Malibu resident and environmentalist Sara Wan was elected chair of the 12-member California Coastal Commission last week. Wan is the appointment of Senator Pro Tem, originally State Senator and now Attorney General Bill Lockyer, as well as Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco. She was first appointed to the commission in January 1996 and elected vice chair in April 1997.
Wan has been active in Malibu politics, serving as vice chair of the Malibu Township Council, and was a leader in defeating the L.A. County-proposed Malibu sewer and later the successful cityhood movement. She also served as chair of the Malibu General Plan Task Force. Her husband, Larry Wan, was elected to the first Malibu City Council and was later elected mayor.
In 1996, she founded and ran the political action committee “Vote the Coast,” which was very successful in helping to elect “coastal-friendly” candidates to the legislature.
Wan spent most of her professional career a##s an engineer and businesswoman. She taught electrical engineering at California State University, Long Beach and was founder and chief executive officer of Maric Inc., an engineering firm that manufactured electronic timing devices for sports. She sold the company in 1992 to devote full time to environmental causes.
Ironically, she and her husband were attacked in local Malibu politics as being insufficiently environmental and sellouts to the development interests. She is now one of the most significant voice#s in the California environmental community, and there have been some significant recent clashes between the city of Malibu and the Coastal Commission over environmental issues. The commission has sued the city over parking restrictions the city has placed near the state-owned Point Dume Headlands Park, and the matter is still unresolved.
Wan holds two masters degrees, in biology from Yale University and in electrical engineering from UC Irvine.