San Clemente, CA (June 20, 2013) – The Surfrider Foundation won an important victory today when the Honorable Terry O’Rourke and Cynthia Aaron concluded that the Coastal Commission has the authority for oversight of beach access at Strands Beach, which should put an end to the City’s bogus nuisance claims used to avoid beach access. Effectively, the decision means that if the City of Dana Point continues to fail to open the locked gates and expand the restrictive access hours for Strands Beach, the Coastal Commission can take an enforcement action.
“This opinion is even better for Surfrider Foundation than the trial court’s ruling because it sets a statewide precedent confirming the strength of the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Act to protect our beach access rights,” says Surfrider Foundation Legal Director Angela Howe. “Not only will access at Dana Point Strands Beach be protected through this ruling, but other municipalities and developers will be estopped from abusing nuisance abatement authority to the detriment of public access.”
In June 2010, on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation McDermott Will & Emery LLP filed a lawsuit against the City of Dana Point, challenging its unlawful restriction of beach access at Strands Beach by erecting gates and limiting hours at two access ways to the public beach at Strands. The lawsuit was instigated in response to the City’s illegal restrictions on beach access through the passage of an Urgency Ordinance on March 22, 2010, in an attempt to supecede the Coastal Commission’s requirement to open beach access.
The City attempted to enact an ordinance that cites “public nuisance” conditions in an attempt to set restrictive hours on the public’s use of the Mid-Strands access. The police report cited speculative “sex parties,” “homeless encampments,” “vandalism,” and “spring break traffic” as reasons to enact the urgency ordinance. However, Judge Lewis’ trial court ruling found this evidence to be “pure speculation” and “entirely lacking.”
The Appellate Court also declined to rule on the trial court’s decision on the Surfrider Foundation case because the Coastal Commission now has the necessary jurisdiction to enforce maximum access provisions of the Coastal Act and that may solve the access issue.
“This is excellent precedent-setting interpretation of 30005(b), which is the nuisance abatement provision of the Coastal Act,” continues Howe. “ Now California cities cannot try to use that loophole to avoid the coastal protection and beach access safeguards of the Coastal Act.”
“Although this may seem a small victory, its really huge because it support the pig picture of coastal access and upholds the Coastal Act in California, which guarantees public access to beaches,” said Rick Erkeneff, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter. “Many states in the U.S. have beach access issues that restrict public use, and this further demonstrates that California is the shining example of coastal protections for all.”
The California Coastal Commission was recently involved in an enforcement action in the area along Beach Road where residents hired a security guard to illegally keep people off the beach in front of the homes. The Coastal Commission got the homeowners to agree to stop their security guard from taking such actions in the future. As part of the settlement, the Coastal Commission published a set of maps that show the easements along the beach where the public can use dry sand.
The public can legally enter the beach from either the Poche end (near Camino Capistrano & Pacific Coast Highway) and walk or recreate below the mean high tide line (MHTL). In addition, they can utilize the dry sand areas as indicated on the maps.
San Clemente, CA (August 25, 2011) – In response to the City of Dana Point’s announcement regarding their notice to appeal Superior Court Judge Lewis’ decision to require maximized public access at Strands Beach, the Surfrider Foundation issued the following statement:
“By appealing the San Diego Superior Court’s decision compelling them to maintain unrestricted public access to Strands Beach, the City of Dana Point is sending a clear signal that it values placating the interests of private developers over the interests of the local community. Despite rulings by the California Coastal Commission and Judge Joan Lewis, the City of Dana Point has chosen to pursue further litigation, at a cost of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, at a point in time when other cities throughout California and the nation are doing everything they can to save money. The Surfrider Foundation calls upon the City of Dana Point to withdraw its Notice of Appeal, comply with Judge Lewis’ ruling, and allow free and unimpeded public beach access to Dana Strands beach.”
Since 2008, the Surfrider Foundation has fought Strands Developer Headlands Reserve LLC’s for open public access to the beach via the Mid and Central Accessways at Strands Beach. In June of 2010, McDermott Will & Emery LLP on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit against the City of Dana Point, challenging its unlawful restriction on beach access at Strands Beach by erecting gates and signage at two access points to the public at Strand Vista Park. This action arose from the City’s enforcement of illegal restrictions on beach access through the passage of an Urgency Ordinance on March 22, 2010, and its willful disregard of the May 13, 2010 unanimous decision by the Coastal Commission to open up beach access. In June 2011, Judge Lewis ruled in favor of open beach access at Strands, and cited that Dana Point’s severe restrictions are unlawful.
About Surfrider Foundation
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 60,000 members and 100 chapters worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit www.surfrider.org.