When our local officials fail to protect the general public interest, the Coastal Commission becomes the public’s last line of defense in protecting our shared environment from being harmed. Unfortunately, some developers (and sometimes city and county staff) have successfully cast the Coastal Commission as something to be overcome. 

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Almost a dozen local groups are calling for the resignation or removal of a Humboldt County planning commissioner after he used “racist and other offensive language” at a recent meeting.

The letter, addressed to 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn and 1st District Planning Commissioner Alan Bongio, requests Bongio’s resignation or removal for his statements at an Aug. 18 Planning Commission meeting. At the meeting, Bongio made repeated statements insinuating the Wiyot Tribe, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe and Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria were acting in bad faith when it came to working with the county to come up with appropriate permit conditions for a controversial Indianola home construction project.

“The Planning Commission represents Humboldt County and all of its residents,” the letter states. “Mr. Bongio’s conduct strains relationships between Humboldt County and sovereign tribal governments and trustee agencies, and makes government-to-government relationships more difficult.”

Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said it was imperative for a member of the Planning Commission to understand the laws protecting the coast and tribal cultural resources, and Bongio illustrated he cannot apply those laws to projects equally.

“To me, that is what’s most despicable, other than the totally racist remarks that he made,” Kalt said. “It’s the view that some people are above the law and this applicant has shown that he thinks he’s above the law many times.”

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Most of us know that what we call Humboldt Bay was part of the territory of the Wiyot people. And most us of know of the terrible mass killing that occurred in 1860 on what was called Indian Island.

But most of us do not know much more about the Wiyots and what has happened to their homeland over time. Here is part of that story.

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Progress often provokes a vicious response from those who wish to maintain the status quo... It is clear that the progress this community has made toward acknowledging the Wiyot peoples' rightful place on this land and in leadership is now provoking the anger of those who have become accustomed to holding power for generations — namely, wealthy landowners and developers. 

Bongio's tantrum at having the privilege of the developer class called into question by the California Coastal Commission and local tribes on the basis of completely legitimate concerns was best summed up by his parting words: "That was a waste of my fucking time." Classy.

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Planning Commission Chair Alan Bongio spent much of last week’s meeting expressing frustration and outrage.
The matter under discussion concerned permits for a very large, partially built home off Walker Point Road, a one-lane strip of asphalt accessed via the Indianola cutoff between Arcata and Eureka. The dead-end road traces the ridge of a knoll that overlooks the surrounding estuarine wetlands including Fay Slough, Freshwater Creek and, across the freeway, the shifting colors of Arcata Bay.
Historically the Walker Point area was known as Da’dedi’lhl, which means “sunshine” in Soulatluk, the language of the Wiyot people. 
Late last year, after starting construction on his very large home, the applicant, local business owner Travis Schneider, violated the terms of his Coastal Development Permit. He did so by laying down an un-permitted access road through some environmentally sensitive habitat and by using a CAT 310 excavator to clear blackberry brambles and other foliage from the property, potentially damaging tribal cultural resources in the process. 
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