In San Clemente, family challenges Coastal Commission’s anti-seawall crusade
The Wills family is represented, free of charge, by Pacific Legal Foundation, America’s leading legal watchdog for limited government and property rights
SACRAMENTO, CA; April 15, 2016: The California Coastal Commission is violating the U.S. Constitution and state law by arm-twisting a family into giving up their right to protect their beachfront mobilehome from erosion and other natural hazards, as part of the commission’s crusade against seawalls.
So argues a lawsuit by Eric Wills and his family against the commission for blocking them from maintaining the seawall at Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park that protects their home. The opening brief in the lawsuit was filed late yesterday.
The Wills family is represented, free of charge, by Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a watchdog that litigates for limited government and property rights. Filed in Orange County Superior Court, the lawsuit is Capistrano Shores Property, LLC v. California Coastal Commission.
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The Coastal Commission’s illegal demand:
The Wills family must stop protecting their oceanfront home from the ocean
Eric Wills and his family wanted to replace an aging mobilehome that they own at Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park, with a nearly identical, slightly smaller one. For that, the Coastal Commission insisted that they needed a “coastal development permit.” As a condition for receiving a permit, the commission demanded that the family agree to never maintain, repair, or replace the seawall that safeguards their property and the 89 other homes in the 56-year-old park.
Although the Wills went ahead with replacing their mobilehome, their lawsuit challenges this illegal anti-seawall condition.
“The Coastal Commission is putting the security and the value of the Wills’ home at risk, in violation of state law and the California and U.S. Constitutions,” said PLF Attorney Larry Salzman, who is also Director of PLF’s new Liberty Clinic at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University. Salzman and PLF took over the case after the Wills spent heavily in attorney fees fighting the commission on their own.
The commission’s anti-seawall demand violates the Wills family’s rights
The California Constitution (Art. I, Section 1) guarantees property owners the right to protect their property. Consistent with this, the California Coastal Act gives the Wills and other oceanfront property owners the right to safeguard their property with a seawall. It provides that “seawalls . . . retaining walls, and other such construction . . . shall be permitted when required to . . . protect” property from erosion and storms. (California Public Resources Code section 30235.)
“By forcing the Wills family to surrender their right to protect their home as a condition for getting a permit, the commission is abusing its authority under state law and violating federal and state constitutional protections for property owners,” said Salzman.
The Coastal Commission’s misguided pursuit of its anti-seawall agenda
The Wills’ lawsuit carries statewide implications, because the Coastal Commission has been pursuing a policy of “managed retreat” from the California coastline. “By depriving property owners of the shoreline protection they need for long-term safety and security,” said Salzman, “the commission’s policy will force many people to abandon their homes and businesses to erosion in the coming decades.
“The law is clear,” Salzman continued. “The commission may not prohibit coastal landowners from safeguarding their homes and property with shoreline protection devices that do not harm coastal resources. If the commission wants to remove property owners from their land instead, it should be required to pay them for their property.”
“The Coastal Commission is putting my family’s home in danger, and eroding our rights in the process,” said Eric Wills. “We are grateful that Pacific Legal Foundation has come to our aid, so we can fight back, on our own behalf, and for all coastal property owners in California.”
PLF’s Liberty Clinic at Chapman Law School
This is the first Southern California lawsuit that features participation by PLF’s new Liberty Clinic at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University. Under the direction of PLF Attorney Larry Salzman, an adjunct professor at Chapman Law School, this program trains aspiring attorneys in litigation techniques by giving them a hands-on role prosecuting property rights and economic liberty cases. Students devote approximately 10 hours per week to their cases and receive school credit.
“Students in the clinic have an opportunity to participate in researching, meeting clients, assisting in the drafting of complaints and motions, and conducting discovery; they can even attend court hearings,” said Salzman. “This is a unique program that gives students real-world experience and skills to help them move toward a career of defending limited government and liberty. I am proud to be part of this exciting project.”
The just-filed brief, and background media material
The lawsuit is titled, Capistrano Shores Property, LLC v. California Coastal Commission . More information, including PLF’s brief in support of the Wills’ petition to set aside the commission’s permit decision, a video, photo gallery, and backgrounder, may be found at: www.pacificlegal.org.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government and property rights nationwide. PLF represents all clients free of charge.