Solana Beach, California, April 29, 2013: The City of Solana Beach has violated state law and the U.S. Constitution by enacting new policies that will: 1) prevent coastal landowners from protecting their property from erosion with seawalls; and 2) make it significantly harder for coastal landowners to keep and maintain private beach stairways.

So argues a lawsuit just filed by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government and property rights. PLF filed the lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court, on behalf of the Beach & Bluff Conservancy (the Conservancy), a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of coastal landowners of Solana Beach.

The lawsuit targets the Land Use Plan adopted by Solana Beach in February, 2013, which includes restrictive policies on both seawalls and private beach stairways.

PLF to city: “Tear down your unlawful anti-seawall policies”

“Our lawsuit says to Solana Beach, ‘Tear down your unlawful anti-seawall policies, and stop eroding the property rights of coastal landowners,’” said PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II.

Under one new policy, oceanfront property owners who want to build a home or make improvements to an existing home must agree never to install a seawall, even if their property is threatened by erosion.

“This new anti-seawall rule washes away people’s statutory and constitutional right to safeguard their property by protecting it from the destructive force of the tides,” said Beard. “As a land use permit condition, the anti-seawall dictate is also unconstitutional because it has no relationship to any impact created by any proposed land use project. The permitting process is being misused and perverted, to twist people’s arms and extort unjustified concessions.”

Under another new policy, costly new demands are imposed on coastal landowners who seek permission to preserve or repair private stairways down to the beach.

“The city’s goal is to phase-out private stairways, or convert them to public use — of course, with no intention of paying any compensation,” said Beard. “This is another unlawful erosion of private property rights.”

Property rights don’t stop at the Coast Highway

“Our lawsuit makes it clear: Protections for property rights don’t stop at the Coast Highway,” Beard continued. “California law and the United States Constitution protect oceanfront residents against infringements on their property rights, just as much as landowners far inland. No matter where you live, if you own a home or any kind of property, you should be concerned when government undermines property rights — including when it happens along the coast.”

Solana Beach buckled to Coastal Commission pressure

Solana Beach adopted its Land Use Plan after the California Coastal Commission certified it. Indeed, the provisions challenged in today’s lawsuit were added by the Coastal Commission, and PLF attorneys today have also taken over representation of the Conservancy in an existing lawsuit against the commission over its role in promoting the unlawful policies.

“The Coastal Commission leaned heavily on the city to adopt the Land Use Plan with these unlawful policies, but that doesn’t excuse the city for buckling to the commission’s pressure,” said Beard.

“The city broke faith with the oceanfront property owners,” said Chris Hamilton, spokesperson for the Conservancy. “It sacrificed property rights to the persistent pressure of the commission to enact policies that are inconsistent with the Coastal Act and the Constitution. We are grateful that Pacific Legal Foundation will help landowners fight back and vindicate fundamental property rights in court.”

The lawsuit, which asks for the court to invalidate the unlawful policies and restore the rights of coastal landowners in Solana Beach, is Beach & Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solana Beach.

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Donor-supported PLF ( is a watchdog legal organization that litigates for limited government and property rights in courts nationwide. Up and down the California coast, PLF is the leading litigator against abuses of coastal property rights by governments at all levels.

Oral argument recently took place in PLF’s latest U.S. Supreme Court litigation — the property rights case of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. A decision is expected by June.

Last year, PLF attorneys won their sixth direct-representation victory at the High Court against over- reaching government: Sackett v. EPA, in which the justices unanimously held that landowners may bring court challenges to federal “wetlands compliance orders.”


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About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm 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 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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