With Marin's coastal commission seat, Katie Rice promises to protect coastal interests

07/10/2019

Katie Rice, the supervisor from Marin’s second district, was appointed last month to serve as one of 12 people governing California’s coast. She replaced San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin as the coastal commissioner from the North Central Coast region, which encompasses Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties. Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, whose District 4 covers the entire coast of Marin, also applied for the post after he was approached by Mr. Peskin, who was not reappointed by the senate rules committee after two years as a commissioner. “He felt that, after him, I was the best-qualified because I lived on the coast and represented the coast. He thought that was important,” Mr. Rodoni told the Light. “It’s not unusual, but it is a little strange to not have a supervisor who represents the coast.” The California Coastal Commission regulates development along over 1,200 square miles of coastal land and water, addressing issues such as shoreline public access, habitat protection, views, landform alterations, agriculture and much more. Ms. Rice told the Light that her background, experience and passion will make her a strong representative of coastal interests. She has served as a supervisor for eight years, during which time she established a regional approach to chronic flooding in the Ross Valley and made the protection of Marin’s environmental resources a core value. During the 1980s and 1990s, she lived and worked near Tomales. Growing up in Mill Valley, she said, the coastal zone was “virtually our backyard.” “I’m pretty familiar with the challenges facing the coastal region and concerns of the folks who live there… Between Dennis and myself, I think the coastal communities can feel they have a strong team representing them at both local and coastal levels,” Ms. Rice said. During his 2016 campaign, Mr. Rodoni was not the top choice for many advocates of agriculture. Albert Straus, the C.E.O. of Straus Family Creamery and a vocal advocate for agriculture along the coast, is hopeful that Ms. Rice can help revitalize rural communities. “It’s important to have someone who has our interests at heart to maintain our rural culture,” he said. “Recently we’ve had our challenges with collaboration and balance, and it’s been tilted toward tourism and not supporting agriculture, or how it needs to be supported.” Mr. Straus underscored how the proliferation of short-term rentals is altering residential areas, shrinking the already low supply of affordable housing for farmworkers. He also hopes the coastal commission will collaborate with the county and local farms to address the need for sustainable and affordable food in rural communities. Although Ms. Rice’s appointment requires a commitment of about one week a month, she is confident she can handle the extra work. “I would not have thrown my hat in the ring if I didn’t think I could make the commitment and give the position the time it requires …But I may have to give up my Netflix subscription!” she quipped.