Greene v. California Coastal Commission

Coastal Commission erodes property rights with unconstitutional conditions

Cases > Property Rights > Greene v. California Coastal Commission
Case Status: Active: Litigation is ongoing

Mark and Bella Greene challenge the California Coastal Commission’s decision to impose two conditions on the approval of a development permit to update and expand their home in Los Angeles. The first condition requires the Greenes to have a five-foot setback from their seaward property line, in conflict with Los Angeles zoning ordinances and the City-approved development permit. The second condition requires the Greenes to waive their constitutional and statutory rights to protect their home from storms and erosion by constructing a seawall. PLF represents the Greenes in a lawsuit challenging these unconstitutional conditions.

In 2006, Mark and Bella Greene bought a residential duplex in Playa Del Rey, California. While adjacent to the beach, the home is over 500 feet from the mean high tide line of the Pacific Ocean. The Greenes’ son, David, and his wife and children, have been residing in the home. Now retired, the Greenes moved to Los Angeles with the intention of remodeling the property so they, too, could live in what they envisioned to be a permanent retirement home. They planned to reinforce the existing structure for earthquake safety, expand the size of the home by 1,190 square feet, and add a short staircase and chair glide to accommodate Bella’s mobility difficulties. These plans require no zoning variances and do not affect the City of Los Angeles’s plan to construct a boardwalk between the home and the sea. The city approved the plans.

The California Coastal Commission, which has dual jurisdiction with the city over coastal property, put up the stop sign. After demanding that the Greenes pay for additional studies, the Commission decided that their permit would be approved only if they significantly increased the setback line of their property and if they waived their statutory right to build a shoreline protective device (e.g., seawall) to protect their property against storms, erosion or other natural hazards. The conditions were recommended by a Commission staff report that lacked or misrepresented evidence about the project and the neighborhood. Because these conditions have no relation to impacts caused by the proposed development and improperly demand waiver of a right guaranteed by law, PLF sued the Commission on behalf of the Greenes, challenging these unconstitutional conditions.

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What’s at stake?

  • Property owners have a constitutional right to use and enjoy their property and government may condition that right only when the conditions directly mitigate a public impact of a proposed project and the condition is roughly proportionate to the nature and extent of the public impact.
  • Commission bureaucrats may not impose conditions on property use based on speculation unsupported by substantial evidence that the use is causing a public harm that requires mitigation.

Case Timeline

Notice of Appeal

October 12, 2018 Download

Opening Merits Brief

May 24, 2018 Download

First Amended Petition

March 08, 2018 Download

Opposition to Demurrer

February 22, 2018 Download

PLF's Brief on Remedy

November 27, 2017 Download

Petition for Writ of Mandate and Declaration

May 01, 2017 Download

Case Attorneys

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