December 12, 2016

Court strikes Solana Beach regs against seawalls and beach stairways

SOLANA BEACH, CA;  December 12, 2016: In an important property rights ruling, a San Diego Superior Court judge has struck down restrictions imposed by Solana Beach on oceanfront homeowners’ construction of seawalls to protect existing development and on the repair of damaged beach staircases.

In a decision received this past Friday, December 9, Judge Timothy M. Casserly held that the city is violating the California Coastal Act by prohibiting homeowners from building new seawalls to protect structures adjacent to their homes, and by restricting homeowners’ ability to repair damaged beach staircases.

While it sided with property owners’ rights on these important issues, the ruling upheld several other city regulations, which require property owners to accept expirations on existing seawalls, to forgo any right to future shoreline protection for new development, and to give public access to private staircases, as a condition of development permits.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by the Bleach & Bluff Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of coastal landowners in Solana Beach.  It is represented, free of charge, by Pacific Legal Foundation, the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations in courts nationwide.  PLF is joined in the case by local counsel Jonathan Corn of Axelson & Corn in Cardiff by the Sea, who is also representing other property owners in similar challenges in Solana Beach.

The lawsuit targets Solana Beach’s Land Use Plan, adopted in February, 2013.  The California Coastal Commission intervened in the case in an attempt to defend the policies.  In July, 2016, an Orange County Superior Court ruled against the California Coastal Commission in a challenge to similar shoreline protection wavier conditions imposed on beachfront property owners.

“The court’s ruling in the Solana Beach case is an important if partial win for property rights,” said PLF Principal Attorney Larry Salzman.  “The ruling affirms the fact that the Constitution and the Coastal Act protect the rights of coastal property owners to use and protect their property, so long as doing so does not harm the public.  If government wants to take private property for public use, or force property owners to abandon their property, it must compensate them.  It is gratifying that the ruling has upheld some core rights of property owners against government abuse.  Meanwhile, Beach & Bluff Conservancy is considering whether to appeal the portions of the ruling that sided with the city.”

Case Documents

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About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 11 victories out of 13 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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