The purposes of Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation are to aid the enforcement of environmental laws, raise public awareness about coastal environmental issues, encourage environmental and political activism, and generally act to defend natural resources in coastal areas.


CERF’s legal team has successfully litigated and settled dozens of Clean Water Act cases throughout Southern California. These efforts have had a direct impact on water quality, decreasing toxic runoff from facilities that have for years caused local waterways to fail state and federal water quality standards. Since its inception CERF, along with other environmental partners, has led the charge on the City of San Diego’s Pure Water recycling program that will eventually divert tens of millions of gallons of treated sewage from our Pacific Ocean.

In 2015, CERF was granted an Arts and Culture grant by the City of Encinitas and Mizel Family Foundation to provide reusable grocery bags to Encinitas residents via Community Resource Center and North County Health Services (WIC program participants). Encinitas is one of the first San Diego County cities to voluntarily institute a plastic bag ban, and this grant application was intended to support the efforts of the City of Encinitas to reduce the use of, and waste resulting from, single-use plastics.

CERF is active in statewide environmental legislation during every session in Sacramento. With its nonprofit environmental and labor partners throughout California, CERF takes a leadership role individually and in coalitions regularly weighing in on bills addressing clean water policy, ocean health, housing supply and affordability, greenhouse gas regulation, transit and transportation, and fisheries management. CERF is often called on by legislators, community groups, and other stakeholders to assist with opposition to damaging environmental policies, or to lend support to policies that will protect and/or improve the integrity of our natural environment.

CERF is an active member of the San Diego Bay Council, a collaboration of San Diego area environmental organizations which share, at least in part, charitable purposes to protect local water quality and promote safe and sustainable local water supply.

Practice Areas


Since forming in 2008, CERF’s primary priorities have been:

  • Advocating for potable reuse as the most sustainable, responsible supply of new water in Southern California, opposition to ocean desalination (until it is a last resort) as it is in competition with potable reuse for funding resources, is extremely expensive, and is exorbitantly energy intensive, and
  • Protecting water quality in San Diego’s ocean, bay, lagoons, streams, and vernal pools.


CERF recognizes that land use policy is, perhaps, the single most impactful contributor to the state of our natural environment. We oppose sprawl development as it is wasteful of our limited water supply, interrupts wildlife corridors, increases traffic pollution, and decreases the amount of open space available for recreation. We also oppose most coastal armoring, as seawalls to protect private property generally equate to loss of public beaches.

Instead, we support urban infill, especially affordable housing, increased connected transit (light rail) and bicycle transportation options, decreased parking requirements for infill projects that are built to promote active transportation, separation of industrial uses from residential areas and other sensitive receptors, and preservation of parks lands and trails.


It’s all connected. Well-designed communities and cities will serve the best health of their citizens. Reduction of reliance on personal vehicles, protection of bodies of water that are used for human contact recreation and fishing, businesses that can turn a profit without polluting our air and water, park areas that are safe for children, adults, and pets: these work in concert to improve human health and quality of life.


CERF supports enforceable climate action plans which move the region away from dependence on fossil fuels and prioritize community choice, which will diversify our energy portfolio to include several sources of renewable energy.