The California Coastal Commission's view of itself can be romantic.
When its longtime executive director, Peter Douglas, died earlier this month, a staff tribute turned to "The Lord of the Rings" for a comparison: "For more than 40 years, he has been Gandalf to the developers' balrog, standing resolute on tenuous footing while declaring, 'You. Shall. Not. Pass.'"
The tenuousness of the commission's footing may be a matter of debate, but its denials are rarely so declamatory, couched instead in the language of bureaucracy: "Gnatcatcher. Observances. In. The. Southeast. Polygon."
The city of Newport Beach has plans to build Sunset Ridge Park on the hillside above West Coast Highway and Superior Avenue, and was due to present those plans to the commission again Thursday. The application, though, was postponed once again, with city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan saying that the commission's heavy workload was a factor.
The question is whether the city's plans for baseball and soccer fields, gardens and bathrooms sufficiently accommodate the California gnatcatcher, a tiny blue-gray bird that hops and flits through nearby sagebrush while eating bugs.