6 months ago

A bad bill for coastal homeowners

By Larry G. Salzman Senior Attorney

PLF is a frequent combatant against the California Coastal Commission in court when the Commission attacks the right to use property along the coast. Sometimes it is necessary to fight a bad law before it is enacted, however, rather than wait to challenge it in court. That’s why PLF is fighting a new proposed bill (AB 1129) that threatens homeowners along the state’s 1,100 mile coastline.

The bill would modify the Coastal Act to deny property owners of homes and other structures built after January 1, 1977 an entitlement to permits for the construction of shoreline protective devices (such as seawalls) necessary to defend their homes against storms, erosion, and other natural hazards. This is a radical change to the Coastal Act that unfairly burdens individual home owners and could create massive financial liability for the state or municipalities when homes denied shoreline protection are damaged.

The bill is not justified by any reasonable concern for the preservation of coastal resources. Instead, it is a transparent attempt by Commission supporters to codify the Commission’s long-standing animus against seawalls and its policy of “managed retreat” (i.e., requiring private property owners to helplessly abandon the coast and their homes to destruction in the face of natural hazards rather than take sensible actions to protect and preserve the safety and value of their property).

For years, the Commission has required permit applicants for new beachfront or cliff-top residential development to forever forfeit the right to build a shoreline protective device as a condition of receiving a permit. In a recent case (Capistrano Shores v. California Coastal Commission), PLF represented the owner of a beachfront mobilehome before the Orange County Superior Court to challenge one such seawall-waiver permit condition. The Court struck down the waiver on the grounds that it exceeded the Commission’s authority under the Coastal Act. The changes sought to the Coastal Act by AB1129 would effectively allow the Commission to continue this policy insulated from future judicial review, to the detriment of an untold number of future homeowners.

PLF has formally opposed the bill with a letter to the California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee and expects to testify in opposition at a Committee meeting scheduled to hear the matter on April 17.

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