The California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would review a lawsuit challenging the state Coastal Commission’s decision to limit seawall permits to a 20 year time period. This mandate gives the Coastal Commission the ability to regulate development along the ocean and deter harmful construction that would negatively impact the public’s interest in preserving healthy and sustainable beaches accessible to the general public.
The lawsuit was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of homeowners Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick. In December 2010 a storm and erosion destroyed their seawall and the lower portion of their private stairway that led from their homes down to the beach.
The city of Encinitas gave Lynch and Frick permission to rebuild the seawall and the stairway, but the Coastal Commission denied permission to replace the stairway. The Coastal Commission granted a 20 year permit for a replacement seawall. After 20 years, the property owners would have to apply for a new seawall permit.
In April 2013, a trial court struck down the Coastal Commission’s 20-year permit lifetime. In September of 2014, a panel of 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the decision by a 2-1 vote and sided with the commission.
The issue of permit lifetimes is core to the mission of the Beach Preservation Committee. We believe that beaches are a public resource held in the public trust. It is in the public interest to ensure they are preserved to provide affordable recreational access to everyone.
We support the Coastal Commission’s right to review seawalls and other structures built along the coastline on a 20-year basis and with other permit conditions to ensure the structure poses no threat to recreational access or our beaches. A 20-year basis for impacts to access and recreation is in compliance with Chapter 3 of the Coastal Act. Seawalls prevent shoreline erosion and will narrow beaches until they no longer exist. Shoreline erosion also creates reefs and other important shoreline features.
On December 10, Fox5 ran a story on this issue and Surfrider advisor Jim Jaffee was also interviewed as part of this story.