Court blocks Cal. Coastal Commission’s assault on family’s seawall
The Wills family is represented, free of charge, by Pacific Legal Foundation, America’s leading legal watchdog for limited government and property rights
SAN CLEMENTE, CA; August 25, 2016: In a ruling received yesterday, an Orange County Superior Court ruled in favor of a San Clemente family whose right to protect their beachfront mobile home with a seawall was under assault by the California Coastal Commission.
When property owner Eric Wills and his family applied for a permit to replace their mobile home in the Capistrano Shores mobile home park with a nearly identical, slightly smaller one, the commission conditioned the permit on the Wills’ waiving their rights to ever maintain, repair or replace the seawall that safeguards the property (and 89 other homes in the 56-year-old park).
California state law guarantees coastal property owners the right to protect their property from natural hazards, including with shoreline protective devices such as seawalls. Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation took on the Wills’ case free of charge. In his ruling, Judge Theodore R. Howard granted the Wills’ motion to set aside the Coastal Commission’s unjust, anti-seawall permit condition.
Judge Howard wrote that “it appears to be overreaching to have the [property owner] give up any rights to possible repair or maintenance of” the seawall that protects their home, and the commission’s “waiver seems unreasonably broad and contrary to” U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
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“This is an important victory that is likely to buttress property rights up and down the California coast,” said PLF Attorney Larry Salzman. “Simply put, the ruling stops the Coastal Commission from abusing its authority. Property owners are most vulnerable when they need a permit from the government, and the commission leveraged its power to unlawfully strip the Wills of their property rights. Similar permit conditions have been imposed on more than 100 coastal property owners in recent years.
“The U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have repeatedly said that government may not demand that poeple give up property rights in exchange for a permit, except to mitigate an adverse public impact of the property owners’ proposed development,” Salzman continued. “PLF argued in this case that nothing about the Wills’ simple replacement of their mobile home had a negative impact on the beach or other public resources and, therefore, could not justify a waiver of their property rights.”
“My family and I are extremely happy with this positive outcome for our property rights and our ability to protect our home from erosion and destruction by tides and storms,” said Eric Wills. “This is a banner day for every property owner, no matter where you live, because it is a defeat for bureaucrats who give short shrift to the property rights guaranteed by our Constitution. I want to thank Pacific Legal Foundation for doing so much to make this victory possible.”
Judge Howard’s ruling concluded that “it appears unreasonable to require a waiver from this applicant, of this magnitude,” because the “condition does not seem reasonably, closely, substantially tied to the specific project at hand (replacing one mobile home inside the park).”
The lawsuit is titled, Capistrano Shores Property, LLC v. California Coastal Commission. More information, including the ruling, a video, photo gallery, a blog post, and backgrounder, may be found at: www.pacificlegal.org.
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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.