Thursday, June 3, 2010


Special interest groups attempting to circumvent the long-respected protections of the California Coastal Act have found a disturbingly effective tool in the term “nuisance abatement”—many with the help of the right wing, anti-environmental Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF).

Under the provisions of the Coastal Act, cities get leeway to restrict beach access if they’re doing so in order to address a “nuisance”. Four recent cases demonstrate the argument.

In the most recent instance, the Venice Stakeholders Association has argued in its pending lawsuit against the Coastal Commission, that restricting public beach access is necessary to address the nuisance of homeless people sleeping in vehicles on nearby streets. The nuisance claim is new in the VSA case, brought in after the PLF joined their case.

In Eureka, a citizens group represented by the PLF sued to block the Coastal Commission from acting on a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) on the grounds of nuisance abatement. That February, 2010 case followed the public outcry against a proposed development on wetlands. A group claiming to have no connection to the developer of the project pushed for a clean-up effort on the site, which had formerly been used as a railroad yard. They claimed this nuisance abatement entitled the city to act without Coastal Commission review.

Last month, Dana Point filed suit against the Commission when the panel said the city exceeded its authority by closing a beach access pathway in a luxury gated community. That city is claiming the closure is an attempt to reduce crime.

The nuisance abatement argument was also made in Laguna Beach when the city passed an ordinance in March 2010 to shut down its beaches between 1am and 5am, claiming it was an attempt to reduce the number of calls to the police regarding beach camping and vagrants. The Coastal Commission intervened stating that such a change in beach use required the city to file a CDP. In March, Laguna Beach compromised with the Coastal Commission, exempting certain recreational activities like jogging, fishing and diving from the ordinance, but also putting on the record their refusal to accept the CCC’s jurisdiction in the matter.

Venice Action is concerned about this trend.

“Unless it’s clearly defined, ‘nuisance’ is in the eye of the beholder,” said Venice Action spokesperson Chris Plourde. “This trend could justify everything from parking restrictions to dress codes at the beach.”

The Venice case will be heard by the Coastal Commission at its June 10, 2010 hearing in Marina Del Rey. The Coastal Commission can be reached at Telephone: (562) 590-5071, Fax: (562) 590-5084.

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