In Memoriam

educating the public on environmental issues

Heroes of the Coast

A Video Oral History Project

Responding to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and a host of other coastal development threats, in 1972, activists from one end of California to the other campaigned for successful passage of Proposition 20, a ballot initiative. In doing so, California voters established the California Coastal Commission and the California Coastal Act. By doing so, the voters drew a line in the beach sand that continues to protect wildlife habitats, and the rights of Californians and out-of-state visitors to enjoy the beach and coastline, rather than finding them hidden behind homes and hotels that few can afford.

Since 2004, Earth Alert has recorded over 50 interviews with major coastal activists, beginning with Ellen Stern Harris, the "Mother of the Coastal Act" who also served four years on the Coastal Commission.

The historic value of these interviews is illustrated by the drumbeat of time. On January 3, 2006, Ellen Stern Harris succumbed to cancer. Earth Alert is proud to have preserved a video record of her contribution to the coast through its Heroes of the Coast program, which she inspired. Thank you, Ellen, for everything you accomplished.

These individuals’ roles stretch over almost 50 years, from the first efforts in 1963 to save San Francisco Bay to 2011 when Peter Douglas retired as the third executive director of the Coastal Commission.

Included in the collection is over two hours of interviews with Peter Douglas, author of the Coastal Act and CCC executive director for more than 25 years. Another hour features Joe Bodovitz, the first executive director of the CCC. Former CCC Chairs Mel Nutter, Naomi Schwartz and Sara Wan are interviewed, as well as former California State Senator Alan Sieroty, who introduced coastal protection legislation in the State Assembly. When that legislation failed to pass, it was redrafted as the Prop. 20 initiative that passed in 1972.

The collection includes interviews with Dorothy Green, founding president of Heal the Bay in Santa Monica, and Silvia McLaughlin, one of three women who initiated the movement to save San Francisco Bay that lead to establishment the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, itself a model for the Coastal Commission.

Coastal activists interviewed include Don May, Howard Bennett, Bill Kortum and “Bud” Bottoms. Santa Barbara News Reporter turned activist Bob Sollen is also included. Interviews were recorded between August 2004 and May 2015.

Since 2011, thanks to grants from the California Coastal Commission and donations from individuals, Earth Alert has distributed archival quality copies of its Heroes of the Coast interviews to California’s coastal university libraries, as well as posting interviews and transcripts to the Internet. They are linked below.

Links to videos and transcripts

Background story and press coverage

See the trailer

Purchase the DVD