A lawsuit has been filed against the California Coastal Commission for a new rule requiring that homeowners who want to improve coastal properties forever give up their right to protect their residences from “waves, erosion, storm conditions, liquefaction, flooding, sea level rise, or any other coastal hazards.”
The case was filed in Superior Court for Orange County by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the Coastal Rights Commission.
At issue is a new rule that the state agency adopted a few years ago, the California Coastal Act, which provides and protects public access to beaches and works to preserve coastal resources.
But the law also is supposed to respect private property.
The case erupted because the agency adopted a requirement that homeowners seeking a permit to repairs or improve a property must forever waive all rights to do anything to protect the property from nature.
PLF said that even thought the Coastal Act “recognizes the right of coastal property owners to protect homes and other structures from erosion with seawalls, the commission generally opposes their construction.”
Since 2010, those who want to build homes, substantially remodel existing homes, or do other projects must “forever waive their right to build shoreline protective devices.”
“Homeowners saddled with this permit condition must tear down their homes in the event of catastrophic storms or bluff collapse,” PLF said.
The lawsuit argues that while laws must be subject to a process that includes public hearings and comment, “the commission did none of this.”
Bureaucrats, PLF said, “simply began enforcing its anti-seawall rule on its own whim (and at the behest of some environmentalist constituencies).”
PLF said “the regulation is not just destructive, it is illegal: Bureaucrats imposed it, in essence, by fiat – without input from the homeowners who will be hurt or from any other members of the public, even though the law requires a process that is transparent and open to all.”
The rule, PLF said, “is an illegal, underground regulation because the commission has not subjected it to the rulemaking requirements of the California Administrative Procedure Act and the rule does not fall into any of the APA’s exceptions.”
The Coastal Rights Commission is a volunteer group of 4,900 homeowners that promotes even-handed enforcement of coastal rules.
The complaint specifies that the property owners and their heirs are banned by the state from ever building or remodeling “unless they forfeit their constitutional and statutory rights to defend that property against natural hazards.”
The state even demands a deed restriction be filed, so that any future owners are informed of the loss of some property rights they may want to exercise.
The complaint points out that along Mission Beach, a public sidewalk between the homes and the coast already is protected “by a cement wall.” But homeowners are banned from erecting a similar protection for their homes.
The case alleges violations of the APA and requests a court ruling that directs the agency to invalidate the rule.