Environmental advocates at the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego chapter are celebrating a state supreme court decision that overturned a challenge by homeowners on Leucadia's oceanfront who sought to remove restrictions on seawall construction permits they'd accepted from the California Coastal Commission.
In 2010, blufftop residents Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick were developing plans to improve their seawalls when they were compromised during heavy storms. The commission at the time agreed to issue 20-year permits for the improvements, but denied a request to build a private staircase to access the beach, citing local directives to curtail private access in favor of public facilities.
Lynch and Frick accepted the permits, simultaneously constructing new seawalls and filing appeals against the commission reserving the right to review conditions in the face of sea level rise after two decades.
"Seawalls violate the public trust in a time of rising seas because they artificially prevent the movement of the mean high tide line," said Surfrider policy manager Julia Chunn-Heer in a July 6 release. "It’s important that the impacts of seawalls are periodically reassessed to ensure the public’s access to the beach."
The courts agree. Earlier, following nearly two years of anticipation, the court waived Lynch and Frick's right to challenge the permits.
"The crucial point is that they went forward with construction before obtaining a judicial determination on their objections. By accepting the benefits of the permit and building the seawall, plaintiffs effectively forfeited the right to maintain their otherwise timely objections," reads a portion of the decision.
With the ruling, the Coastal Commission will have the right after 20 years to review beach conditions, which could lead to mandated mitigation efforts or even removal of the wall.