May 25, 2015

Right to Seawall Protection Is Now Before California Supreme Court

By Right to Seawall Protection Is Now Before California Supreme Court

These oceanfront homeowners needed a seawall to protect their property from severe damage. The State Constitution and statutes guarantee the right to protect private property, but the Coastal Commission imposed a 20 year expiration date on that guarantee. At that time, the homeowners must either re-apply to the Commission for another permit, or tear down the seawall. This case challenges that Coastal Commission decision as an unlawful extension of power.

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Lynch v. California Coastal Commission

The Lynch family sought permission from the California Coastal Commission to repair a storm-damaged seawall and stairway that led from their home at the top of a bluff down to the beach. The Commission permitted the seawall restoration with a condition that they seek an additional permit in the future, and denied the permit for the stairway. To protect their home, the Lynches accepted the conditioned permit under protest and repaired the seawall. PLF represents the Lynches, arguing that the seawall conditional permit and denial of the stairway permit violated their constitutional property rights. California’s appellate courts rejected the Lynch’s claims, and the California Supreme Court added insult to injury by holding that the Lynches forfeited their claims altogether by accepting the permit and repairing the seawall.

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