Coastal Land Rights Project

PLF highlights abuses by coastal land use agencies


Coastal Land Rights Project Lighthouse

Backed by the politically powerful interests of those who want (uncompensated) beach access and undeveloped shorelines, coastal land use agencies have exercised ever-increasing power over property owners in their jurisdictions.

PLF highlights the rampant abuse of coastal landowners by those agencies — the issues that coastal landowners face, our many cases in the courts challenging agency abuse, and what the future holds for the right of coastal landowners to use, enjoy, and protect their properties.



Simply click the link below to request our legal assistance.

Submit Your Case

PLF Coastal Guardian

The PLF Coastal Guardian (PCG) is a quarterly email newsletter designed to keep PLF supporters, and all California coastal landowners, fully apprised of the latest developments in litigation and policy concerning the Coastal Act and the Commission. The newsletter represents another element of PLF's three-pronged strategy to litigate, to monitor, and to educate, all to defend property owners against the Commission.


 The Coastal Land Rights Project has gotten off to a strong start in 2016 (3/30/16)

We are continuing to stand up to abusive government bureaucracies, like the California Coastal Commission, to protect your constitutional rights.


 Leading the fight for coastal land rights in California (12/28/15)

Protecting property and the rights of property owners in the nation's coastal zones -- that's the sole mission of Pacific Legal Foundation's Coastal Land Rights Project. As 2015 comes to a close, and as we reflect on the year's accomplishments, we want to express our sincere gratitude to you, our ardent supporters.


 Fighting for coastal landrights nationwide (9/23/15)

PLF is fighting in the courts nationwide in defense of coastal property rights. From California to North Carolina.


    SUBSCRIBE     PCG Archive


Eroding Freedom: A Family's Fight To Protect Their Home

When the Wills family decided they would replace their aging mobile home on the beach in Southern California, they had no idea how difficult would be. After an expensive permit process, the California Coastal Commission granted the Wills request, but only on the condition that they give up the right to protect their property by maintaining an existing sea wall. Without a seawall their home could one day be washed away. This is a violation of the Coastal Act and denies the Wills their constitutional right to protect their property.

More Videos



California Coastal Commission Puts The Safety Of Shore Residents In Jeopardy

It shouldn’t require a team of lawyers, tens of thousands of dollars in legal expense, and years of fighting just to replace an aging mobile home within a mobile home park. But that’s the reality in California when your mobile home replacement requires a permit from the state’s Coastal Commission. Join PLF Director of Communications Harold Johnson as he digs into what in the world is going on at the coast of Capistrano Shores with PLF Attorney Larry Salzman and PLF client Eric Wills, as Mr. Wills gives an impassioned account as to what the Coastal Commission is doing to him, his family, and many more residents in Capistrano Shores.

More Podcasts



Protecting your home vs. letting it fall into sea

PLF Attorney Todd Gaziano: "Any form of mandated or regulatory retreat from the coast is tantamount to destroying or abandoning the village in order to save it."

Full Article



Current Cases    Victories    

Nies v. The Town of Emerald Isle

- Government can’t open a private beach to government and public driving without compensating the owner -


Summary: The Nies own a home and land along the beach in the Town of Emerald Isle, North Carolina.  Under traditional North Carolina law, the “wet” beach is public property, but the dry sand area lying upland of the wet beach — where the Nies’ property is located — is privately owned. The Town has, however, recently adopted several ordinances that make all private dry sand areas into a road available for use by the Town and general public.

Status: Plaintiff-Appellants' opening brief was filed with the North Carolina Court of Appeals on March 19, 2015. 


Case Page     Press Release     Blog


Lynch v. California Coastal Commission

- Coastal panel pulls the ladder out from under bluff-top owners -


Summary: PLF’s clients, Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick, are bluff-top homeowners in Encinitas. Their homes — and the safety of people on the beach below — are endangered because severe storms and erosion caused disastrous bluff collapses in 2010, destroying their seawall and the lower portion of their long-existing stairway to the beach. The city gave them permission to rebuild the seawall and the stairway — in the same location and dimensions as before — but the California Coastal Commission refused to affirm that approval.

Status: Petitioners' opening brief on the merits was filed on March 11, 2015. 


Case Page     Video     Podcast     Press Release     Blog


Beach & Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solana Beach

- Eroding the right to protect private property at the coast -


Summary: PLF attorneys represent the Beach and Bluff Conservancy, a nonprofit organization of coastal property owners, in their suit against the City of Solana Beach over severe new restrictions on the use of Bluff Retention Devices (BRDs) — such as seawalls — to protect coastal property. In March, 2012, the California Coastal Commission certified its own staff’s proposed Land Use Plan, which took Solana Beach’s already heavily modified plan and added 153 more changes — including serious limitations on the use of BRDs. The City adopted the Commission-modified plan in February, 2013. The new policies are inconsistent with the Coastal Act, which mandates approval of BRDs “when required to serve coastal-dependent uses or to protect existing structures or public beaches in danger from erosion.”

Status: Hearing on Respondents' demurrers to second amended petition & complaint was held on February 27, 2015. On March 5, 2015, the court overruled the City's and the Commission's demurrers. 


Case Page     Video     Podcast     Press Release     Blog


Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head

- Government can’t use a storm as an excuse to deny property rights -


Summary: Roc Sansotta and five other property owners own beachfront cottages in Nags Head, North Carolina. When a 2009 storm hit the area, the Town stopped the owners from protecting their property from erosion. The storm did some minor damage and removed sand from around the homes. After the storm, the Town declared the cottages to be nuisances because the Town had decided the cottages had come to be on “public trust” lands. In the Town’s view, whenever erosion pushes the vegetation line or dune line landward, any property that is seaward of that line instantly becomes part of the public beach and must be opened up for public access, regardless of whether it is privately owned and developed. Under this theory, the Town decided the owners’ lots were impressed with a public trust easement, ordered the owners to remove their cottages, barred them from repairing storm damage and fined them for every day the cottages remained in their historic location. The Town gave the owners no administrative hearing before it took such actions, offered no compensation to them, and refused to enforce such restrictions against other property owners who the Town knew also owned cottages on alleged “public trust” lands.

Status: Victory! The court issued an order on cross-motions for summary judgment on November 6, 2014. A partial win for the property owners! The case was favorably settled and the parties filed a joint stipulated dismissal on April 1, 2015. 


Case Page     Podcast     Press Release     Blog


Bowman/SDS Family Trust v. California Coastal Commission

- Coastal Commission tries another unconstitutional land grab -


Summary: The California Coastal Commission is unconstitutionally trying to coerce a family out of property as a condition for permitting them to repair their farmhouse and rebuild their barn, on their land in the Cayucos area of unincorporated San Luis Obispo County. So argues PLF in this case. PLF attorneys represent three sisters — Denise McLaughlan, Sharyn Schrick, and Sandra Bowman — who own the land through a family trust established with their late father, Walton Emmick. The sisters are merely seeking permission for some basic repair work on their property, which would have no impact on the public, or on existing access to neighboring public areas, such as Harmony Headlands State Park. Specifically, they want to finish the interior of their house, replace a septic tank and finish the connection to an agricultural well. They also want to rebuild an adjacent barn that had been blown down.

Status: Victory! The California Court of Appeal issued a favorable decision on rehearing on October 23, 2014.  


Case Page     Video     Podcast     Press Release     Blog