The San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation is claiming partial victory today on behalf of all who support public access to public beaches.
The nonprofit environmental group is reacting to the California Supreme Court's rejection of the city of Dana Point's plea for review of an appellate court decision that lifted restrictions on public access to Strands Beach.
As they have for years, Dana Point's taxpayer funded attorneys continue to carry legal water for private developer Headlands Reserve LLC, whose upscale residential community looms over Strands Beach below. The developer has essentially privatized the public beach through curfews and locked gates on beach access roads, which the city dutifully enforces through a council-approved “urgency nuisance ordinance.”
That's right: a public body elected to protect the people called those who were forced to cross a private development to reach a public beach a “nuisance” (not be be confused with the non-nuisance campaign contributions council members slurped up courtesy of Headlands Reserve LLC).
The ordinance prompted Surfrider's South Orange County chapter to sue in San Diego Superior Court on grounds the restrictions violated the public access requirements of the original Coastal Development Permit granted by the California Coastal Commission before the Headlands development broke ground. The court struck down the ordinance.
The city and Headlands developer Sanford Edward to both appealed, and a state appellate panel kicked the case back down to the trial court so the Coastal Commission can defend the permit violation and the city can prove it acted in “good faith” when it adopted the urgency nuisance ordinance.
That led the city and Edward to seek the state high court's intervention, but the Supremes late Wednesday agreed with the appeals court panel. That's fine with Surfrider, which notes its members have been dealing with restricted Strands Beach access for more than three years.
“Public beach access is guaranteed by the Coastal Act and California Constitution,” explains Surfrider Foundation Legal Director Angela Howe in a statement reacting to the high court decision. “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.”