas’ assault on conventional notions about property, individuals and government control of property and individuals.

Not just power to assess fines, but limited checks and balances

Now, the San Diego Democrat chosen to be the next speaker of the Assembly wants the commission to be given more powers with fewer checks and balances. CalWatchdog alum Steve Greenhut talks about Toni Atkins’ scary legislation in his latest U-T San Diego column.

“Last year, the Atkins bill (AB 976) was controversial enough even among some environmentally minded Democrats that it was rejected in the Assembly. But as Atkins ascends to the Assembly speakership, it’s likely that this legislative priority will rise again.

Is it needed? The vast majority of the commission’s complaints against homeowners already are resolved before going to court. If the commission still meets resistance, it petitions the state attorney general for legal action.

“If the Atkins bill passes, the commission can decide on its own to begin assessing daily fines. The property owners can attend a public hearing before commissioners, but it’s not a neutral proceeding with witnesses and due process. The burden of proof would shift from the agency to the individual property owner.

“Not many owners could risk the bank account by challenging the agency. Some critics say the bill would provide an incentive for the commission to target picayune issues because the more fines it imposes, the more money that fills up an environmental-restoration fund.”

Groan. This is not what California needs — further empowering the Peter Douglas disciples who still run the Coastal Commission two years after his death and who still think Douglas’ views about property rights are what matters — not that minor clause in federal law known as the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Cross-posted at Cal Watch Dog.