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WANTED: Jack the Riprapper!

Yes, we've made a western style WANTED poster and Jack the Riprapper is a reference from the 1800's. Whimsy aside, beachfront property owners who maintain their shoreline armoring at the cost of the public beach without appropriate permits strikes at the heart of our mission to protect the public beach from illegal development.

In Oceanside, there are a number of private homes that have managed to build themselves a private beach. The private beach is protected by a huge pile of boulders, also known as riprap, which takes up valuable public beach space. Throughout the years, these private property owners have undertaken illegal construction activities to dump riprap further out onto the public beach, thus expanding their private beach at the cost of the public beach.

Instead of protecting the interests of all Oceanside constituents and public beachgoers, the City has willingly turned a blind eye by allowing the homeowners to maintain and expand their private beach without the required Coastal Development Permits.

While permits may seem like a bureaucratic issue, a crime is a crime by any name. Permits are an essential tool to provide transparency and confirm the legality of proposed projects before they take place. Permits are the only way that we, the public, can know what is proposed for our beaches and coastline. When individuals and cities decide to bypass the permitting situation entirely, they are saying that the public doesn’t have a right to know what is going on with our coast and beaches. 

The City of Oceanside is complicit and cannot claim ignorance at this point, as there is well- documented communication between Surfrider, the City, and the California Coastal Commission regarding these illegal activities.

Surfrider and local Oceanside residents have been protesting these illegal activities for 2 years. The Coastal Commission has notified the City that permits are required when construction equipment accesses the beach or when riprap is moved. Despite these previous written warnings, the Oceanside homeowners were back at it again this week, moving the riprap toward the public’s beach with bulldozers and a giant crane, even going so far as to pour concrete on the site. Surfrider confirmed with the Coastal Commission that none of this work was permitted as it should have been. 

Surfrider aims to protect public beaches. We are grateful to the Oceanside residents who alerted us of this illegal activity. Together, we will continue to push back against the entitled behavior of private property owners who actively chip away at our public beaches. 

To send a strong message that illegal coastal construction is harmful and unacceptable, we hope to work with the Coastal Commission to ensure that:

  • Violations and fines are levied against the homeowners and the City of Oceanside.
  • The adverse effects of this illegal activity are repaired or mitigated in any future permitting processes

Detailed timeline

March 13, 2019: The California Coastal Commission sent a letter to the City of Oceanside reminding them that the state, not the City, has jurisdiction when it comes to construction activities on public trust lands, such as the beach. The Commission also reminded the City that even if the City does grant an emergency permit for repair work on private lands fronting the beach, a permit from the Commission is still required if any construction equipment needs access to the public’s beach. 

May 2019: Surfrider asked the City to provide evidence of permits for the construction activity that had occurred in March 2019 in front of the 1200 block of Pacific Ave. 

August 2019: The City of Oceanside responded to Surfrider’s request for a permit, saying that no permit was needed and the activity had been exempted from any permitting by the City.

February 5, 2020: Surfrider sent a letter to the Commission stating our concerns about the previous construction activity. The letter also requested that the Commission clarify their position with the City about permitting procedures. 

March 12, 2020: The Commission sent a letter reminding the City that a permit is required for repair or maintenance of riprap, or for the presence of mechanized construction equipment within 20 feet of coastal waters. The Commission clarified to the City that the construction activities in the spring of 2019 should not have been exempted from a permit by the city. 

March 2021: Alert residents notify Surfrider, the City, and the Coastal Commission that mechanized equipment is being used for development at the site. The Coastal Commission is again concerned that no permit was issued for the work.