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California Supreme Court Takes Up Encinitas Seawalls Case


The California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would review a lawsuit challenging the state Coastal Commission's refusal to give two Encinitas bluff-top homeowners anything other than a temporary permit for a seawall to protect their property from erosion.

According to the lawsuit — filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of homeowners Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick — the Coastal Commission is demanding that the homeowners re-apply for a new permit after 20 years, a demand that could force the seawall to be torn down at that time.

"The state Supreme Court's decision to accept this case is good news for everyone who values property rights, whether you live at the coast or far inland," said Paul J. Beard II, the foundation's attorney. "The Coastal Commission is violating constitutionally protected property rights, as well as the clear mandate of the state Coastal Act, by robbing coastal homeowners of the ability to protect their property and their homes from being destroyed by erosion."

A representative from the Coastal Commission could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday's announcement.

The homeowners' troubles date back to December 2010, when a severe storm and erosion destroyed their seawall and the lower portion of their long- existing stairway that led from their homes down to the beach, according to the PLF.

The city of Encinitas gave Lynch and Frick permission to rebuild the seawall and the stairway, but the Coastal Commission balked and refused to affirm that approval.

The commission denied permission to replace the stairway, and would grant only a temporary permit for a replacement seawall. After 20 years, the property owners would have to apply for a new seawall permit or tear down the structure.

In April 2013, a trial court struck down the Coastal Commission's anti- seawall restriction as a violation of the commission's duty under the Coastal Act to allow people to protect their property from erosion.

Last September, a panel of 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the decision by a 2-1 vote and sided with the commission.

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