Ellen Stern Harris — co-author of Proposition 20 that created the California Coastal Conservation Act in 1972 — died of cancer Monday, January 2nd, in her Beverly Hills home. She was 76.
Following her efforts to create the California Coastal Commission, she was appointed to the newly formed commission and served as its vice chair during the commission’s first four years.
She left the coastal commission, protesting what she said was the commission’s inability to stop overdevelopment and failure to allow enough public access to the state’s coastline.
She also served on the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which had the goal of attempting to clean up the heavily polluted Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors.
She also aggressively pursued opportunities to preserve the Ballona Wetlands.
Harris continued to meet with Ballona Wetlands environmentalists during her illness to discuss coastal protection ideas.
Harris was the lead amicus in a federal lawsuit to clean up Santa Monica Bay and was a City of Beverly Hills representative on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
She was also appointed to panels for the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Health Services.
For seven years, she wrote a consumer advocate column for the Los Angeles Times. She also taught public policy at UCLA.
She was named “Woman of the Year” in 1969 by the Times and honored by the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the United Nations Association, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
“Ellen, you are a model of civic involvement,” Yaroslavsky told her as the Board of Supervisors honored her last year. “If we had ten people like you in this county, it would be a different kind of place.”
Harris was born November 2nd, 1929, a third generation resident of Beverly Hills.
Harris is survived by her brother Fred Stern, son Tom Stern, daughter Jane Harris, son-in-law Michael Baumann, and grandson Tom Baumann.
A celebration of Harris’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, January 8th, at Greystone Mansion, 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills.
In lieu of flowers, Harris’s family says that memorial contributions in her name may be made to the Fund for the Environment, P.O. Box 228, Beverly Hills, CA 90213, to support the archiving at UCLA of her papers.