Court of appeal sides with Coastal Commission in power-grab case


Author: Paul J. Beard II

Last week, the California Court of Appeal issued an adverse decision in a case concerning the limits of the California Coastal Commission's authority to second-guess locally approved projects.

We represent Franco and Sonia DeCicco, who have a permit from San Luis Obispo County to subdivide their Cayucos parcel, and build four town homes (for their kids) and an Italian-style, family-run inn. When NIMBY neighbors asked the Coastal Commission to take a second look at the project, the Commission—against its own staff's recommendations—took the appeal. At the hearing to determine whether it should take the appeal, Coastal Commissioners made it abundantly clear that they would seek to substantially revise the DeCiccos' project, which the DeCiccos had spent countless hours and dollars designing to the satisfaction of local officials.

The DeCiccos immediately sued the Commission for unlawfully interfering in their project. They claimed the Commission had no business second-guessing the County's approval. Nor did the County, which fought with Commission staff over the question of whether the Commission had appellate-review power. The legal dispute centers on the proper interpretation of a provision of the Coastal Act that gives the Commission very limited appellate jurisdiction over County-approved projects. Unfortunately, the court of appeal sided with the Commission's interpretation. You can learn more about our suit here.

A decision has not yet been made about a possible petition for review to the supreme court. Stay tuned.