Press Release

PLF statement on California Supreme Court ruling in Lynch case

ENCINITAS, CA; July 6, 2017:  The California Supreme Court today held that local homeowners could not sue over the Coastal Commission’s onerous restrictions on a new seawall to protect their property, because they had gone ahead and built the seawall to replace the earlier one that was destroyed by a devastating 2010 storm.  The commission proposed to issue only a 20-year permit, which the homeowners argued violated the agency’s statutory duty to allow them to protect their property.

Homeowners Thomas Frick and the heirs of Barbara Lynch were represented, free of charge, by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation.

PLF’s John Groen issued this statement in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling today:

“This decision makes it harder for property owners to fight when the Coastal Commission imposes unlawful conditions on permits to use or build on one’s property,” said John Groen, PLF’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel.  “It is particularly bad for small property owners.  The court has shrunk their right to move forward with projects under protest while litigation proceeds.  Instead, they will be forced to put their lives and projects on hold for years while a court battle over an unlawful condition goes on.  The result is predictable:  Many property owners will be forced to accept unlawful, even unconstitutional, restrictions on their property simply because they can’t afford to fight.”

Background:  The Coastal Commission picked up where a violent storm left off

The homeowners’ troubles date back to December, 2010, when a severe storm and erosion destroyed their seawall and the lower portion of their long-existing stairway that led from their homes down to the beach.

The City of Encinitas gave them permission to rebuild the seawall and the stairway.  But the Coastal Commission balked, and refused to affirm that approval.  Instead, the commission attached a condition that the seawall permit would expire in 20 years, forcing the homeowners to apply for a renewal at that time or tear out the seawall.

Although they rebuilt the seawall, PLF argued that the homeowners preserved their right to challenge the commission’s conditions by clearly objecting to them at every stage, and expeditiously challenging them in court.  As a practical matter, they had no choice but to proceed this way, because of the urgent need to rebuild in order to protect their property.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation, America’s most powerful ally for justice, litigates in courts nationwide for limited government and property rights.  Up and down the California coast, PLF is the leading litigator against abuses of coastal property rights by governments at all levels.  PLF represents all clients without charge.

Case Attorneys

Jeremy Talcott


Jeremy Talcott joined the Pacific Legal Foundation in 2016. He focuses on property rights, administrative law, and the separation of powers and federalism principles that (ought to) define American government. … ›

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John M. Groen

Executive Vice President and General Counsel

John Groen has extensive experience in public interest litigation before all levels of federal and state courts.  He began his law career with Pacific Legal Foundation in 1987 and launched … ›

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Case Commentary

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By Jeremy Talcott

Homeowners in Lynch file petition for rehearing in California Supreme Court

Today, Thomas Frick and the heirs of Barbara Lynch filed this petition, asking the California Supreme Court to grant rehearing in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission. In that decision, the Court held … ›

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By Larry G. Salzman

California Supreme Court deals blow to coastal property owners

In a disappointing blow to property rights this morning, the California Supreme Court ruled against Encinitas, California homeowners who had raised a constitutional challenge to conditions imposed on their seawall-construction permit by the California Coastal Commission

PLF represented Thomas Frick and the heirs of Barbara Lynch pro bono, in Lynch v California Coastal Commission (more…)

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By Jeremy Talcott

Oral Argument in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission

PLF Attorney John Groen with clients Jennifer Lynch and Marian Frick

Today, PLF attorney John Groen argued our seawall condition case, Lynch v California Coastal Commission, in front of the California Supreme Court

The CA Supreme Court keeps an archive of oral argument webcasts, which will be available at this location

Both sides were given tough questions by the justices, and it is always impossible to know exactly where the court stands, but the clear focus of the oral arguments was the threshold issue of whether or not the homeowners “waived” their right to judicial review of their

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