Beach access will stand at Strands Beach

Strands Beach gate © Surfrider

Environment Updates

City of Dana Point Attempts to Curb Public Access At Strands Beach

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 13 September, 2013 : - - Dana Point - The California Supreme Court late Wednesday rejected the City of Dana Point’s Petition for Review of the appellate court decision, meaning that the appellate court decision in favor of beach access will stand. 

The City, on behalf of Strands developer Headlands Reserve LLC, has pursued litigation for over three years in an attempt to circumvent the public access requirements of the original Coastal Development Permit (“CDP”) granted by the California Coastal Commission (“CCC”) before the development broke ground.  

The Surfrider Foundation’s South Orange County Chapter was the first to act when the City of Dana Point unlawfully erected locked gates and prohibited beach access during daylight hours at Headlands Reserve.  In San Diego County Superior Court, Surfrider sought and was granted an order striking down the urgency nuisance ordinance enacted by the City of Dana Point, in an effort to restrict lawful beach access during daylight hours, proving that the City of Dana Point acted arbitrarily and capriciously in enacting the urgency ordinance to restrict lawful beach access during daylight hours. 

The City of Dana Point and Headlands developer Sanford Edward both appealed the trial court judgment.  Following oral argument, the 4th District Court of Appeals issued a stay of the City and Headland’s appeal of Surfrider’s case and reversed and remanded the Coastal Commission case to trial court, allowing for Coastal Commission jurisdiction over pretextual attempts by the City to curtail beach access. 

Although Surfrider was not a party to this lawsuit or appeal, Surfrider, its members, and the general public are all currently unlawfully being denied beach access during daylight hours at the Headlands Strand and Mid-Strand beach access points, and have been denied that for over three years. 

“Public beach access is guaranteed by the Coastal Act and California Constitution,” stated Surfrider Foundation Legal Director Angela Howe.  “The City and the developer  have fought to keep these gates and restrictive hours at every level of the judiciary and lost each time.  We are happy to see that this case is finally on its way to resolution.”

Headlands Reserve LLC, first sought to restrict access by claiming that the Mid-Strands stairway was “geotechnically infeasible” and could not be built.  The Coastal Commission summarily rejected this claim since it was already feasible for homesites to be constructed in same tract.

Months later, the City of Dana Point attempted to enact an ordinance that cites “public nuisance” conditions in an attempt to set restrictive hours on the public’s use of the Mid-Strands access.  The police report cited speculative “sex parties,” “homeless encampments,” “vandalism,” and “spring break traffic” as reasons to enact the urgency ordinance.  However, Judge Lewis’ trial court ruling found this evidence to be “pure speculation” and “entirely lacking.”

In June 2010, McDermott Will & Emery LLP filed a lawsuit against the City of Dana Point on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation, challenging the City’s unlawful restriction of public access at Strands Beach by erecting gates and limiting hours at two access ways in an attempt to supercede the Coastal Commission’s requirement to open beach access.

“It amazes me that it took years for this outcome to be finalized and that the City even petitioned the Supreme Court for review.  This is great news for beach access throughout the State of California and other states in the U.S.  If this access would have been restricted in this way, through this “legal ruse” it would have allowed cities to arbitrarily restrict public access and circumvent the Coastal Act in California,” said Rick Erkeneff, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter.

Source: Surfrider

Author: Denise Erkeneff

Tags: Surfrider Foundation, Strands Beach, Beach Access

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