PLF litigating against the California Coastal Commission on behalf of landowners . . . again

February 24, 2012 | By PAUL BEARD

This Monday, the San Luis Obispo Superior Court will be hearing arguments on the merits of PLF’s lawsuit on behalf of a southern California family in SDS Family Trust v. California Coastal Commission.  The hearing is at 9:00 a.m., in Department 3, at 1035 Palm Street, San Luis Obispo.

House and blown down barn on SDS Trust coastal property

In this case, the SDS Family Trust is essentially a family of three sisters and their father (who has since died) that purchased coastal property in an unincorporated area of San Luis Obispo County.  They applied for a permit to upgrade a dilapidated farmhouse and to rebuild a barn that blew down.  In return for the permit, however, the California Coastal Commission has demanded that the family relinquish a 25 to 50 foot-wide public-access easement along the rocky shoreline of its property in exchange for the permit.

The family’s project, however, does not adversely affect existing public access; indeed, the project cannot adversely affect existing public access, because there is no public access on the property to begin with.  Nevertheless, true to its notoriously extortionate practice, the Commission has used the permit process to get something for nothing from the family.  The agency’s demand not only takes the family’s private property without compensation (in the form of a substantial easement), but it threatens existing cattle-grazing operations and exposes the family to a serious risk of liability for injuries that members of the public could sustain while traversing such a dangerous area of the property (the access would be along an unpaved area of the cliff shoreline).

The family filed suit against the Commission in October, 2010, alleging that the Commission’s easement exaction effects an unconstitutional taking of private property.  After beating back the Commission’s motion to dismiss the case in September, 2011, the parties briefed the merits of the Family’s claim.  The Court on Monday will hear arguments as to whether the Commission’s demand should be set aside.

We’ll be sure to update you on Monday with all the post-hearing details.