Victory in Burke v. California Coastal Commission


Today, the California Court of Appeal held, in a published opinion, that the California Coastal Commission lacked jurisdiction to deny a permit for a bluff boundary and safety fence erected long ago at the bottom of the bluffs at Torrance Beach. The fence was originally built at the base of the bluffs after several people died while trying to climb the unstable bluff faces.  In 1988, the property owners entered into a settlement with the State under which the owners agreed to grant the public use of the sandy area at the toe of the bluff in return for the right to keep the fence to mark a new boundary between private and public property.  Although the Fence had been in existence before the Coastal Commission was created, it never objected to the fence until 2005, at which time it demanded the owners apply for a permit.  When they did, the Commission denied the permit.  In today's opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the Commission never had jurisdiction to demand or deny a permit application because the fence was an integral part of the 1988 Settlement between the State and property owners and therefore outside the Commission's control.