Point Reyes woman gets planning commission seat

02/16/2017

An environmental advocate and former land use attorney and coastal commissioner has replaced Inverness resident Wade Holland as the District 4 representative on the planning commission, after Mr. Holland announced his retirement in January. Chris Desser, who for two decades split her time between Marshall and San Francisco before building a full-time home in Point Reyes Station, received the appointment over five other applicants at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors hearing. “I want to be involved in community in a way I haven’t been in a long time,” she said. Ms. Desser has served on boards and committees of West Marin nonprofits over the years, including for KWMR, Mesa Refuge, Point Reyes Bird Observatory and Spirit Rock, as well as San Francisco organizations like the Stegner Environmental Center and Mother Jones magazine. Her resumé includes work with the Migratory Species Project, where she headed an educational program, as a deputy land use attorney for the City of San Francisco in the late 1980s and as the executive director of Earth Day in 1990. “I’ve been dedicated to the environment and progressive activism [since George McGovern ran for president in 1972],” she said. In 1999, Gov. Gray Davis appointed her to the California Coastal Commission, where she served for five years. “It was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in my life,” she said, adding that she was viewed as “one of the more environmentally oriented commissioners.” That experience taught her a lot, she said. “If you go in there thinking you know the right answer, it’s not the most effective approach. You need to go in with an open mind and listen to all perspectives,” she said. “And you need to listen to the fellow commissioners, as you hope that they listen to you. You need to understand the rules, the law. Even if you don’t agree with the law, you need to apply what the law says.” That background in dealing with the Coastal Act should be useful at the planning commission, which regularly considers development proposals in the coastal zone. “Her experience with the coastal commission is a benefit,” Supervisor Dennis Rodoni said. “She’ll represent West Marin well.” The appointment isn’t Ms. Desser’s only recent achievement. After a long career in advocacy, Ms. Desser turned to painting, a childhood passion, about seven years ago. Now she has a show of oil paintings coming up in April at Commonweal in Bolinas. “It’s an interesting moment in my life,” she said. “I’m excited to get to do both these things. They feed both sides of me.”