June 3, 2010

Coastal Commission to force couple to "restore" private yard

By Coastal Commission to force couple to "restore" private yard

Author:  Paul Beard II

One of PLF's many battles against the California Coastal Commission has come to an end. 

George and Sharlee McNamee own beach-front property in Corona del Mar.  In their private backyard, which abuts a public beach, they have enjoyed the use of various beach amenities:  tables, benches, a BBQ, a shed, and the like.  But several years ago, the Coastal Commission issued a cease-and-desist order demanding that they take out all of their belongings and restore the yard to its former "natural" state, with ice plant and other native vegetation.  The Commission felt the amenities were visually displeasing and created the "perception of privatization" of the entire beach area.

The McNamees sued the Commission, asserting their right to keep their belongings in their private yard.  After they lost in the trial court, PLF represented them in the appeal.  The Court of Appeal issued an unfavorable decision, essentially rubber-stamping the Commission's aesthetic judgments about the amenities and agreeing they should be removed.  The Supreme Court denied review of the case on May 20, thereby reinstating the cease-and-desist order against the McNamees.

What now?

The McNamees have to jump through several regulatory—and expensive—hoops to comply with the Commission's order.  Pursuant to the order, they have to (1) hire a professional architect or "restoration specialist" to prepare a "Removal and Restoration Plan" for the Commission's review, (2) work with the Commission staff to secure approval of a plan that is agreeable to them, (3) employ movers to disassemble and remove the amenities, and (4) implement extensive and costly restoration measures for their private beach.  The entire process—from plan preparation to plan implementation—will take months. 

Beyond the expense and time, the McNamees will suffer the emotional heartache—the utter injustice—of having to remove or destroy their belongings on their own private property.

While the McNamees did not prevail in the courts of law, they have prevailed in the court of public opinion.  Many have become aware of the McNamees' plight, through universally favorable TV and newspaper reports.  This has had the beneficial effect of exposing the Commission for what it truly is:  a body of petty, unelected bureaucrats intent on exercising their raw power every chance they get—and on the taxpayers' dime.

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