The California Coastal Act is designed to protect public access to California beaches and preserve coastal resources while also respecting the private property rights of those who live and own land along the shoreline. The Coastal Commission, which enforces the Coastal Act, however, is notorious for acting without due regard for the rights of property owners.
Although the Coastal Act recognizes the right of coastal property owners to protect homes and other structures from erosion with seawalls, the Commission generally opposes their construction. Since 2010, the Commission has required property owners seeking permits to build new homes (or substantially redevelop existing homes) to forever waive their right to build a shoreline protective device. Homeowners saddled with this permit condition must tear down their homes in the event of catastrophic storms or bluff collapse.
However, the Commission’s seawall-waiver policy is as illegal as it is harmful to coastal property owners. Under California’s Administrative Procedures Act, the agency cannot implement a new policy such as this without going through a formal process, including public notice, comments, and hearings. The Commission did none of that: the new policy was developed without input from property owners or anyone outside a cloistered circle of agency staff and unelected Coastal Commissioners.