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Job Details

Chief Counsel

Company name
California Coastal Commission

2 yrs required

San Francisco, CA, United States

Employment Type


Posted on
May 08,2019


The Chief Counsel serves as attorney to the California Coastal Commission (Commission) and the Executive Director, and manages and directs the work of the Legal Division, which is comprised of attorneys, legal analysts, a legal assistant and a legal secretary.  The Chief Counsel advises the Commission and Executive Director and all senior management on all legal issues arising from the Commission’s Implementation of the California Coastal Act and California’s Coastal Management Program.  The Chief Counsel is the principal contact for City Attorneys and County Counsels for the 76 local governments in the coastal zone, to the legal offices of the Governor, California Natural Resources Agency, and of other public agencies, special districts, commercial ports and the University of California; and is the primary liaison with the California Attorney General’s Office.  The Attorney General’s Office handles litigation for the Commission.

Legal issues raised by implementation of California’s Coastal Management Program are complex, diverse, intellectually challenging and often on the cutting edge of land use law in the state and nation.  Primary areas of law involve state land and water use law (e.g. Coastal Act, Subdivision Map Act, CEQA); federal law affecting coastal and ocean resources; federal and state constitutional law concerning “takings”; enforcement; and state administrative law, including conflict of interest, ethics, rulemaking and state civil service rules.  The Chief Counsel travels to each monthly Commission meeting (3 to 5 days) to advise the Commission and Commission staff on legal matters arising during the meeting.

This position is demanding and rewarding and requires excellent verbal and written communication and negotiation skills.  The Coastal Commission plans for and regulates development along the California coast pursuant to the California Coastal Act. The Commission’s mission is to protect and enhance the coast and ocean for present and future generations. The agency has broad and strong authority to protect public access and recreation, sensitive wetlands and coastal habitats, scenic rural and agricultural landscapes, cultural resources; and manage coastal hazards. It is charged with assuring that new development in the coastal zone is supported with adequate public services, including water, wastewater and transportation infrastructure. The Commission is on the front line of responding to sea level rise and other coastal resource impacts due to climate change. The Commission is also a national leader in coastal management and land use issues, and its actions may have implications far beyond the state’s coastal zone.  The Commission’s decisions are often controversial, and the agency relies heavily on its legal division and strong relationships with the Attorney General’s office to assure that the Coastal Act is implemented to the fullest extent on behalf of the public.

The Commission is seeking a candidate with strong legal and leadership skills and a deep knowledge of the Coastal Act that will facilitate full implementations of the Coastal Act by the Commission and the Commission staff.  The Chief Counsel position is central to the effectiveness and success of the program. The Commission seeks a candidate with high ethical and professional standards, a commitment to excellence, productivity, and accountability, who will work collaboratively to problem-solve with senior management.  A strong candidate will also exhibit dedication to public service and the California coast.

The California Coastal Commission values diversity at all levels of the organization and is committed to fostering an environment in which employees from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and personal experiences are welcomed and can thrive. We believe the diversity of our employees and their unique ideas inspire innovative solutions to further our mission of protecting and enhancing California’s coast and ocean for present and future generations.

Because of the complexity of the legal issues the Coastal Commission addresses, the Commission seeks to fill the position as a Chief Counsel II, C.E.A.  Attorneys currently serving in a C.E.A. appointment that have lateral transfer eligibility as Chief Counsel II, C.E.A.; or attorneys qualified to be a Chief Counsel II, C.E.A. are encouraged to apply.  [NOTE – In order to transfer to one of these classifications, the applicant must meet the minimum qualifications.]  If you are not currently eligible to transfer as a Chief Counsel II, C.E.A. or on a state eligible list for Chief Counsel II, C.E.A., but you are interested and qualified for this position, please submit an application, supplemental application, resume and cover letter because the Commission will be administering a Chief Counsel II, C.E.A. examination for this position.  Once a pool of candidates is available, an examination will be scheduled and administered.  No relocation expenses will be offered.

SALARY:       Chief Counsel II, C.E.A.                     $13,575 - $15,877 per month


Membership in the State Bar of California. (Applicants must have active membership in The State Bar before they will be eligible for appointment.)  AND

Either I

One year of experience in the California state service performing legal duties* at a level of responsibility equivalent to Assistant Chief Counsel.


Two years of experience in the California state service performing legal duties* at a level of responsibility equivalent to Staff Counsel, Range D; and Current employment in a class at a level equivalent to that of Senior Staff Counsel (Specialist) or (Supervisor).


One year of experience in the California state service performing legal duties* at a level of responsibility equivalent to Senior Staff Counsel (Specialist) or (Supervisor).


Broad and extensive experience (more than five years) in the practice of law*. (Experience in California state service applied toward this requirement must include the same number of years of qualifying experience as required in Patterns I, II or III above performing the duties of a class at a level of responsibility equivalent to that described in Patterns I, II, or III.)

*Experience in the "practice of law" or "performing legal duties" is defined as only that legal experience acquired after admission to The Bar.

FILING:  In addition to the CA State Application (STD 678), which can be found on website, a cover letter, resume and Supplemental Application (see attached) must also be submitted to the address below as part of the application packet.

Human Resources Office
45 Fremont Street, Suite 1930
San Francisco, CA 94105–2219
(415) 904-5430 / toll free: 1-866-831-2540

Questions about this position may be directed to John Ainsworth, Executive Director or Susan Hansch, Chief Deputy Director at (415) 904-5244. We anticipate that the new Chief Counsel will begin soon after the Chief Counsel II, C.E.A. examination can be scheduled and administered.  Interviews will be held in the summer of 2019.

For more information about the California Coastal Commission and what we do and to obtain a State Application Form 678, visit our Internet website. If you have questions you may e-mail us or call the above numbers.

Company info

California Coastal Commission

Company Profile
The California Coastal Commission (Commission) is a small State agency that is charged with protecting coastal resources and managing coastal development in California. The mission of the Commission is to implement the Coastal Act and to provide for the balanced use of the coastal zone and to protect, restore, and enhance coastal and marine resources for the continuing benefit of current and future generations. Employees at the Commission enjoy working on a broad range of issues to plan for and manage coastal land uses while protecting important coastal resources including wetlands, habitats that support rare and endangered species, scenic landscapes and views to the sea, public shoreline access and recreation opportunities. The Commission’s staff includes dedicated planners, scientists, attorneys and administrative staff.

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