PLF attorneys just filed a lawsuit against the City of Solana Beach (San Diego County) over land-use regulations that threaten the right of landowners to protect, use, and enjoy their properties. PLF’s suit is on behalf of the Beach & Bluff Conservancy–a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of the City’s coastal landowners.
In February, the City adopted a Land Use Plan that had been certified–with substantial modifications–by the notorious California Coastal Commission. The Commission is the state agency responsible for overseeing development in the coastal zone.
The Plan’s policies that are the subject of this lawsuit are the product of years of Commission pressure for the City to target bluff-top homeowners. To the disappointment of the Conservancy, the City caved to the Commission’s demands and adopted policies that hurt its constituents along the coast.
The policies would make it exceedingly difficult for bluff-top owners to build seawalls necessary to protect their homes from collapse due to erosion. Under one of those policies, those who want to build a home or making improvements to an existing home would have to first waive their constitutional right to protect it in the future, should it be threatened by erosion.
The Conservancy also is challenging a policy that would impose significant and costly burdens on those landowners who seek merely to preserve or repair private stairways down to the beach. The goal–of course, conceived of by the Commission–is to phase-out such stairways, or convert them to public use.
The policies threaten not only landowners’ rights, but the value of their properties as well.
“The City broke faith with the oceanfront property owners,” said Chris Hamilton, spokesperson for the Conservancy. “It sacrificed property rights and tax base to the persistent pressure of the Commission to enact laws that are inconsistent with the Coastal Act and are deemed by private property owners to be a ‘taking’ of private property.”
The Conservancy is asking the San Diego Superior Court to invalidate the regulations and restore the rights of coastal landowners.